Haskins to fight for title in Bristol - if venue can be found
Bristol boxing promoter Jamie Sanigar has secured home advantage for local hero Lee Haskins in his quest to become the first fighter from the city to win a European title.
Former British and Commonwealth flyweight boss Haskins will challenge Belgium's Stephane Jamoye for the vacant European Bantamweight title this summer.
And the Bristol camp have landed a potentially crucial blow by winning the purse bids and, with it, the right to stage the fight on Lockleaze-born Haskins' home patch.
But there is one major hurdle still to overcome – the continued absence of a modern indoor arena in the city.
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Given the likelihood that it will prove impossible for Sanigar to do a deal with Sky to screen the fight, he must sell a minimum 1,000 tickets if the event is to break even and the boxers are to be paid the kind of fees warranted by a contest of this magnitude.
Sanigar now has 15 days to notify the EBU of a date and venue for the fight, which represents the biggest of Haskins' career.
"We've gained crucial home advantage for our man, but I've no idea where we are going to stage the event," conceded Sanigar, who beat off a rival bid from the Belgium-based Jamoye camp.
"Here we have an extremely talented fighter whose career is being held back by the lack of a decent indoor arena in Bristol. It has always been the same here and that is why Lee has been forced to box all over the country and even in places like Morocco.
"Of course, we want to stage the fight in Bristol, because these opportunities do not arise very often. We know there is a big interest in the sport in Bristol and it will make a change for all Lee's fans to be able to see him in action in his host city.
"But the lack of a truly viable venue here really is a disgrace, especially when so many other cities of a comparable size have the option of two or three such venues when staging major events."
Sanigar has not ruled out the possibility of an open-air fight in the summer and he plans to approach Bristol's two professional football clubs, City and Rovers, with a view to possibly staging the Haskins-Jamoye showdown at Ashton Gate or the Memorial Stadium.
Of the available indoor venues, the Colston Hall, Filton Academy and the City Academy School in Lawrence Hill are potential venues and Sanigar and his father, Chris, were today considering their options.
Sanigar junior said: "Home advantage is major in a fight like this and we are desperate to put it on in Bristol.
"Now that Sky are investing less money in televising boxing, we have budgeted for a show without a TV deal. That will mean promoting in the old-fashioned way and putting bums on seats and we need a venue that can cater for a minimum of 1,000 paying customers.
"If we do not have TV, we will have to fall back on sponsors and drum up interest among our own business community here in Bristol. We are open to suggestions and we will be looking closely at all the options available to us.
"Lee has not boxed in Bristol since 2007 and he deserves to be at home for what could prove the defining bout of his career.
"Bristol has never had a European champion before and we want to give Lee every chance of making history."
At 22, Jamoye is six years younger than Haskins and boasts an impressive record of 23 wins and just three losses, narrowly losing on a majority decision to Jamie McDonnell for the EBU title last year. McDonnell chose to vacate the European title instead of boxing a return against Jamoye as he is set to box in a world title eliminator against Mexican Hugo Cazares.
Like Jamoye, Haskins is ranked in the top ten by the WBC and whoever wins the European crown will be close to a world title shot.