Moving up to bantamweight isn't a problem for me, says Lee Haskins
LEE Haskins is adamant the move up to bantamweight will not prevent him beating Stuart Hall to become Bristol's first European boxing champion at the Hand Arena, Clevedon, this Saturday.
Undefeated in 25 fights in the flyweight division since turning professional in 2003, Haskins has lost only twice, on both occasions when moving up a weight.
But the 29-year-old Bristolian insists he beat himself when losing inside the distance in unsuccessful challenges for the Commonwealth and British bantamweight titles against Tshifhiwa Munyai and Ian Napa respectively.
By his own admission, Haskins was not living right or training hard enough and was in a bad place mentally when he suffered those defeats at London's York Hall in 2006 and 2007. He struggled to make the 8st 6Ib weight limit on both occasions and was stopped by Munyai in the sixth round and by Napa in the seventh after visibly running out of steam.
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"I didn't lose those fights, I beat myself," said Haskins, who has since gone on to win British, Commonwealth and Prizefighter titles at super flyweight and the WBA Inter-Continental bantamweight crown.
"I never trained properly for those fights. I'm not making excuses, it's the truth.
"I remember travelling up the M4 in the van with Chris Sanigar (manager) for the Munyai fight still needing to get the last three pounds off.
"I was wearing a sweat suit and a steam bag and spitting in a glass all the way up to London. It was ridiculous.
"If you watch that fight again you will see I won the first three rounds and then died. I'd struggled so hard to make the weight, I had nothing left.
"I kept banging him and he wasn't hitting me and then I went downhill quickly when the dehydration caught up with me.
"It was the same again when I fought Napa. He was so easy to hit, but I was my own worst enemy and I faded badly after the first few rounds."
The tragic death of strength trainer Amir Esmaeli in 2005 hit Haskins hard and he subsequently lost focus until defeat caused him to reassess his approach to the sport.
"That was a bad time for me and losing Amir affected me badly," said Haskins.
"I learned my lesson losing those two fights and I've not looked back since. I've had nine fights since then and won every one of them.
"I'm in the best shape of my life and moving back up to bantamweight is not going to be a problem for me.
"I look after myself properly these days and eat all the right things and train hard. Making the weight is not an issue.
"I'm in great shape and people will see that when I beat Stuart Hall on July 7."