Lee Haskins is determined to write his own chapter in Bristol's boxing history when he contests the vacant EBU bantamweight title with Darlington's Stuart Hall at the Hand Arena, Clevedon, next month.
Not only does the Lockleaze-based southpaw aim to become the first fighter from the city to claim a European title, he also wants to revive the glory days of the 1990s when fellow Bristolians Ross Hale and Glenn Catley thrilled packed audiences in the West.
A partisan full-house crowd of 2,000 raised the roof of the Colston Hall when Hale stripped Andy Hollighan of the British and Commonwealth light welterweight crowns in May 1994, while an equally passionate audience roared Catley to a memorable triumph over British middleweight champion Neville Brown at the Whitchurch Sports Centre five years later.
Staged by Easton-based promoter Chris Sanigar, those events earned Hale and Catley a place in Bristol sporting folklore and are still talked about many years later by fight fans in the region. Although Haskins was not around to witness those shows, he is well versed in the city's rich boxing tradition and wants some of the glory enjoyed by his predecessors for himself when he steps into the ring on Saturday, July 7.
The former British and Commonwealth super-flyweight boss told The Post: "I was really pleased when I heard the fight was going to take place in my own backyard.
"I did not really expect Chris (Sanigar) to win the purse bids and I was preparing to travel to Belgium to box Stephane Jamoye.
"When Chris told me I would be boxing in front of my own supporters I was really surprised and happy. I have not fought in Bristol since 2007 and I have no idea what it is like to box in front of thousands of people who all want you to win.
"I was not into boxing when Chris used to stage those big shows in the 1990s, but I've heard all about them. People still talk about those great nights and now I want to give them another one to remember if I can.
"I've boxed in front of big crowds before, but always away from home, and I'm looking forward to experiencing the noise when I walk to the ring."
Haskins has become accustomed to fighting on the road in recent years, having travelled to Morocco, London and a series of venues in Wales and the north of England, and feels it is about time he was afforded home advantage.
He said: "The lack of any decent indoor arena in Bristol has been really frustrating, but I've just knuckled down, accepted it and got on with the job.
"To be honest, I'm not too fussed where I box, but I'm pleased for local people that they finally have the chance to see a big show on their doorstep.
"Everyone I know is talking about and my phone has not stopped ringing with people wanting to buy tickets.
"I reckon I could sell at least 500 on my own for this fight and I'm sure we will fill the venue."
A late stand-in for Jamoye, who pulled out after suffering a shoulder injury in training, Hall will bring a sizeable following with him from the North East, while the presence on the bill of heavyweight prospect Tyson Fury and rising middleweight star Chris Eubank junior will ensure interest beyond the greater Bristol area.
Hennessey Sports are promoting in association with Sanigar Events and the show is already heading for a 3,000 sell-out, despite live coverage by Channel 5 television.
Haskins said: "It is always nice to fight in front of the cameras, because it gives me a chance to show people what I am all about.
"I want to put on a real show for them and prove, once and for all, that I am the best fighter at this weight in Britain and Europe."
Tickets are priced at £70 (ringside) and £30 and can be booked by calling the box office on 0117 949 6699.
Article created on Thursday, 14 June 2012 09:46