Naseem Hamed will miss his IBHOF induction
CANASTOTA, N.Y. – “Prince” Naseem Hamed had to wait until his eighth year on the ballot before he was voted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Some of those who followed his career – mostly his loyal British fans who felt he should have been so honored in his first year of eligibility – have attributed the delay to an anti-Hamed American voting bloc that didn’t believe the son of Yemeni immigrants fought long enough or faced enough quality opponents, or was just too arrogant and self-absorbed to be granted all-time great status.
“I always thought they would put me in the Hall of Fame sooner or later,” Hamed told British boxing correspondent Gareth A Davies when he finally received that long-awaited telephone call from IBHOF executive director Ed Brophy in December.
But the 26th induction ceremony here on Sunday, at which the 41-year-old former featherweight champion was to receive his IBHOF validation along with fellow Modern inductees Riddick Bowe and Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, still will be missing a certain something – namely Hamed himself.
Hamed said he would be unable to attend because of a medical situation involving his wife, Eleasha. There are those, however, who wonder whether Hamed’s no-show status is somehow connected to visa problems resulting from a 2005 three-car crash in England involving Hamed which left another driver severely injured and led to the fighter serving four months in prison.
It would have been interesting to hear what Hamed, so chatty and publicity-conscious during his ring career, had to say during the acceptance speech he now won’t deliver. Hamed has become almost reclusive in retirement, rarely granting interviews or appearing in public.
Hamed (36-1, 31 knockouts) was only 28 when he retired in 2002.
OLIVARES OVERLOOKS CHAVEZ
One of Mexico’s greatest fighters, former bantamweight and featherweight champion Ruben Olivares, was asked by a fan to list the top three or four fighters, in his opinion, to have come from his boxing-crazed country.
Olivares, 68, thought about it for a second before offering the name of the late, great Salvador Sanchez. No surprise there. He then nominated Carlos Zarate and Hugo Torres and Juan Manuel Marquez, as well as Jose “Mantequilla” Napoles, who was born in Cuba but emigrated to Mexico and became a Mexican citizen.
Uh, Ruben, what about Julio Cesar Chavez?
“I forgot him,” Olivares said, somewhat sheepishly. “Chavez was a great fighter. Strong. But after a while, he started having problems. He was on the decline at the end.”
The same might be said of Olivares, who, like Chavez, might have shortened his prime a bit by partying too long and training too little when age, that most relentless opponent, began to catch up with him. But Olivares was one of the best finishers ever for a long time, posting a career record of 89-13-3 with 78 KOs. He won 54 of his first 57 bouts by knockout or stoppage.
“Ruben sold out the Forum (in Inglewood, California) 18 times,” noted Gene Aguilera, author of “Mexican American Boxing in Los Angeles.” “I went to see a fight there when Julio Cesar Chavez fought Ruben Castillo. No knock against Chavez – without question, one of the all-time greats – but there were 8,000 people there. Ruben would draw that on a bad night, toward the end of his career.
“Unfortunately, he liked to party. It’s well-documented how much he liked to party. Ruben never met a party he didn’t like. If he had taken better care of himself, without a doubt he would have retired undefeated.”
OLD SCHOOL, FAMILIAR FACES
Olivares and Nino Benvenuti, a 1960 Olympic gold medalist for Italy who went on to capture junior middleweight and middleweight titles as pros, might be described as old school. Olivares said boxing would be better off it if it went back to 15-round world championship fights, weigh-ins the morning of the fight (not the day before) and three rope strands instead of four; Benvenuti said he is against champions dictating catchweights for title bouts that are disadvantageous to their challengers.
Among the swallows returning to Capistrano – that would be IBHOF regulars who make the pilgrimage to this picturesque central New York village with regularity – are Hall of Famers Jake LaMotta, Pipino Cuevas, Carlos Ortiz, Carlos Palomino, Aaron Pryor and Michael Spinks and other notables such as Gerry Cooney, George Chuvalo and Micky Ward.