Bristol boxing promoter Chris Sanigar calls for greater support from the business community
CHRIS Sanigar is appealing for support from the Bristol business community to help bring championship boxing back to the city.
Once a regular venue for big domestic and international title contests, Bristol has not staged a major fight since Olympic champion Audley Harrison appeared at Whitchurch Sports Centre in 2003.
Despite Easton-based promoter Sanigar producing a string of champions, none has been able to box in front of their hometown supporters owing to the absence of a modern, state-of-the-art indoor venue.
But Sanigar says he is determined to right that particular wrong when Lockleaze-born southpaw Lee Haskins returns to championship action for the first time since surrendering the European title to Belgium's Stephane Jamoye in Liege in December.
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Haskins has been ordered to meet Newcastle's Martin Ward for the vacant British bantamweight crown and purse bids must be in by February 14.
Sanigar is confident he can win the purse bid and give his man the crucial home advantage he lacked when defending his continental belt against Jamoye.
The British Boxing Board of Control say the fight must take place before the end of April and Sanigar is exploring the possibility of staging the battle of Britain's little men at South Gloucestershire and Stroud College in Filton.
But he needs backing from the local business community in the form of sponsorship to make such an event financially viable and is appealing for help.
Sanigar, who guided Bristolians Ross Hale and Glenn Catley to major titles in the 1990s, told The Post: "I have never lost a purse bid and I know I can land this fight for Bristol.
"I have a venue lined up, but need some help to make it happen.
"It is outrageous that a city of this size does not have a decent indoor arena and this is something that is holding our elite sportsmen and women back.
"I won the purse bids for Haskins versus Jamoye, but could not find a suitable venue in Bristol for a fight of that magnitude. I'm convinced Lee would have won that fight had it taken place here. A British title fight would not cost as much to stage and I believe we could put that show on at Filton. But I still need help and I am appealing to local businesses to support me and Lee.
"If Bristol is really serious about becoming a venue for major sporting events, then the city has to put its money where its mouth is.
"I will deliver this fight and give Lee Haskins the home advantage he so richly deserves, but I need others to help me make it happen.
"The last thing we want is for me to win the purse bids and then have to travel all the way to Newcastle because we cannot afford to stage it here.
"Bristol has some outstanding sporting champions and they deserve better."
All but three of Ward's 17 paid outings have been staged in his native North East and the 24-year-old Geordie has been beaten only once.
Haskins won the vacant European bantamweight title when he outpointed Stuart Hall in nearby Clevedon last July, but that event was only able to go ahead with the support of London-based promoter Mick Hennessey, who had a TV deal with Channel Five.
Bristol's outstanding boxer of the past decade, Haskins has not fought in his home city since 2007.