Last night in Cardiff, Wales Lee Haskins retained his IBF bantamweight title for the first time with a comprehensive 12-round unanimous decision over once-beaten challenger Ivan Morales. Crafty and tricky southpaw counter puncher Haskins won by scores of 119-108 and 118-110, 118-110. Now 33-3(14) the 32-year-old will next face mandatory challenger and former foe Stuey Hall. Morales, younger brother off Mexican living legend Erik Morales, falls to 29-2(17).
The fight was no classic and neither guy ever really hurt the other, but Haskins – one of Britain’s often ignored and vastly underrated fighters/champions – put on a classy display that deserves respect. Morales came forward, pressing the action, but the defending champion was just too slick for him. The wide scores were justifiable and Morales must now go back to the drawing board and hopefully the 24-year-old can build on the experience he gained in his first fight outside of either the US or Mexico.
Haskins – who really turned his career around in 2013 after suffering a stoppage defeat against Stephane Jamoye in a European title challenge the year before; winning all seven bouts since and winning the IBF interim belt last June – now looks ahead to the grudge-match return with Hall. Haskins won a wide 12-round UD over Hall back in 2012, but since then Hall has also risen to become a world champion (winning the IBF bantamweight belt Haskins now holds in a thriller with Vusi Malinga in late 2013 and then, after one retention, losing it to Paul Butler). These two do not like each other and the return meeting – which must be sorted out within 90-days, and is a fight both men very much want – should be a very good battle.
At age 36, Hall doesn’t figure to have too long left at top level, but in his last fight, an exciting win over Mexican tough guy Rodrigo Guerro last month, he showed he has plenty of heart and guts left to offer. Like Haskins, Hall is also a very underrated warrior. Haskins has vowed to “punch Hall’s face in,” while Hall, in speaking with Boxing News this week, prior to last night’s fight, called Haskins a “mouthy f****r.”
Can Hall, 20-4-2(7) gain revenge, or will Haskins prove to be a step ahead of him once again?