Point Depot, Dublin - August 31st. When a fighter hypes himself - and displays such flamboyance and brash arrogance - as Prince Naseem Hamed does, he is almost always facing a no-win situation when he steps inside the ropes. Naz signed his professional boxing papers in 1992 at the House of Commons in London. He claims that he " refuses to lose " and " will never be beaten". When asked about his first journey to the canvas in his last bout, Naz described it as "beautiful" and said he "needed to test the canvas for (his opponent) Alicea". So in beating worthy challenger Manuel Medina - who formerly held the IBF and WBC versions of the 9st title - Hamed won the fight but lost in doing so. This was his second appearance on US TV, and the WBO featherweight champion needed to look spectacular in victory, if he was to be presented as the superstar his handlers believe him to be. Despite striking form in the eleventh (and final) round, Hameds' performance was anything but spectacular. In the opening round, Medina was focused after looking fazed by Hamed's usual flashy ring entrance. Hamed looked rusty and was tagged by Medina to a large cheer from the audience, most of whom didn't appreciate the arrogance of the Sheffield man. In the second Hamed again looked horribly awkward until he produced a long left to floor Medina. This is not unusual for Hamed. He has been known to look unimpressive and suddenly connect with frightening power to finish his opponent. On this occasion Medina rose and found his rhythym admirably in the third. It was in this round that Wayne Mc Cullough walked 'the long way round' to ringside, waving to his home crowd and distracting their attention from the ring. For the remainder of the fight, Mc Cullough deliberately lapped up the crowd's cheers and chants of "Wayne Mc Cullough" - depriving Naz of the attention and support which he thrives on. This was a deliberate PR exercise by Mc Cullough (who also squared up with Hamed at the weigh-in on the previous evening) to a) whet the public's appetite for a clash between himself and Hamed which is pencilled in for November, and b) to answer the "Never mind the Mc Culloughs, here's the Prince" posters (as in "Never mind the bollocks, here's the Sex Pistols" ) which decorated the streets of Dublin prior to this fight. Hamed realised what was happening, and faced with a scenario he had previously been a stranger to, his concentration lapsed visibly. His timing and balance were way off , and Medina began to catch the normally elusive Hamed with great regularity. In fact, Medina predicted Hamed's movements with a success rate which none of Hamed's previous opponents even came close to. What must be taken into consideration however is the experience and ability to retain conditioning which Medina posesses. This , coupled with the fact that Naz lacked concentration and had only boxed three rounds in the eleven months before this meeting, saw Medina take rounds four, five and six in my book. Round seven saw both men trading bombs in mid-ring and both showed good punch resistance. By the eigth, Medina's face was reddened while Naz looked unscathed. Hamed refused to sit down between rounds eight and nine while Medina's corner worked furiously on their man. In the ninth Naz, who had never been this far before, found his rhythym and floored Medina with a perfect right hook, just as I was beginning to wonder whether his power had left him. He caught Medina again to send him down with a right high on the forehead while the Mexican cornermen looked as if they were about to throw in the towel. By the tenth, Naz had obviously regained his confidence and even nodded at Mc Cullough at one stage in the round. In the eleventh he connected with a beautiful long right which slung Medina ba ck onto the ropes. Hamed then coldly began to take the Mexican apart, at last showing the Dublin crowd what he was capable of. Medina's cornermen retired him at the end of the eleventh, and were quite right in doing so. Medina - stopped for the first time in seven years - was bruised, on wobbly legs and quite a few points behind on the judges' scorecards. * It has since emerged that Hamed caught a cold three or four days before the fight. This fact - backed by medical officials - goes some way to explain his lacklustre performance on the night. Tom Johnson - Ramon Guzman Point Depot - August 31st. Tom "Boom Boom" Johnson is expected to face Naseem Hamed next in an attempt to add the Englishman's WBO belt to Johnsons IBF 9st title. He fulfilled his half of the contract by soundly outpointing resilient Venezuelan Ramon Guzman on the same bill as Hamed on Saturday. Johnson is at the stage in his career where he can fade away at any time. At 32 and in his eleventh World title defence, however , he showed what superb shape he is in. Both fighters got to know each other in the first round. In the second Johnson found his rhythym but Guzman showed he wasn't about to relinquish this opportunity easily, boxing well. In the third Johnson scored an overhead right to floor the Venezuelan. He railed well to send the challenger to the canvas again with a solid right hook-come-uppercut. Time however ran out before Johnson could clinch victory. Johnson began to pulverise Guzman's body, showing impressive speed and head movements. The challenger looked disheartened, only raising his game when Johnson took a break in the fifth. The crowds' reaction to this lively contest was disappointing - I wondered if perhaps it was a theatre audience (given the prescence of Hamed on the bill) who would all leave as soon as Naz finished his extravagant entrance into the ring. A group