“Life strikes fairly quick,” mentioned Ferris Bueller, and ain’t that the reality. I used to be reminded of that reality earlier this week when social media was full of reminders that 25 years in the past, on December 19, 1997, Prince Naseem Hamed made his United States debut at Madison Sq. Backyard in opposition to Kevin Kelley.
1 / 4 century. That’s a variety of years. On the time, I used to be the daddy of a two-year-old (she now has two children of her personal), was working upkeep full-time, and attempting to turn into a boxing author, if solely to distract myself from cleansing bogs.
Fortunately, Stephen Gordon and Mike De Lisa took pity on the child with the dustpan and broom and gave him a spot on the CyberBoxingZone.com, the place by means of sheer dumb luck, I received a credential to cowl my first struggle at MSG that December night time.

However first, Hamed. The British sensation was the speak of not simply the boxing world, however New York Metropolis on struggle week, and rightfully so, since he packed concussive energy in his fists, the present of gab, and a method that defied description. He was the following large factor heading into the Kelley struggle, however I felt like I had a head begin on all people on this facet of the pond because of that upkeep gig as a result of one afternoon a number of years earlier, as I clocked out and received able to go dwelling, one of many guys on the 4 to 12 shift got here as much as me with a present. Wrapped in a brown paper bag, this present was given to me by an older gentleman from Yemen who knew I used to be a boxing fan.
“Watch this,” was all he mentioned, and after I went dwelling that night time, I popped the VHS tape within the machine and it was a set of Hamed’s novice fights. He had already turned professional on the time, however solely the toughest of the hardcore within the States knew who he was. However now I knew. And I paid consideration carefully as he dominated the British scene, gained the WBO title and began making his identify internationally. So when it was introduced that he was going to debut within the U.S. in opposition to “The Flushing Flash” himself, I needed to be there.
Eric Gelfand of MSG, who I’ll always remember, agreed, and for the primary struggle I went to in particular person, I used to be seated within the seventh row at ringside. I believed, wow, it’s going to be like this each time. It wasn’t, as the following struggle I coated, Angel Manfredy-Arturo Gatti, I used to be up so excessive within the auxiliary press part that I didn’t know Gatti was reduce within the struggle.
However I digress.
A.J. Liebling as soon as wrote that doing a struggle report is like writing a letter to a buddy. I like that analogy, and I don’t assume I ever hit these proper notes on a deadline piece, we are able to all proceed to dream. However I wasn’t considering of Liebling that night time; I used to be simply taking all of it in, pad and pen in hand.
In fact, in your first night time you higher be on time and there for the primary struggle, and I used to be, scribbling down every little thing I noticed from the time I took my seat at 6:20pm.

Press row is subsequent to empty, save for a number of diehards (i.e. – me). The primary struggle, an eight-round heavyweight bout between London’s undefeated (11-0) Danny Williams, and Washington’s Derek Amos will get underway. The world itself is empty because the bell rings. It amazes me the quantity of individuals it takes to get a bigtime card like this off the bottom: promoters, electricians, broadcast crews, and many others. And all these staff are frantically doing their jobs, regardless of the motion occurring within the ring. Within the squared circle, Williams (who will all the time maintain a particular place in my boxing coronary heart for being the primary fighter I noticed stay) methodically cuts down Amos and scores a fourth spherical TKO.
Williams would go on to turn into an honest heavyweight contender who’s finest remembered for knocking out Mike Tyson in 4 rounds in 2004. In his subsequent struggle he received halted by Vitali Klitschko in a WBC title struggle, however he stored preventing…and preventing…and preventing. Sadly, he’s nonetheless competing, most not too long ago shedding a call to Nelson Hysa final month on the age of 49.
6:30pm – The HBO broadcast crew arrives. A number of toes away from me are Jim Lampley, Larry Service provider, and Harold Lederman. No signal of Massive George but.
Quickly, a younger man with a 1-0 document named Richard Hatton was within the ring in opposition to Brooklyn’s Robert Alvarez. You might know the Brit from Manchester as Ricky Hatton, and the longer term world champion gained a aggressive choice over the hometown child.
With the world empty, you may hear the punches touchdown. You do not get this sort of motion whereas watching at dwelling.

Oh no, you don’t.
6:50pm – Massive George Foreman arrives alongside along with his brother. A few of the boxing writers have arrived (Steve Farhood, Herbert Goldman, Thomas Hauser) and a few shout at George that “You gained the struggle”, referring to Foreman’s controversial factors loss to Shannon Briggs. George smiles and factors to the writers in acknowledgement.
Combat #3. Junior featherweights. Joan Guzman, a member of the 1996 Dominican Republic’s Olympic group, goes for his second win in opposition to the Bronx’ Henry Bowden, who was making his professional debut. Guzman, who has Merqui Sosa in his nook, is straight out of the Rodman / Hamed faculty of sportsmanship, full with blond hair. There’s received to be a villain on each card, and he is it. The gang has began to file in, and Guzman is the recipient of some boos. However Guzman ignores this, and scores a kayo at 2:51 of the second. In the meantime, the HBO group is training their monologues for his or her broadcast, now lower than two hours away.
One other future world champion on a stacked Frank Warren card that gave the paying of us their cash’s value, for certain. For these complaining concerning the lack of depth on exhibits lately, this lineup exhibits what it was like. And don’t get me began on a Don King card that may have began at 3pm, had two flyweight title fights, a matchup between heavyweight contenders, a few native favorites and a “particular attraction” earlier than the pay-per-view card began. Ah, the great ol’ days.
7:20pm Promoter Frank Warren, England’s reply to Don King, makes his look and schmoozes across the ringside space. Warren must be proud of the ticket gross sales for this struggle, Naseem Hamed’s debut in America. Distributors are promoting champagne at ringside, this have to be the massive time.
7:30pm – Eight rounds. Junior Middleweights. Jason Papillon scores a second spherical TKO over an overmatched “Honeyboy” Smith.

