Lee Haskins Q&A: ‘I want to remain World champion’
By Ian Aldous: On Saturday June 10th, Lee Haskins (34-3) will defend his IBF World bantamweight championship against IBF No.12 ranked, Ryan Burnett (16-0), at the SSE Arena in Belfast, live on Sky Sports. This third defence of his belt sees him travel to the challenger’s hometown in a career that’s seen him become a proud and respected champion at domestic, European and World level. This week, the Bristolian took some time to talk with me over the phone about his imminent battle.
IA: So, first of all, Ryan Burnett on June 10th. Are you impressed with him as a fighter or is he a little bit overhyped?
LH: I haven’t really seen much of him. I’ve just seen the people that he’s boxed and he’s been boxing a lot of journeymen and no really great fighters. So, it’s hard to judge from that. If he’s one of Eddie Hearn’s fighters then I’m sure he’s got the talent to go far.
IA: Jamie Sanigar (Lee’s manager) said at the press conference that it might be a case of ‘man against boy’. Do you agree with that? He’ll be eight years your junior on fight night.
LH: Of course. I’ve done it all. But he’s going to have the youth on his side. He’s going to feel that’s a big plus for him. People think I’m maybe past it, but I feel absolutely fine in training and I feel like I’m getting better and better. I’m injury-free as well, so I’m just ready to go. It’s a strange one, some people think I’m too old or is he too young? We’ll see on the night.
IA: Everything was very respectful at the aforementioned press conference, do you expect it to stay like that? You guys seemed pretty cool with each other.
LH: It don’t bother me how he is, you know. I’m a respectful guy, this is only a boxing match and a sport and without an opponent – it wouldn’t be boxing. I don’t want to be mean to him or disrespectful, but I’m the kind of guy where if they show me disrespect and ‘put it on me’, then I’m happy to give it back. I just like it to be nice and let’s just get the job done.
IA: Is there any danger that you could take him too lightly in preparation for the fight? That’s something some of your fans might worry about.
LH: I think I’ve trained very, very hard for this fight. I think I’ve put in all the work I could possibly do. There’s some times where I can’t even get out of bed in the mornings, when I’m in pain, where I’m putting so much work in. I want to remain World champion. I want to continue to do my family proud, my kids, my wife. That’s the only reason I’m in this game, if it wasn’t for them – I wouldn’t box anymore. It’s a hard job to do and it’s horrific on your body sometimes with the amount of training you’ve got to go through. It’s something I’ve done because I was good at it and I can provide a good living for my kids. If there was something else earning just as good money, I definitely wouldn’t be boxing – I’d be doing that. I just continue to do what I’m doing to make my family proud and show my kids that I work very hard to give them the best things in life.
IA: How would you compare the upcoming challenge to the battle that Stuart Hall brought to you in your last World title defence? He’s a very different guy, do you expect a tougher challenge?
LH: Stuart’s a very tough fighter, I think. I went into that fight with a couple of injuries, which maybe we shouldn’t have done. Because I continued to train with the injuries, it messed me up. I was offered the fight in Japan (against Shohei Omori after defending against Hall) and couldn’t do it because I had the injuries still. They just ended up getting worse throughout the training for the fight and it was a problem. It was a great deal we were offered to fight Stuey Hall and we weren’t willing to pull out. So, we went through with the fight and we did it and it was a close fight. I take my hat off to Stuart, he’s a very strong, tough, come-forward fighter. With this one, I don’t really know much about Ryan Burnett, he looks like he fights similar to what I do.
IA: I personally think he’s been slightly overmatched here but it would surprise me if Eddie Hearn would overmatch one of his fighters. But, at the same time, Eddie is good at timing the right fights for his fighters and not selling out one of his fighters if he didn’t think they could win. Do you agree?
LH: Yeah, and no. In boxing nowadays, it’s sometimes your chance to swim or sink. There’s not much money in the game (at low levels), so sometimes they maybe want to chuck you in the deep end, if you swim – you swim and you win the belt. He’s up and coming, he’s doing well at the moment. I know I feel like I’m going to be in the best shape I’ve ever been in and I’m just looking forward to it.
IA: Last time I spoke with you, you mentioned the fight you really wanted was with WBA World bantamweight champion, Jamie McDonnell. Is that still the one you want, and do you think it will happen if you get through the test in Belfast?
LH: Yeah, I suppose it can happen. I don’t really mind what fight (I get). I’m just happy to be able to get in the ring and be able to perform, that’s all I’m happy about. Like I said, to provide for my family, that’s all I care about. If any fight comes up – I don’t turn down fights. I’m always up for challenges like Jamie McDonnell. Like you said, he’s a World champion too and I think it would be a good fight.
IA: One thing I wanted to mention is Jamie Sanigar (Lee’s manager) and Chris Sanigar (Lee’s trainer). How good have they been for you? They’re the unsung heroes in your career.
LH: It’s like a small family down here with Chris and myself. We all stick together. I’ve had opportunities to go elsewhere, but they’re always there and they’re always helping me. Not just in boxing, but in other things. They’ll always be there to help me. They helped me get my house and numerous things. I’m happy to be in Bristol boxing. I’m just kind of happy with everything to be fair. I’m just a happy guy (laughs). People keep asking me ‘why don’t I get this, get that, move here?’ I just say ‘I’m so content with my house, my kids, my family’ and I don’t need anything else.
Tickets for Burnett vs. Haskins for the IBF World bantamweight championship are on general sale priced at £30, £40, £60 and £100 from the SSE Arena Belfast at http://www.ssearenabelfast.com/belfast-boy-burnett-v-haskins
VIP tickets priced at £150 are exclusively available from http://www.matchroomboxing.com/
The fight night will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK.