By Danny Winterbottom
Lee Haskins may be the most forgotten figure in British boxing. Talented, divisive, frustrating and cocksure in equal measure the 28-year-old Bristolian has found himself marooned on the fringes of the sport ever since his domineering victory in Prizefighter back in October last year.
The current incumbant of the British super flyweight title, Haskins has seen his profile slowly melt away with his appearances on our TV screens few and far between forcing him to take fights overseas to earn a living. He claims his rivals have been unwilling to step up and face him despite the opportunity to fight for the Lonsdale belt, and his inactivity has seen him fail to defend his crown for over two years.
“Nobody wants to fight me in Britain” said Haskins when speaking to Secondsout.com this week.
“There have been no challenges for me domestically other than taking a step down, but this is a business and I want to start earning some decent money. I had a weeks’ notice for a fight in Morocco and I beat up their top guy in blistering heat and did 12 rounds easy. I entered Prizefighter as champion knowing I wouldn’t have any problems, it was an easy pay day.”
The last man to inflict a defeat on the highly touted Jamie McDonnell, Haskins has no intention of relinquishing the 8st 3lbs strap but is open to offers a division north at 8st 6lbs. A decision that paid dividends this week when it was announced that he will contest the vacant EBU bantamweight title against WBC number 7 Stephane Jamoye. Rival McDonnell relinquished the title rather than rematch the Belgian in his pursuit of world honours.
To add to his good news it was revealed this week that his promoters Chris and Jamie Sanigar had won the purse bids in Rome, beating off a rival bid from a Belgian promoter and giving Haskins that all important home advantage.
“I’ve known for about three or four weeks that I was going to be nominated. It’s wicked that my team have managed to win the purse bid, especially now there is a good chance the fight could be in Bristol because I haven’t boxed here in a few years. I have been ticking over in the gym and I’m raring to go. We are just waiting on the date and venue now.”
The Sanigar’s have long bemoaned the lack of a modern arena in the city and Haskin’s team have just 14 days to find a suitable venue with at least the capacity for 1,000 paying customers to break even on the promotion that will take place in the summer. A TV deal has yet to be put in place.
Having been out of the ring for over seven months at the time of speaking I wondered if ring rust would be a concern for Haskins, and if he has considered slotting in a tune up fight before his assault on Europe.
“I think I will just go straight into the Jamoye fight. I’m always in the gym keeping my weight down even when I haven’t had a fight coming up. With all the sparring I do I don’t really suffer from ring rust.”
Since his close loss to McDonnell late last year, 22-year-old Jamoye has lost to world ranked Leo Santa Cruz in Mexico and defeated three lower tier opponents, so comes into the contest on a decent run of form.
“I watched him when he lost to Jamie and to be honest I didn’t think too much of him” said Haskins. “He was nothing spectacular, pretty basic come forward type who is right up my alley. I let Chris and Jamie (Sanigar) do all the analysing, I just turn up and fight.”
Certainly Haskins style will be unlike anything the young Belgian has experienced before. His southpaw stance and tendency to “square up”; coupled with hurtful power in either hand can be a tricky blend to figure out.
“When he gets hit by me he will think twice about coming forward. He can train for me but once he steps in the ring he will realise it is a whole different proposition. Trust me I will beat him in style and he is getting knocked out. I will show everybody I’m the best bantamweight out there.”
Providing he comes out on top and claims the European title Haskins could find himself on the verge of a shot at the big time, something befitting of his “Playboy” moniker.
“I think with my style I could give anybody in the world problems. I’m ready to step up and challenge these top guys, I don’t mind going to their backyards to fight them, I just want fights.”
He added “We have tried for a rematch with McDonnell before but he didn’t want to know. It was a close fight the first time but if we fought again it would be a landslide for me. At the moment he has his world title eliminator and I’m fighting Jamoye but if he wins a world title we could have a big fight somewhere down the line.”
If Haskins is successful this summer he will become the first boxer from Bristol to win a European title at any weight, and will go a long way to convincing the television executives he is worth some much needed exposure.