Tom Podmore previews Haskins vs Hall
On a weekend full of interesting-looking fights on British shores – Kell Brook-Carson Jones and Gavin Rees-Derry Mathews in Sheffield - it’s a huge compliment to bantamweights Lee Haskins and Stuey Hall that their 12-rounder stands out above the rest.
Technically the main event on the Hennessy Sports-promoted, Channel 5-televised show in Clevedon, Somerset – though, due to a combination of Tyson Fury and Chris Eubank stealing the press limelight, will probably go un-shown – the pair battle it out for the vacant 8st 6lbs European belt in a fight that has excited those in the trade.
Though Haskins has won a Commonwealth belt at flyweight and British and Commonwealth titles at super-flyweight, he’s no stranger to bantam. Two early forays into the weight class, against then-feared Tommy Hearns-like South African Tshifhiwa Munyai and slick-boxing Ian Napa, proved fruit-less – and etched a brace of stoppage defeats onto his ledger.
“I didn’t train properly for those fights,” admitted the 28-year-old Chris Sanigar-handled Bristolian, who is a switch-hitting southpaw with more than a distinct air of Naseem Hamed about him. “I beat myself more than anything.”
But he’s gone unbeaten since that retirement defeat to Napa in 2007 [nine wins along the way] and another leap up to bantamweight [on a sunny, sapping evening in an outside ring in Morocco a year ago] saw him add a WBA Intercontinental strap to his impressive and ever-expanding trophy cabinet.
Haskins, 25-2 (11), can box a bit [twice beating former Commonwealth Games gold medallist Don Broadhurst and, when he needs to dig in, can put together quick-fisted combinations that have bowled over durable men.
He didn’t lose a single session on the way to winning Prizefighter last year [beating old foe Broadhurst in the final, twice decking him] and knows a win at the Hand Arena will put him closer to his first crack at a world title.
Comparing form lines can often be misleading, but it has to be noted that Haskins edged out the only man to have beaten Hall – Doncaster’s ex-British, Commonwealth and European boss Jamie McDonnell. Then again, Stuey has beaten Ian Napa, who made Lee quit with an injury. Swings and roundabouts.
Hall, a former ABA finalist who was perceived to be a non-puncher when he turned over four years ago yet has rolled out seven inside-the-distance victories in 14 [one loss and a draw], is both capable and a career-long operator at the weight.
The Darlington-based banger, 32, can’t boast anywhere near the experience of his younger opponent, but has earned his stripes the hard way – not to forget a Lonsdale Belt to keep. Stuey stopped then-unbeaten Coventry scrapper Dougie Walton in only his second pro outing and continued upwards.
Martin Power, a former British boss, was hammered to a defeat in eight rounds and, two outings later, had a British belt around his own waist when forcing Napa to surrender on his stool on a sweltering night in Peterlee.
The North East puncher secured a belt outright with three impressive stoppages [including another hammering of Martin Power] before running into tall, long-armed McDonnell, who ended his opponent’s unbeaten run by unanimous decision.
Mick Marsden-trained Hall hasn’t boxed for eight months, in which time he’s split from promoter Frank Maloney, but is adamant he’ll have the blue belt in his kitbag on Saturday night. “He’s an awkward fighter, but I’ll be too strong and will take him into deep waters. We all know what happens there.”
Style-wise, it could be a huge hit or a massive miss. Right-leading Haskins [shorter by three inches at 5ft 5ins] can be frustrating to watch – hitting, moving his feet, falling in and grabbing hold – and even more so to fight.
Hall, a stand-up boxer with a conventional orthodox style, needs to assert his natural strength, concentrate, work on the inside without being tied up and repeat. Sounds a lot easier than it, in actual fact, is. If he finds himself being caught and tangled up then the smart money is on the West Country stylist.
Despite both having justified reputations as punchers – and in spite of pre-fight talk from both promising an early night – I’d be genuinely surprised if it didn’t go the full 36 minutes and wasn’t a nip-and-tuck, absorbing all-English affair.
Who comes out at the end, though? Haskins is the betting favourite and, in front of a near-hometown crowd and with the lure of recognised world title scrap in the offing by mid-2013, a close points nod for the self-styled ‘Playboy’ looks a safe bet – probably by three or four rounds.