Hamed Cedes WBO Bantamweight Title
SHEFFIELD, England (AP) _ Prince Naseem Hamed, widely regarded as the world’s top featherweight, gave up his WBO title in a dispute over a mandatory defense.
Hamed is undefeated and has held the title since 1995. He refused to fight No. 1 contender Istvan ``Koko″ Kovacs, a bout scheduled for Nov. 4 in England.
HBO, the cable network that shows Hamed’s fights, said it was not satisfied with Kovacs’ credentials and was offering Hamed only a fraction of his usual purse.
Kovacs probably will face Mexico’s Marco Antonio Barrera for the vacant title, with Hamed to face the winner.
Boxing fans have been clamoring for Hamed to fight Barrera or Erik Morales, both super bantamweights.
Hamed’s brother and business manager, Riath, sent a letter to WBO president Francisco Valcarcel informing him of the decision to give up the belt.
``Naseem is unable to fulfill his mandatory obligation due to HBO not approving Koko Kovacs as an opponent,″ he wrote. ``In order to maintain the excellent relationship that we have enjoyed for the last five years, I would like to notify you of Naseem’s decision to vacate the title.
``Upon vacating the title, Naseem would still like to be rated No. 1 to allow him the option of fighting for the WBO belt again in the not too distant future.″
In his most recent fight, Hamed retained the WBO title by stopping Augie Sanchez in the fourth round on Aug. 19. Hamed is 35-0, with 31 KOs.