By Matt Bevan (@MBevs68)
Rightly so there is a massive amount of interest in Gennady Golovkin’s clash with Kell Brook on Saturday at the O2 Arena. The world’s best middleweight and one of the best in any weight class goes to war with a Sheffield underdog jumping up two weights in one of the most unexpected fights of the year.
But, on the undercard there is one fight in particular that can’t fail to entertain, as Lee Haskins defends his IBF bantamweight world title against former champion and victim Stuart Hall.
Hall will be vying to win back the belt he lost back in 2014, whilst Haskins will be making the second defence of the belt he won on the scales last November in Las Vegas.
It is also a rematch from July 2012, where in the less grandiose Hand Arena in Cleveland, Somerset, Haskins walked away with a unanimous decision victory which saw him become European champion. At that point, I don’t think there would have been many that thought Hall would be the first to a world title.
“Stuey” won the IBF title on a brilliant night in Leeds back in 2013. He had won an eliminator under the lights at the Keepmoat Stadium in Doncaster that May and with it a potential shot at Jamie McDonnell who was then the champion, which would have been another revenge mission for the Darlington man.
Then, boxing politics happened and McDonnell was stripped, so Hall was thrust into the limelight and into the ring against Vusi Malinga, who was the heavy favourite that night. But, Hall pulled out a career best performance and stuck it to the pundits who said he had no chance to become world champion.
His first defence against Martin Ward ended in acrimonious circumstances after a head clash ruined his return to his native North East, before Paul Butler moved up in weight to rip the title from his grasp.
He was once again fighting for the belt in October against Randy Caballero, after Butler vacated to move back down in weight, losing a unanimous decision, but once again displaying the heart that we have now become accustomed to seeing in a Stuart Hall fight.
His win over Rodrigo Guerrero back in April in Leeds shows he is more than capable of mixing with the best at the weight, a claim that Haskins certainly has.
The Bristol man is one of British boxing’s forgotten men. He holds win over McDonnell and Hall, whilst another victim in Ward also challenged for world honours before him. His style was not the most fan friendly, but there is no denying how good a fighter he is.
Now he finally gets the chance to prove he is a rightful world champion. His manager Jamie Sanigar explained to me a while back what happened in Las Vegas, where Haskins was granted the title, after Randy Caballero came in massively overweight.
You had to feel for Haskins who had just been handed a wonderful opportunity to fight on the undercard of Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez’s clash in Vegas, something all British fighters crave, but he never managed to get in the ring. The closest he got to Caballero was the face-off.
He was a world champion, but hadn’t won it in a way that any fighter wants to. People weren’t acknowledging it, which was wrong as it wasn’t like he had done anything wrong, so he tried to prove them wrong by beating Ivan Morales in his first defence in May.
It was a near shutout win that night in Cardiff and Haskins showed his talent, but he still has his doubters. A win over Hall, again, in what could be the fight of the night will see his star rise to heights he hasn’t seen hit.
The smaller weights are cruelly forgotten about in the UK, but with more and more quality fighters emerging at them, interest is beginning to shift. And we all love a domestic scrap, which Haskins and Hall can’t fail to deliver.
For me this is the best matched fight of the night at the O2 and one where you could make a genuine case for either man to win. I’m picking Haskins to win it on points, but it will be a lot closer than before as he will be desperate to make a big statement.
But, with Hall intent on revenge, those tactics could be the Bristol man’s downfall. I personally can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.