The boxing great, who conquered the world aged just 21 in 1995, is today reportedly living in a luxury house in Surrey, where his reclusive lifestyle is a far cry from his days lapping up the limelight at the height of his fame while hobnobbing with celebrities including David Beckham.
It’s a long way too from his humble Sheffield roots, where he grew up above the convenience store his parents ran in Wincobank, near Meadowhall, and learned his trade at Brendan Ingle’s renowned gym just a couple of hundred metres down the road.
Brendan’s son Dominic Ingle, who has taken over his late father’s gym, this week spoke to The Star about how Hamed stood out from the moment he first arrived and how his two sons – who have trained at the gym – have what it takes to follow in his illustrious footsteps.
He told how Hamed, who attended Hinde House School in Shiregreen, was one of nine siblings whose parents had come to the UK from Yemen and whose father initially worked at a steelworks in Sheffield before taking over a corner shop on Newman Road.
Prince Naseem Hamed first visited Sheffield boxing gym because he was getting picked on at school
“Naz’s dad brought him and his brother down to the gym when Naz was around seven because they were getting picked on at school, and Naz took an instant liking to boxing,” said Dominic.
“Every day after he got back from school he’d be the first in the gym and the last one to leave. He had a natural flair for boxing but what stood out in the early days was how he’d always be the first there waiting for my dad to open up.
“He was full of energy and always keen to learn new things. He idolised Herol Graham and he spent a lot of time with my dad, who would take him for walks to educate him about the history of boxing and set out to him the dream of what he could achieve and how to get there.
“My dad was preparing him for stardom and he was a very willing pupil, who would absorb everything. He was very quiet outside the gym and never got into any trouble but he came alive when he started sparring.
“By the time he was ready for his first amateur fight, aged 11, he was leagues above everyone else with his ability and his confidence.”
Hamed turned professional at 18 and was just 21 when he beat Steven Robinson in 1995 to win the WBO featherweight title.
He went on to claim the IBF and WBC featherweight world titles during a glittering career in which he won 36 fights as a pro and suffered a solitary defeat, to Marco Antonio Barrera in 2001.
He was only 28 when he retired from the sport in 2002, largely due to chronic problems with his hands.
‘Prince Naseem was like a flame which shone brightly’
“To go from his first amateur fight to becoming world champion in the space of 10 years is quite astounding. He was like a flame which shone brightly for a relatively short period of time,” said Dominic.
“By the time he left my dad’s gym and went and did his own thing I think the rot had set in.
“He became a bit of a recluse after he finished boxing and he’s put all this weight on but he came to the gym about two years ago with his lads to train, and we had a laugh and shared some old stories.
“Sometimes when you've trained all your life and been so dedicated to making the weight for your next fight it’s hard to get motivated when there’s nothing to train for.
“He’s got a lot of money, a big house and a lovely family so maybe his motivation is different these days.
“We trained his lads for a few months and they’ve definitely got what it takes. They’ve got what Naz had but Naz went from rags to riches whereas they’ve been born into wealth, which makes it harder to find that motivation.
‘Naz has done a great job of bringing up his sons’
“Whatever they go on to do, he’s done a great job of bringing them up. They’re both lovely lads and they’re very well behaved.”
Hamed used his riches to buy a £3.3 million 10-bedroom house in affluent Dore, where he lived for several years before selling up and moving south.
He also owned a gym on Abbeydale Road, which later became a shisha lounge called Bamboo.
Asked whether he thinks Hamed realised his full potential, Dominic replies: “My father said he could have been a world champion at two or three weights and that’s probably true, but he achieved a lot and he did it in such a glamorous and exciting style.
“Wherever he went it was packed to the rafters. He had that crossover appeal. He predicted what round he’d knock someone out and he’d do it, which people loved. He was the rock and roll star of boxing.
“They were great times and great times don’t last forever. It would have been great if they could have lasted a bit longer but it was good while it lasted.
“He’d set out a goal of what he achieved and when he achieved it maybe that was enough for him.
“He also had bad hands and he might have thought he couldn’t punch like he used to because of his fragile hands and he wasn’t the fighter he wanted to be anymore.”