Naseem Hamed, the featherweight star of the 1990’s, has left something of an indelible mark on the British boxing scene. Any world class fighter coming from these shores invariably have their achievements compared to the ‘Little Prince’, who won WBC and IBF crowns and knocked out such luminaries as Tom Johnson, Kevin Kelley and Vuyani Bungu.
Not only that, but every new season brings about a bunch of Naz clones, young, cocky kids who shimmy, strut and clown in the ring in honour of their hero. The odd few, like jr welter contender Junior Witter, may find success. The majority, however, are quickly exposed and find out the very second their backside hits the canvas that there is a reason why only a select few boxers are gifted enough to box in such a flamboyant manner.
With new Commonwealth Flyweight champ Lee Haskins, it seems England may have found Naz’s next successor, in both style and substance. The 22 year old from Bristol has the moves, the confidence...and of course the power! His second round destruction of normally reliable Anthony Mathias of Tanzania, who had not yet been stopped in 19 fights, was decked with a long southpaw left in the opener, and was under heavy fire when compassionately saved in the following session.
Flyweights are rarely known for their power, but Haskins is as close to a 112lb knockout artist as Britain has got. His record of 14-0-0 (9) includes some impressive inside-distance wins including two early ones over ultra-resilient veteran Delroy Spencer. His hands-down, lightning quick style has begun to garner him attention across Britain, and he is definitely a flyweight prospect to look out for.
Mathias, however, represented the first truly dangerous opponent he’d faced. The little African came to the ring looking lean and focussed...but was quickly put in his place. Just half-a-round into the fight, Haskins shot a long left through his guards and Mathias quickly capsized. The knockdown, in fact, was virtually identical to Naseem Hamed’s March 2000 KO of Vuyani Bungu, in which Naz neatly stepped off to the side mid combination, then blasted a similar long left through the African’s high guard.
Mathias collapsed in the same way Bungu did, but unlike his fellow-African predecessor, was able to get back up just before the count of 10. Haskins peppered him for the rest of the round with an array of flashy shots, from leaping hooks to corkscrew uppercuts, but the plucky Tanzanian bravely made it to the bell.
In the next round, when more of the same punishment was dished out, and with Mathias beginning to waiver under the pressure, the fight was stopped. The African did not complain at his first stoppage loss in a 14-5-1 record.
Haskins can now look to make a few more defences of his Commonwealth belt against the array of African challengers who dominate the commonwealth’s lower weight divisions. After that, enticing clashes with fringe world class Brits Jason Booth and Damaen Kelly await, providing Booth can come back from recent set backs and Kelly doesn’t mind dropping back to domestic level for a night.
And if Haskins can reproduce his knockout power and flashy skills at their level, then we may well have a true world class prospect on our hands.
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