25 years after Naseem Hamed first graced the ring - was he really a ‘Prince’ amongst men?

Sheffield's Prince Naseem Hamed, right, falls away after Marco Antonio Barrera of Mexico connects with a left hook in the 9th round of their IBO featherweight championship bout at the MGM Grand Hotel &Casino in Las Vegas, Saturday, April 7, 2001. Barrera won the bout by unanimous decision.
Sheffield's Prince Naseem Hamed, right, falls away after Marco Antonio Barrera of Mexico connects with a left hook in the 9th round of their IBO featherweight championship bout at the MGM Grand Hotel &Casino in Las Vegas, Saturday, April 7, 2001. Barrera won the bout by unanimous decision.

Twenty five years ago on Friday, a cocky boxer traded his first punches in a professional ring.

It took him just five minutes, 36 seconds to KO his opponent.

Naseem Hamed had arrived on the scene.

His victim at Mansfield Leisure Centre, was one Ricky Beard, who went on to have 13 more fights (nine defeats) before calling it a day.

Hamed went on to rule the world at featherweight from 1995 until 2001, when Marco Antonio Barrera brought an end to his glittering career.

Naz’s name excites differing reactions in his home city of Sheffield.

Some say he was consumed by his own importance, erred by leaving Brendan Ingle’s gym and failed to observe the disciplines that brought him fame and fortune.

Here, writer Bob Westerdale talks to associates who remember his flair...and his failings.

GLYN RHODES

He was a cheeky sod, growing up. Never in my wildest dreams did I think he’d go on to achieve what he did.

Victory salute for Naseem Hamed - in his leopard skin shorts

Victory salute for Naseem Hamed - in his leopard skin shorts

He once hired a room at Sheffield Wednesday, turned it into a gym and paid me to train him. Of all the people I’ve taken on the pads he hit the hardest.

Naz took risks during a fight and had you sitting on the edge of your seat; you just knew that any time someone would be KO’d.

It went wrong when he lost his appetite for boxing.

He once said: ‘It’s hard to get up and do your roadwork when you go to bed in silk pyjamas.’

Naseem Hamed at Hinde House school - 'high-fiving' with Amer Khan

Naseem Hamed at Hinde House school - 'high-fiving' with Amer Khan

That says it all.

Nowadays Naz lives in the south and fills his time eating and living well.

It’s sad because he could have been such an ambassador for boxing but he’s just another ex-boxer who walked away...

CLINTON WOODS

I remember as an amateur I was matched against a Welsh kid who looked really menacing.

Naz came up to me and said: “You’re going to bang him out.” Which I did! I’ll never forget his confidence in me.

Naseem Hamed and Ryan Rhodes back in 1992

Naseem Hamed and Ryan Rhodes back in 1992

One of the greatest entertainers to grace a ring, beating world class fighters with ease. Awesome punching power in both hands. He came up short when he fought Barrera,though.

His ring walks were so exciting, including his flip over the ropes. But his downfall was leaving Brendan’s gym. I didn’t understand that.

The last time I saw him he said just had enough of Sheffield and moved south, he didn’t look a happy guy.

JON ‘BUSTER’ KEETON

Naz was on his way to be an all time great...a rare talent, nobody had seen anyone like him. He could hit you from any angle with ferocious power.

He had a great chin and unflappable confidence.

But money changed him for the worse.

Who knows what goes through your head when you came from nothing to being a multi-millionaire?

Money has wrecked many fighters...Tyson for one. When Naz faced Vincenzo Belcastro at Ponds Forge I boxed on the bill.

Belcrasto was this rock hard pitbull and Naz was just a boy, yet Naz schooled him.

It upset me when he left Brendan. Naz was not the same fighter after people messed with the Wincobank blueprint.

AMER KHAN

I remember Naz Walking into my classroom at Hinde House school (returning as a champion) and gave me a ‘high five.’

His routine generally used to be to arrive at the gym in his Lamborghini, warm up and spar with everyone, 10-12 rounds.

He and Ryan Rhodes were like Ant and Dec.

When Naz was on the pads with Brendan it was a pure masterclass, the timing and angles were brilliant.

I don’t know how Brendan used to take the shots, they were so hard.

His legs were like tree trunks. He was that big of a star his face was on the stamps in Yemen. For showbiz and ability, I can’t think of another British boxer as good as him.

Being on prime time TV encouraged people from minority backgrounds to take up boxing.

JUNIOR WITTER

I remember him turning up to a session on national training camp 10 minutes late and getting kicked out of the session.

The head coach said he was never going to amount to anything! Me and Michael Brodie looked at each other and laughed.

Naz is the best British featherweight of all time and one of the best ever.

Audiences loved his arrogance and belief.

But it went wrong for him - and that probably started with losing respect for Brendan and not training hard...he began to believe his own hype.

ROSS BURKINSHAW

Naz was a show man but behind closed doors he was a really nice kid. Many try and replicate his style but never come close to how great he was.

He fell out of love with boxing. With all that money in the bank I don’t think he wanted to get up for those early morning runs.

PAUL SILKY JONES

As a youngster, he noticed I fought in a variety of different shorts and he asked if I had any spare shorts? I remembered I had just the right pair - and that’s how his leopard print shorts came about!

Possibly the greatest featherweight of all time.

The fans loved his cockiness and punch power. But his love for training disappeared.

LEWIS TAYLOR

Naz was entertaining in and out of the ring. He gave people a reason to watch before-hand and in the ring he didn’t disappoint. He hit hard, was fast and difficult to hit.

MUHEEB FAZELDIN

One of the best to come out of the UK, with great power and skill. He could have still been boxing today but I think a hand injury stopped him.

TOMMY CHADBURN

His skills put him in the top five ever. He had more power than anyone in the world at 126lb. But he was up and down like a yo-you and should have stayed with Brendan.

Naseem Hamed, more recently

Naseem Hamed, more recently

Hamed in his prime

Hamed in his prime

Naseem Hamed  - and the trappings of wealth

Naseem Hamed - and the trappings of wealth

Prince Naseem Hamed makes his entrance by being swung into the ring in a giant hoop for the fight against Marco Antonio Barerra  at the startof the IBO Featherweight Title fight at the MGM Grand Hotel, Las Vegas

Prince Naseem Hamed makes his entrance by being swung into the ring in a giant hoop for the fight against Marco Antonio Barerra at the startof the IBO Featherweight Title fight at the MGM Grand Hotel, Las Vegas