Martin Smith column: Flawed Naz deserves place in Hall of Fame

Naseem Hamed: deserves to be in Hall of Fame
Naseem Hamed: deserves to be in Hall of Fame
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Naseem Hamed – Sheffield legend, world champion, convicted criminal.

Pound for pound arguably the most talented boxer Britain ever produced, Naz was inducted into boxing’s Hall Of Fame last weekend.

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Not before time some will say, never in a million years goes the counter-argument.

As someone who saw and got to know Naz at his best it seems ridiculous to even contemplate that a fighter with his talent might not be included. He was an awesome fighter in the true sense of the word.

His destruction of Freddy Cruz at Ponds Forge in Sheffield in 1994 and his subsequent hammering of Sergio Liendo in Scotland the following January are part of boxing’s and this city’s folklore.

That night in Scotland saw Naz hit the peak of his powers as boxer, entertainer, phenomenon.

Star photographer Dean Atkins and I were fortunate enough to be in his dressing room immediately before the fight to witness the hypnotic power of his colossal self-belief.

As he moved and shadow boxed around the tiny room to a booming beat it was as though he was tapping in to some higher power, an absolutely incredible experience that to this day defies adequate description.

But I was also one of the earliest to get to the crash scene at Ringinglow on May 2 2005 when that same brash confidence got Naz into a high speed car crash. I saw first-hand the damage done to Naz’s £325,000 McLaren‑Mercedes – heaven knows what Anthony Burgin’s VW Golf looked like. Mr Burgin suffered massive injuries.

Naz has regrets about his actions that day and knew no amount of hand-wringing could put Mr Burgin’s body and life back together.

He also has huge regrets about the way he treated his trainer and mentor Brendan Ingle who coached him from the age of 12.

Naz wanted to apologise to Brendan for the way their relationship broke up.

It now looks like any sort of reconciliation will never take place.

You don’t need to be a nice guy to enter boxing’s Hall of Fame, just look who’s already in there. But you do need talent and titles.

Naz’s ability, determination and desire to be a world champion were never in doubt. Others may judge his character and find it flawed but Hamed’s ability and achievements inside the ring ensure him a richly-deserved place in boxing’s Hall Of Fame.