Prince Naseem Hamed: Britain’s Best Boxer

When I was a kid, I still had heroes. Sportsmen whose muscle memory I’d try to rip off on the wide open playing fields of suburbia; actors I’d get in trouble for impersonating at the Bentall Centre; chart rappers I’d wish my parents were more like. These were people who seemed to represent worlds of excitement and opportunity far beyond my own. People who seemed to be endowed with some kind of greatness. And—most importantly—people who carried that greatness with a magnanimous, maverick swagger, locked in a state of limitless grace.

Most of these heroes went on to achieve the kind of global stardom that means their faces still haunt the canvases of Leicester Square caricature artists today: Will Smith, Jim Carrey, Liam Gallagher. Others went on to have mediocre managerial careers at West Ham and Watford after years of doing things like this.

But only one had a career quite like Prince Naseem Hamed, the diminutive, crew-cut, god-fearing, subtlety-hating, flamboyant, street-wise, homoerotic Sheffield southpaw who won the World Title, went to prison, lost his house, and, for a brief time in the mid 90s, was one of the most dazzling men on earth.