7:44pm – Some extra press heavyweights stroll in (Nigel Collins, Wally Matthews, Ron Borges), and Teddy Atlas makes an look. Within the ring, undefeated (21-0) Michael Clark wins a powerful first spherical TKO over Jersey’s Roberto Nunez.
The ultimate preliminary, a snoozer between undefeated Charles Shufford and Brooklyn’s Felton Hamilton. Hamilton wins, however will get jobbed by the choice. However nobody actually cares now, because it’s getting near showtime. The luminaries are piling in now, Larry Donald, David Reid, Buddy McGirt, Murad Muhammad, Artwork Mercante Jr. One man affords to purchase my pen for a $1, however I politely refuse (perhaps if he went for $3, the worth of a 20oz bottle of Coke, I’ll have gone for it). It is good to see children mobbing these guys for autographs. I am simply joyful that they even know who they’re.
At 9pm, the HBO card begins, and what a co-main occasion it was, as Kennedy McKinney confronted off with native hero Junior Jones. With the hype behind the principle occasion, and Hamed-Kelley dwelling as much as that hype, lots of people neglect how good McKinney-Jones was for the almost 4 rounds it lasted. 
When ringside, it’s simpler to inform when a fighter is damage, both by the sweat flying or by the look on the fighter’s face. Mc Kinney received rocked many occasions throughout this struggle, and the haggard look on his face made me really feel that he had seen too many wars. However all can change with one punch, and one punch took out Junior Jones within the fourth spherical. It was sudden, and thrilling. Because the struggle was stopped, a cup of liquid went crusing in the direction of the ring, with the perpetrator rapidly apprehended and brought out. Issues would possibly get sizzling right here. Jones’ legs had been nonetheless wobbly as he left the ring, and the look on his buddy (NBA star Jayson) Williams’ face advised the story of the struggle.
If the present ended there, who may complain, however there was nonetheless a predominant occasion that includes the 23-year-old child from that grainy VHS videotape in opposition to a neighborhood favourite and former world champion who many believed had seen higher days, regardless of bringing an eight-fight unbeaten streak into the Backyard ring. Bear in mind, there was some huge cash using on Hamed turning into a celebrity, so pundits and followers anticipated a showcase, not a very aggressive struggle. And the followers wished to point out to associate with it. Effectively, they quickly received what they requested for.

9:43pm – The Naseem chant begins, adopted by equally fervent chants of Kel-ley, Kel-ley. The ringside luminaries are launched: Spike Lee, Rosie Perez, Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Child Gavilan, Pierce Brosnan, Pernell Whitaker, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Pink Holzman are all at ringside. That is an occasion!!! Kevin Kelley arrives first at 9:55pm and he’s pumped for the struggle. This can be no walkover for the Prince. A minute later, the music “Males in Black” begins pumping from the Backyard sound system.
The Prince begins dancing behind a white display, giving off a silhouette kind impact. The gang goes wild, persons are dancing and smiling. The US has by no means seen something like Naz’ entrance. A Mike Tyson he isn’t. Eight minutes later, Naz makes his means towards the ring, with confetti streaming into the air. Kelley is up on the ropes, waving for the Prince to get into the ring. That is Kelley’s home.
I imagine I counted 9 minutes between Kelley stepping between the ropes and Hamed doing the identical factor. Winner of spherical one? Hamed. However there was nonetheless a struggle to be fought, and Kelley confirmed as much as just do that, as evidenced by a fast knockdown of Hamed within the first body.
When Naz tastes the canvas within the first, his head snaps again violently, and the gang senses an early end. Naz rises, however he continues to get rocked. The Naseem chants have silenced, whereas the Kelley chants engulf the world. I’ve by no means seen so many smiling faces as these guys go at it. Whereas it’s positively the very best struggle I’ve seen stay, it could even be the most effective I’ve seen, interval.
I’ve been susceptible to hyperbole earlier than, throughout and after Hamed-Kelley. I truly wrote that the Felix Trinidad-Ricardo Mayorga struggle was “the Latino Hagler-Hearns.” It wasn’t. However 25 years later, and upon one other viewing this morning, my opinion stands. As you all know, Hamed received off the deck, visited it twice extra whereas sending Kelley down thrice. On this scrap, final knockdown wins, and it was Hamed ending issues at 2:27 of the fourth spherical.

I might have cherished to see it once more, however Hamed was off to larger and higher issues and Kelley went 13-8 earlier than retiring after a 2009 loss to Vicente Escobedo. Some would say Hamed by no means reached these heights once more, despite the fact that he went 7-1 over his remaining eight bouts. And perhaps he didn’t, however to have one night time like that’s greater than most can declare. That’s value one thing.
They are saying you always remember your first, and that is most actually true on this case. Twenty-five years? That’s a variety of phrases, a variety of fights and a variety of reminiscences. Hamed-Kelley at MSG was considered one of my favorites. Thanks, gents.

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