The unusual story of Prince Naseem

There’s an element of showmanship that’s intrinsic to boxing. Muhammed Ali, arguably the greatest self-promoter of all time, was singularly responsible for a social and cultural paradigm shift in America; a titan inside the ring and out.

You get to be loud when you’re the GOAT. But what about when you’re 5’4 Prince Naseem?

Naseem Hamed, world-champion featherweight hailing from Sheffield, England, had a flair for the dramatic like we’ve never seen before in professional boxing.

Best known for his spectacular ring entrances, some of Naseem’s more memorable moments include entering the ring on a flying carpet, on a lift, on a litter (one of those luxurious portable cabanas they used to move kings on), and re-enacting Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

If you’ve never heard of Prince Naseem, you owe it to yourself to watch this video:

In retrospect, Naseem’s antics were novel and hilarious. But if you were fighting him between the late 90s and early 2000s, you’d probably be thinking “What is WRONG with this guy?!”

You’d also be thinking “How did that little fairy just knock me out?”

Naseem finished his professional career 36-1, with 31 of those wins coming by way of knockout (84% knockout-to-win ratio).

Had it not been for Naseem’s aversion to the rigors of training camp, he may have gone down as one of the best fighters ever.

I think at one stage he was the most exciting fighter that I’d ever been involved with. At one stage, in the early part of his career, he could have gone on to become one of the great fighters. But that disappeared when he didn’t fight as regularly as he should have done, when he was cutting corners on his training. It just didn’t work out for him from that point on.

Frank Warren, boxing promoter

The trappings of fame were toxic at times for Naseem – women like this thow themselves at you when you’re young, rich, and famous:

The only man to best him the ring was Marco Antonio Barrera, who defeated him by unanimous decision for the IBO featherweight title in 2001 after Naseem showed up to the bout woefully uninspired. Naseem was so out of shape for the fight that he couldn’t physically do his trademark somersault entrance into the ring.

Sadly, Prince Naseem’s penchant for showmanship haunted him after he hung up the gloves. He was sentenced to 15 months in jail for crashing his $300,000 McLaren in 2005.

Since then, he’s kept his nose clean, and in 2015, was elected into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. His legacy will differ depending on who you talk to, but we can all agree boxing has never seen anyone quite like Prince Naseem.