‘Prince’ Naseem Hamed makes it to Islington - eventually

FORMER boxing champ “Prince” Naseem Hamed missed the official opening of an Islington youth project’s new centre on Thursday - but finally turned up an hour-and-a-half late.

The former world champion was to be the guest of honour as Sparkplug, which uses motorcycles and mechanics to engage young people and get them off the streets, celebrated its recent move to a new facility in Bingfield Park, Pembroke Street, Islington.

Martin Willis, Sparkplug’s project leader and founder, said: “Naseem Hamed turned up at the end. A few of the kids saw him. But half of them didn’t know who he is.

“He was just being a bit crap.”

The ex-fighter missed the ribbon-cutting, the appearances by Councillor Paul Convery and Councillor Mouna Hamitouche, Mayor of Islington – and was too late to fulfil his planned duty, handing out certificates to some of the centre’s young people.

Hamed, who was jailed for dangerous driving and given a four-year driving ban in 2006 after a crash, said he had trouble getting a driver.

The charity moved back to Bingfield Park after a year at a temporary site on the Ringcross Estate, Holloway.

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“The new building means we can expand our services and work with more young people,” added Mr Willis.

“Before we were at Ringcross we were working out of the old park toilets here for seven years. Now the toilets have changed into this fantastic building.”

Four of the project’s former users were remembered at the event.

Mr Willis said: “We held a minute’s silence to remember those that have been through Sparkplug and are not here anymore.”

Sam Fitzgerald, 20, Jessie Wright, 16, Ben Kinsella, 16, and Michael McCarthy, 19, were all killed in and around Islington.