"What we just saw was the Hagler-Hearns of featherweight fighting."
-- Larry Merchant
It might sound like hyperbole now, considering neither Hamed nor Kelley exactly went down as Hall of Famers like Hagler or Hearns, but man, this was some four rounds of brawling.
December 19, 1997. Hard to believe that the Prince was at his peak (or in the middle of it, anyway) over a decade ago, and that Marco Antonio Barrera washed him out of boxing seven years ago. This was Hamed's first trip to the States, at Madison Square Garden. Here he was, the super-hyped Brit with the flashy, sometimes obnoxious style, and opposing him was 30-year old American Kevin Kelley, "The Flushing Flash," a southpaw with a 47-1-2 record.
Was Hamed a regional hype job or the real deal? Turns out he was the real deal. Here's the fourth and final round of this wickedly exciting duel.
I've said this before, too, but time has painted Hamed as a farce. That is hardly the case. He lost to Barrera and just never really got over it, fighting once more and hardly looking like the Hamed of old. Marco Antonio Barrera is going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Hamed could fight, had real power, used his body in a unique and unpredictable manner, and had the goods as far as marketability goes. Barrera beat him. Barrera beat lots of guys.
The other major title fight on this show saw Kennedy McKinney knock out Junior Jones in the fourth round to win the WBO super featherweight title. And a couple of other guys fought on this show, too, deep on the undercard: Danny Williams, Joan Guzman, and a young man who had just turned 19 years old, in his second pro fight. His name was Ricky Hatton.