July 19, 2001 – By Paul Upham: Australian IBF Pan Pacific junior middleweight champion Nader Hamdan made his USA debut on the recent Kostya Tszyu-Oktay Urkal undercard at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut on June 23 and came home with a win, but more importantly, he gained tremendous experience.
Facing veteran Bruce Corby, Hamdan won an unanimous points decision despite being on the end of a flash knockdown in the third round.
“Even though I won convincingly. It was a disappointing American debut for me. I put too much pressure on myself. I should’ve and could’ve won by knockout. I will earn so much from this whole experience,” said Hamdan, 24-0 (13).
“In this one trip I experienced a whole lot of things. I experienced getting knocked down. I got experience fighting overseas in front of a big audience. The lights the cameras and Showtime. Just having the pressure of new people watching me, not knowing who I was being No.6 in the world and 23-0.”
Trained by former three-time world champion Jeff Fenech, 27 year-old Hamdan was a crude slugger when he first made his debut in August 1997. Dedicated to becoming the best in the division, he has worked hard on his boxing skills over the last two years and is now equally comfortable on the outside or mixing it up on the inside in the trenches.
“Jeff (Fenech) was happy with the way I was boxing. He just wanted me to get my hands up and not get too confident. I still have some things to work on. I came back from America with things that I know that I do have to work on,” said Hamdan.
“I’m back in training now and getting ready for a fight in August in Sydney, before I go back overseas for another fight over there. I want to have a couple more fights overseas before I fight for a world title. You have to have them. For any young fighter that has aspirations to become a world champion, I suggest they have to go over there and experience the whole scene.”
“In some ways I was happy with what I did, my jab controlled the whole fight and I intend to use it more in the future. But in other ways I was disappointed with my performance. I have to be smarter. Hit and not get hit. To become world champion I have to be smarter,” said Hamdan, who refuted any suggestion that it was a waste of time for him to travel so far for a six round fight.
“It wasn’t a waste of time. I would call it a huge learning experience for me. More experience that I need. I thank Vlad Warton for giving me the opportunity to fight on his card and I look froward to working with Vlad again. I need these fights so when I go over there for a big world title fight I won’t be starstruck and overawed by the occasion.”
“This trip, I was like a fan in the ring. Apart from being a fighter I am a boxing fan. I love watching other boxers fight. I was like a fan in there when Jimmy Lennon Jr. called out my name. I was thinking, ‘Wow, this is real now’.”
“You have to get used to this. You have to experience it so it is not all new when you get over there for a world title fight and you can focus on your fight.”
Hamdan weighed in at 156 lbs. for his fight with Corby and had trouble adapting, only arriving in Connecticut three days before the fight. Hamdan was too light the night before the weigh-in and had a big dinner and breakfast to put some weight on.
Finding a good sleep routine after the long trip proved difficult with Hamdan only sleeping two hours a night for first three nights then fighting on the fourth night.
“For a world title fight, you need two weeks to get acclimatised. The hardest thing is getting your body used to sleeping those different hours.”
Hamdan pays tribute to the many people who have helped him come so far and thanks his major sponsors the O’Connor Group, Sky Channel, Motel Sleeping Express at Chullora, Paul Hotz, Saucony and Burwood Back Pain Clinic who looks after his injuries.
When it comes to honing his boxing skills inside the ring, Hamdan cannot praise his trainer Jeff Fenech highly enough.
“Jeff Fenech is like the eyes in the corner. He is the guy who sees what I have done wrong and works with me on it. He turns a minus into a plus. Without Jeff Fenech and Billy Hussein I wouldn’t be where I am now,” said Hamdan.
“Billy Hussein works so hard with me in the gym when Jeff isn’t there. I spend a lot of time with Billy and Jeff tells him exactly what I have to do. Billy Hussein is a young guy and does a lot of work with the amateurs and Team Fenech at Bankstown PCYC and he will be a big part of Australian boxing in the future. Also, Angelo Hyder who has worked so hard behind the scenes. He is a quiet achiever and doing huge things for Australian boxing. A great genuine person.”
Hamdan is looking forward to appearing on cards promoted by the O’Connor Group who are planning big things for boxing in Sydney.
“Kieran O’Connor is really going to make a difference. The O’Connor Group have stepped in at the right time. Hopefully there are very big things to come. The fans will really appreciate what the O’Connor Group are going to do for the sport,” said Hamdan.
“Jeff Fenech has been promoting the sport for a long time. It’s good now that there is someone else who has stepped up to the plate and wants to really help Australian boxing and it will help. Jeff will still put on his own shows, but he can concentrate more on training.”
Hamdan enjoys training with Jeff Fenech’s team of over twenty boxers, which includes Shannan Taylor, the Hussein brothers, the Kelly brothers, Vic Darchinian, Ian McLeod, Adam Watt and a whole lot of up and comers to look out for.
“We are all individuals, but when we are training it is like we are all part of a close family. We all help each other with sparring. There is no animosity in the sparing like you see in other gyms where they try to punch the hell out of each other,” said Hamdan.
“It’s about learning and helping each other. When I am sparring with other fighters, it is not about knocking them out. It is about learning. Sparring different styles and fighters.”
With his son Hassan now three years old, August will be a big month for the Hamdan family with Nader scheduled to return to the ring and wife Amira expecting their second child. Hamdan is hoping for a brother for his son to be named “Ali”.
“I give my wife a lot of pain over food, but she really looks after me. She is the best thing that ever happened to me,” said Hamdan.
Has Nader Hamdan reached his peak yet?
“Far from it. Every fight and every training session you learn something new. In my last fight I learned so much and in my next fight you are going to see something better,” said Hamdan.
“I’m number six now and I’m hoping to move up the ratings. I’m hoping in the next 12-18 months to get my call for a world title shot. I will make the most of it. With the right preparation and people in my corner I will come back with the world title. I will become the world junior middleweight champion.”
Hamdan may be a lot closer to a world title shot than many people would realise, due to Felix Trinidad’s move to middleweight.
IBF No.1 Ronald “Winky” Wright and No.2 Robert Frazier are expected to face each other for Trinidad’s vacated IBF belt in August or September. IBF No.4 Fernando Vargas and No.5 Jose Flores are scheduled to meet for Trinidad’s WBA belt on September 22.
If those two fights do go ahead, that would leave IBF No.3 Bronco McKart and Hamdan to square off for the right to become the next mandatory challenger to the new IBF champion, either Wright or Frazier.
“I have fought the best Australia, Asia and the Pacific has to offer. Now I have stepped up to America. I haven’t been an overnight success. I’ve had to learn over time. I didn’t have much of an amateur background and I didn’t grow up around boxing. I just took it on as a 22 year-old and really wanted to make something out of it. I used to get in trouble for fighting on the street so I took boxing on. I’ve stepped up slowly and taking on all-comers. I’m learning every fight and taking smalls steps to the top,” said Hamdan.
“You have ups and downs, but I am happy with my progress. It’s been slow, but it’s been happening. I’m moving up the ratings and I’m still learning.”
Hamdan defends his IBF Pan Pacific title against Haris Pujono on August 20 at the Octagon at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney on Kieran O’Connor’s next promotion.
A two-time Australian champion, Hamdan is a fighter who has improved in small steps and has rarely been pushed in any of his fights. Know as “Mr Excitement” for his all action fighting style, Hamdan is promising his fans many great wins in the future.
“The fans can expect me to keep winning, keep impressing and keep giving them the good fights they want to see because that is my style. I go out there to fight and win at any cost. If I have to take a shot to win, then I’ll take that shot.”