Hamed Forced To Dig Deep [Archives:1998/16/Sports]
By David Field,
PA Sport Life Boxing Correspondent,
Prince Naseem Hamed settled the doubt with a clinical stoppage of Puerto Rico’s Wilfredo Vazquez at Manchester’s Nynex Arena on Saturday night (April 18).
Hamed showed due caution and respect for his wily and experienced opponent before retaining his WBO featherweight title for the 10th time after two minutes and 29 seconds of round seven.
When the finish came it was vintage Hamed – punches of withering speed and power to knock Vazquez down twice before referee Gino Rodriguez called a halt to a bout that had been held up minutes earlier by a broken ring rope.
Not long after the restart, Hamed finally broke Vazquez’s heart and is now scheduled to return to America for a July defense.
After the fright of his dramatic clash against Kevin Kelley in New York in December, Hamed rightly kept a respectable distance from Vazquez in the opening stages, rarely looking as though he could fulfil his two-round winning prediction.
He was down three times against Kelley before winning in the fourth, and all the opulent plans for his future then began to look decidedly uncertain.
Newlywed Naz knew he could not box with such recklessness against a stiff puncher such as Vazquez, a former WBA champion and campaigner with 21 world championship bouts under his belt.
Hamed entered the ring in his usual elaborate style, complete with somersault over the top rope.
Thereafter it was not such spectacular fare as Hamed went in workmanlike fashion about the task in hand.
Vazquez was a shade slow and somewhat hesitant and inaccurate for such a well-travelled, experienced fighter.
Hamed began to go to work in the third when a short left hook sent his opponent tumbling to the seat of his trunks for the first of four counts.
Vazquez bounced straight up, and Hamed did not make the mistake of rushing in for the finish.
He was happy to jab and wait for his chance. The Puerto Rican went down again in the fourth but claimed that it was not an authentic knock down, merely the fact that he was off balance.
But it still counted and was another step in Hamed’s victory march.
After the delay in the sixth, when the rope had to be removed, Hamed clicked into top gear.
A left hook sent Vazquez crashing, and this time the challenger was really hurt.
The Sheffield showman moved in for the finish, flooring Vazquez again.
When he climbed up Vazquez was tottering, and it took just one more attack from the champion to persuade the referee to halt the proceedings.
Hamed paid tribute to his opponent after his tough workout, saying: “He was a very good world champion. I had to take my time because he was a very strong, determined fighter – I felt his shots, but he was a bit slow. “That’s 10 defenses and 10 knockouts.”
Hamed said he was not affected by the delay when one of the middle ropes collapsed. “I just wanted to take my time,” he said.
“We both wanted to win that fight that badly. He was a little bit hot-headed, so I had to knock it out of him in the end.”