The biggest mouth in boxing since Muhammad Ali almost had to eat his words for the first time. But he stayed unbeaten.
WBO featherweight champion Prince Naseem Hamed, the boastful Brit with the 30-fight winning streak, couldn't make good on his promise to knock out Wayne McCullough in the third round Saturday.
He needed all 12 rounds to score a unanimous decision over the scrappy Irishman, who tagged him several times with hard rights but could never knock him down or put him in serious danger.
"He was quite strong," Hamed said. "I tried to knock him out in the third round. What can I say? He's got a hard head. He's Irish, you know."
Hamed danced and weaved his way to the victory, but was on the receiving end of more than a few boos because of his attitude.
Judge John Stewart had it 118-110, judge Nelson Vazquez 117-111 and judge Clark Sammartino 116-112 for Hamed. The Associated Press had Hamed winning 116-111.
A 5-1 favorite, he kept McCullough at bay with his bizarre tactics but never knocked him down or hurt him. In fact, Hamed (31-0) spent much more time clowning than he did punching.
McCullough, of Belfast, Northern Ireland, was the aggressor throughout, but he couldn't hurt Hamed either. Cheered on by more than 1,000 flag-waving Irishmen who made the trip, he sustained solid shots and connected on several of his own.
Hamed hit on 46 percent of his 742 punches, to 23 percent for McCullough, who threw 740, according to CompuBox Inc. punch statistics.
On the undercard of the fight, which was televised by HBO, IBF junior featherweight champion Vuyani Bungu of South Africa retained his title with a 12-round majority decision over Danny Romero of Albuquerque, N.M. Also, Marco Antonio Barrera took the WBO junior featherweight title from champion Richie Wenton, stopping him in the third round of a scheduled 12-rounder.
| Prince Naseem Hamed keeps Wayne McCullough down, but not out. (AP) |
Hamed, 24, of Sheffield, England, promised an early finish to the "Fright Night" card at Convention Hall. But his prediction -- a knockout at 2:28 of the third round -- never happened.
Playing no defense whatsoever, throwing punches from the bottom of his trunks and switching from left-handed to right-handed on whims, Hamed was booed heartily by the crowd of 8,138 for his inactivity in the seventh round.
"It was willed by God to go 12 rounds and it went 12 rounds," Hamed said. "I'm still the best lightweight in the world. He took a beating. Look at his face and look at mine. I won easy."
McCullough, 28, who fights out of Las Vegas, was a silver medalist in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. He is 22-2, with the only other defeat a 12-round decision at the hands of Daniel Zaragoza in January 1997.
"He ran from me," McCullough said. "He didn't come to me and never hurt me. He's strong physically but he never hurt me."
McCullough weighed in at 124 pounds, Hamed 125. The class limit is 126.
Hamed made $2 million, McCullough $500,000.
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