BRITISH MUSLIM CELEBRITIES
Naseem Hamed was born in Sheffield in 1974 to Yemeni parents; he has described himself as 'a Yorkshireman first and a Yemeni second'. At seven, Hamed's potential was spotted at a local gym by Brendan Ingle, who would be his personal trainer for the next 17 years. Hamed won the National Schoolboy Boxing Championship five times and the junior Amateur Boxing Association title twice.
At 18, Hamed turned professional, in the bantamweight class; he now fights as a featherweight (126lbs or 57kg). He had six fights in 1992, 23 in the next five years and another six in 1998-2000; he won all 35, 14 of them inside two rounds.
But success has bought criticism. Hamed has been called an exhibitionist, addicted to gratuitous acrobatics and flamboyant ring entrances; when he beat Said Lawal in 1996, his entrance lasted longer than the fight. Other boxers have dismissed Hamed as 'too cocky' and lacking 'sound boxing technique'.
But for his fans, Hamed's histrionics are all part of the package. As for his technique, it's hard to argue with the scoresheet. When Hamed met Barrera, he had held the title of featherweight champion in the World Boxing Organisation (WBO), World Boxing Council (WBC) and International Boxing Federation (IBF) rankings.
'Who else can I fear apart from Allah? I can't fear any human being.'
Hamed spent six weeks training for the Barrera fight in a villa in Palm Springs, with moral and organisational support from his brothers Murad and Nabeel. Another brother, Riath, was already in Las Vegas. This was a bizarrely unsuitable environment for the brothers, who are devout Muslims; in Riath's words: 'If you don't drink, gamble or fornicate it's a very boring existence.'
Riath made final arrangements for the fight. These included obtaining a pair of green goatskin boxing gloves from Mexico, after sending a representative there to inspect the production process. As Riath said, 'Whatever the Prince wants, the Prince will get.'
For the last two weeks of training, the Hamed camp was joined by trainer Manny Steward. Steward supervised sparring sessions between Hamed and two Mexican fighters, chosen to reflect Barrera's style. Signs that the fight might not go to plan now appeared. Steward's impressions of Hamed's sparring sessions were poor; his punches were wide and badly controlled.
After two weeks of sparring, the Hamed entourage flew to Las Vegas by private plane. The day before the match, Hamed was joined by his barber, his father and finally his wife Alicia and their two sons; they would spend the night before the match apart.
On the day of the fight, Hamed decided against his green goatskin gloves, preferring the gloves Barrera had chosen. After a protracted argument between the two camps, both fighters wore gloves supplied by the management. The start of the fight was delayed by 45 minutes while Hamed chose and rejected several pairs. Finally, he entered the ring with an elaborate entrance routine. Dedicating the fight to Muslims around the world, Hamed pronounced the shahada, the Islamic affirmation of faith.
But the fight went badly. Rather than charging forward and creating openings for Hamed, Barrera stood his ground and kept his guard up. His longer reach enabled him to attack Hamed without seriously exposing himself. Worse, Hamed's taunting made no impression on Barrera. Where other fighters had seen an infuriatingly untouchable opponent, Barrera saw only an unguarded chin – which he attacked repeatedly.
It was Barrera who toyed with his opponent and Hamed who was lured forward. He tried finally to win the match with a knockout, but Barrera's guard was too good for him. After 12 rounds, the judges decided for Barrera; he took the IBO title, and Hamed's long winning run was over.
'Let's hope England likes me a bit more now I've lost.'
Since the fight Hamed has kept a low profile. Initial demands for a rematch were quietly dropped. Plans to get him back into the ring last November were shelved after 11 September; it now looks as if Hamed will fight again in April 2002.
Some believe that the Barrera defeat was the beginning of the end. 'The truth is that top fighters have worked him out,' says Steward, who has refused to work with Hamed again unless he has complete control of his training regime.
The Barrera match hasn't ended Prince Naseem's career: one defeat in 36 fights is not a bad record. The main worry is that the loss of his aura of invincibility will undermine his legendary self-belief. Hamed may be on the verge of bowing out; alternatively, we may see the return of his cocky, dauntless showmanship, enriched with a greater tactical sense. In his next match, there will once again be everything to play for.
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Shaziz began stand-up comedy in September 2000 and has in a very short space of time worked her way up the ladder. Along the way she won the 2001 Hackney Empire Best New Act compettion at the London Comedy Festival, where part of the prize was to appear at The London Palladium. Shazia followed this up be winning Metro Magazine's People's Choice Best Comic Award at the London Comedy Festival 2002.
Shazia's disctinctive act combines a deadpan delivery with observation on her world. Shazia is in certain respects a revolutionary figure being the Uk's only female Muslim stand-up, a job which many in her culture would frown upon. This enables her to have a unique perspective as a British Muslim with her material crossing both cultures. Supported by many in her culture Shazia has recently won the award of Young Achiever of the Year at the Government's intiative for the Asian community, The Leadership & Diversity Awards.
Shazia commands an international audience with coverage from press, TV and radio in Germany, Denmark, Italy, Sweden, USA, Canada, France, UK and Ireland. To date, Shazia has performed stan-up in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland and the USA.
Asad is currently presenter and reporter on Reporting Scotland, Newsnight Scotland and Radio Scotland’s Newsdrive programme. He has worked extensively as the BBC’s Scotland Correspondent and regularly presents BBC Breakfast News in London and the news on Breakfast with Frost. Asad has worked as a reporter in London for the national news.
Before starting his career at the BBC he was a foreign exchange dealer in London and a researcher at the House of Lords. In 1996 he entered journalism through the BBC Trainee scheme and worked as a reporter/presenter for BBC Midlands Today (based at Pebble Mill, Birmingham) until December 1998. During his time there he was in the team that won the 1998 Royal Television Society News programme of the year and the 1998 Sony Radio Station of the year award. Asad was a finalist in the EMMA awards 2000 for the Best Radio News journalist category. He also spent some time as political reporter before joining BBC Scotland, on attachment, in January 1999.
Asad initially started reporting on Radio Scotland, then went onto reporting/presenting Reporting Scotland bulletins before going onto the main programme.
Because Asad is the first Muslim newsreader and one of the very few Asians in the industry, he enjoys giving regular talks and lectures in order to inform and encourage others from similar backgrounds to enter the profession.
Born 1969, South Kensington, London. Studied in Blackheath, London before spending a year at the University of London and then read Law in Bristol.
His main interests are watching as much television as possible, football, travelling (particularly in Sweden) and meeting lots of people.