June 8, 2016
June 8, 2016
naseem hamed

Action Images/Nick Potts

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ON this day in 1996, thrill-a-minute featherweight Naseem Hamed was given a tougher than expected test by unbeaten Puerto Rican Daniel Alicea.

22-year-old Naz, then sporting a perfect 21-0 record, was making the second defence of the WBO title he had won with a near flawless display against Steve Robinson the previous summer. Alicea, two years the older man, was also unbeaten, at 15-0, yet only six of “Pipino’s” wins had come against fighters with winning records and he had never faced anyone of Hamed’s class. Still, Alicea was to prove himself a worthy adversary.

Hamed came out in his customary hands held low fashion, looking to land bombs at every opportunity. Showing little regard for the punches coming back at him, the flashy, wickedly powerful switch-hitter boxed with the cockiness and supreme self belief he had done since his very first pro fight. This time, though, Hamed’s chin would be caught by more than a few punches. During what had already been an exciting opening session, the large crowd had more to get animated about as Alicea landed three right hands on Hamed’s exposed jaw. Down went the Sheffield star, for the very first time in his career.

Hamed bounced up quickly, immediately indicating he had not been hurt. The critics, who had questioned his defensive shortcomings, got an answer to their question of what would happen if the risk taker was tagged: Hamed showed heart and proved he could take it as well as give it.

The second-round saw Hamed pay a little more attention to defence, having been told between rounds by his trainer Brendan Ingle how he was trying too hard and was jumping in. Now fully aware of how dangerous Alicea was, Hamed showed his challenger some respect. Still, the KO win was fully on Hamed’s mind and to his credit it came. A punishing right hand drilled Alicea, the punch having a delayed action affect on the Puerto Rican, before a short left put the challenger down. Alicea beat the count but Hamed was all over him. Naz smelled blood and poured it on, looking for the finish. Alicea was still game, throwing punches back as he was stuck on the ropes, but Hamed would not be denied.

Hamed let loose with a brutal three-punch combination, a right and a final left doing the damage, and Alicea was sent crashing onto his back. Instantly, seeing how badly hurt he was, referee Raul Caiz Snr waved the fight off; even though an enormously courageous Alicea was attempting to rise. Hamed had scored what was arguably his most thrilling win to date and he had shown he could take a good shot if need be.

Typically boastful in the post-fight interview, Hamed said he would go on to conquer America, knock out Marco Antonio Barrera and fight all the best fighters out there. As we know, things didn’t quite work out that way for the man known as “Prince.” Today, though, Hamed’s place amongst the most exciting fighters in history is secure.

Alicea went on to lose his next fight by stoppage and though he did meet further big names such as Nate Campbell and Acelino Freitas, he would never again challenge for a world title. Alicea retired with a 30-7-2(22) ledger in 2007.

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