of men near me cheered excitedly for Johnson for the first two rounds. By the fifth , they were shouting "Na-seem, Na-seem !"Real boxing fans, no doubt! In the seventh, Guzman visited the canvas again via a left - right cross combination. When he rose, Johnson caught him with a perfect right to the chin. The challenger somehow beat the count, and survived until the bell. "Boom Boom" staggered Guzman again in the following round, but the Venezuelan finished the round coming forward. He had already won the crowd over for sheer heart, and Johnson deserves credit for not becoming disheartened at his opponents determination. The champion dished out a sustained beating to Guzman for a solid two minutes in the ninth. The referee could have stepped in without any protests. He chose not to however, and the remainder of the contest saw both men understandably looking drained. When the final bell rang Johnson had retained his belt via a landslide unanimous decision and became the first US featherweight in history to record 11 successful defences. Two judges scored it 119-107, while the third saw it 116-109. Nate Miller - James Heath Point Depot- August 31st. Nate "Magic Man" Miller fully unjustified his nickname in this defence of the WBA Cruiserweight title against James Heath. Floyd Patterson must have been turning in his three-piece suit as he looked on from Ringside at this "World title fight". In the first round Heath walked straight onto a left-right combination and went over. Miller however didn't display anything like the "eye of the tiger" (the music Nate entered the ring to) and see med ambivilant to the fact that Heath survived. Heath showed very limited ability, and he merely threw an occasional counterpunch from behind his high -held gloves. He tied Miller up in close quarters as Miller coasted and just met the minimum requirement to win each round. It was the kind of fight best watched on radio, and I began to feel at one stage (perhaps a little cruelly, in retrospect) that the double yellow streak on Millers' black trunks just about summed up the fight. Until the seventh round both men plodded along at the speed of molten lava. One spectator shouted "Get 'em off" between rounds, and I was suprised to find that he was referring to the ring-card girls clothes rather than the fighters. In the seventh, Miller staggered Heath with a double right hook, and this time found the will to follow up, flooring the challenger with a left-right combination. Heath made the count but nobody protested (particularly the crowd) when referee Carlos Berrocal waved it over at 2:54. Michael Carruth - Mark Brannon Point Depot , Dublin. August 31st. Following a very unimpressive win over Chris Saunders last time out, Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Carruth is edging closer and closer to a shot at either the European or World Welterweight Title in 1997. He moved a step further by destroying Mark Brannon in three racey rounds this weekend. The American employed an awkward style at the beginning to stop Carruth from settling into the fight. Carruth got through with some good combinations at the end of the round however to set the tone for events to follow. In the second, Brannon became more negative while Carruth landed with a right hook to send his opponent to the canvas for what was - wrongly in my view - adjudged to be a slip. In round three, Carruth again sent Brannon down with a left hook to the body - but Brannon looked as if he went over more because he wanted to than from the force of the punch. He fought back but the Dubliner's pressure proved too much, and when the American eventually crumbled in a neutral corner the referee stepped in. Paul Griffin - Irwin Blake Point Depot, August 31 Super - Bantamweight Paul Griffin soundly outpointed Birmingham's Irwin Blake (40 - 37) in what was another 'learning' fight for the Dubliner who trains with Naz in the Brendan Ingle stable. In this, his ninth outing as a pro, Griffin just did enough to safely secure the decision without applying himself overly. He got taggged quite a bit by a fighter who is merely a journeyman, and showed a blatant unwillingness to fight 'inside' - holding on every time they got close. it was only in the last minute of this four rounder that Griffin turned on his startling hand speed and footwork to give us a glimpse of what he is capeable of. With nine straight wins and these natural assets, Paul can progress to greater challenges in the near future. BEST OF THE REST Point Depot, August 31 Former English Olympian ROBIN REID cleared his final hurdle to secure a shot at Vincenzo Nardiello's WBC Super Middleweight Crown on October 12 by beating JERRY BROWN via a fourth round retirement. He looked uninspired in doing so, but it is likely that this was due more to Brown's sheer negativity than lack of effort from Reid. PASCHAL COLLINS, now managed by brother Steve, looked dull in outpointing GORDON BEHAN over four rounds at middleweight (40 - 37). Coming off his first pro loss, Collins doesn't look as if he can go on to scale his brother's lofty heights. MARTY RENAGHAN caught the attention of the crowd by stopping ANDY MARTIN at 1:55 of the second round in his pro debut. Armagh's Renaghan showed dazzling speed and power, and looked anything but a fighter coming straight from the amateur ranks. World - rated HARRY SIMON (Namibia) beat ANTHONY IVORY on points over six rounds, but made a tough night's work of it. Game Ivory came to fight, but Simon just didn't look as classy as last time out when he stopped Del Bryan on the Collins - Benn bill in Manchester.
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