SO successful was Naseem Hamed’s career punching for pay that he was once declared by Forbes the richest young sportsman in Great Britain. Alan Shearer and David Beckham were No.2 and 3.
That was in 2001, the year he tasted defeat for the first and only time in his career in the famous fight against Marco Antonio Barrera which ultimately ended his love affair with professional boxing.
A little over a year later he was gone from the sport, aged only 28, with designs on spending more time with his young family. At the time, his son Aadam had only just turned two. Given what his father achieved in the ring, and the riches he accrued, Aadam has never wanted for anything.
But, now 23, he has decided to turn his back on the luxury lifestyle provided by his father in affluent Virginia Water, a village initially devised as a royal leisure park given its proximity to Windsor Castle. Now it is most famous for the Wentworth Estate, which plays host to the famous golf course of the same name, on which the Hamed family home stands.
Within it, young Aadam had grown accustomed to staff cleaning up after him. Never mind just silk pyjamas, ‘Prince Naseem’ had ensured his kids could have basically anything they could think of.
But for the youngster that was not enough. Instead he has built a flatpack bed in a room above a Birmingham boxing gym in order to train three times a day as he embarks on a professional career of his own. He is 23 now, never set foot in a ring as either an amateur or anything else, but will turn professional under the same spotlight that once hovered over Conor Benn, Chris Eubank Jr and Campbell Hatton. The difference is, they had all boxed as amateurs in some capacity. Hamed is going from a standing start.
“Everyone has been commenting under my Instagram posts asking if I’m ever going to actually fight,” says Hamed, dressed in Nike 110s, a tracksuit and a Rolex. “To be honest, I’ve had a few close calls in terms of fighting. I feel like I’m ready for the last two years to fight. Big shout out to everyone who has made it happen.”
His professional bow will come on the undercard of Oleksandr Usyk’s heavyweight clash with Daniel Dubois in Wroclaw, Poland on August 26. It has been described as chief support. It is some debut.
“I always knew if I was going to fight it would be on a big platform,” he adds. “Having a legend of a father, it’s always going to be on a bigger platform and a bigger magnitude than a normal fighter. I’m prepared for the pressure, I’m prepared for the heat and we are looking forward to doing big things in the sport. We’re not here to take part, we’re here to take over.”
For Aadam, it will be the culmination of nearly seven years’ hard work after his decision to follow in his father’s footsteps as a 16 year old.
“I’ve always been a sporty kid,” he says. “I used to play a lot of tennis but I knew as soon as I walked in the gym, this was for me. I tell my dad a lot of the time that I didn’t choose boxing, boxing chose me.
“That moment came when I was about 17 or 16. I always knew how to throw hands because of having a pops like my dad, you’re always going to learn to fight as a kid. He never wanted us to do it, he said ‘I’ve done it for you and I’ve put my stamp on the sport so you don’t need to’ but you get to a certain age and you realise what you want to do as a man and I knew this was it as soon as I walked in the gym.”
Now he barely leaves.
“I’m training with Spencer McCracken Sr and Spencer McCracken Jr three times a day at the moment,” he explains. “I’m living inside the boxing gym. A lot of people say ‘I’m living in the gym’ but I’m literally living in the gym as I put a bed in the top room and I’ve been grafting.”
As he speaks, his famous father beams alongside him, silently nodding in agreement. “That’s a lot when you’ve come out of a really nice pad in Virginia in Surrey,” the 49-year-old says. “You’re comfortable.
“But this is something that he started, he was determined. What I’ve seen in him in the last few years has been incredible. He’s moved from Surrey into Birmingham and to move to Birmingham, it’s a different kind of life. To live in the gym, to train so hard, I’ve seen his improvement in the last few years.”
Nas was a cultural phenomenon during his 90s heyday. His persona was one thing but his talent seemed otherworldly at times. He was only seven when he first walked into the Wincobank gym and what he achieved in the two decades that followed have marked him out as one of Britain’s greatest ever fighters. How his son can ever live up to the name with such little experience is hard to imagine.
“He deserves to be where he is,” Hamed counters. “Regardless of the experience and not having any fights.
“I honestly believe he’s got amazing natural ability, not just because he is my son, he’s got some crisp and amazing punching power. After a period of time, people will say ‘how did this guy do it?’. He’s had no amateur experience, he’s never fought as a pro. The undisputed heavyweight championship of the world is a big fight but I can see my son stealing the show in Poland.”
Benn, Eubank, Hatton and now Hamed – four of the most iconic names in British boxing history all with offspring vying to build on the legacy. When it comes to involvement, the first three of those dads have all handled things very differently; Eubank used to do the corner for Chris Jr while Hatton’s brother Matthew trains young Campbell. Benn, meanwhile, still lives in Australia. So how will Hamed do it?
“I intend to let my son do what he needs to do,” he says. “I don’t want to get caught up and walking out in his ringwalks. He will be a star in his own making, he won’t need his dad and he won’t be in my shadow either. The only reason I’m here today is that they asked. I don’t want to be caught up in babysitting. He’s 23 years old. He’s ready.
“I’ve not been involved in his training, I’ve let him get on with it. When the time is right, I’ll speak to him about the mental stuff, to pass on to him. He is going to need to know the thought process of a world champ. He’s grown up around this whole thing of confidence, it’s nothing new for him. Am I going to be like Chris Eubank Sr? I like the way Nigel Benn has done it. He’s let his son just get on with it.
“We’ve seen Chris Eubank’s son, we’ve seen Nigel Benn’s son, we’ve seen Ricky Hatton’s son, now you’re going to see my son. Just have a look and say what you see. We will see who drops it like it is hot, who has that flavour, who has that style, who has that flair. Let’s just see.”
Aadam has never wanted for anything in his life? Scratch that. He wants to be like his dad.