‘Loving it’ - Boxing champion Lee Haskins on retirement and training next generation

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Lee Haskins is still busy following retirement two years ago - as Neil Maggs discovers in a visit to his new gym in another episode from our Legends of Bristol series

It’s tough retiring from professional sport, and replacing it with something fulfilling. This is even harder if you have been right at the top of your game, at world champion level. And that’s the case for Bristol’s former world champion boxer Lee Haskins, one of the few to emerge from the city in any sport.

But he has always had an eye on what came next, and now has his focus on another would be Bristol champion, his own son. In the latest episode of Legends of Bristol, journalist Neil Maggs pays a visit to meet the Lockleaze estate-born-and-raised former fighter at his new gym in St Philips.

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Haskins retired in February 2020 after losing a WBA European Superbantam weight title fight against Davey Oliver Joyce. Struggling with a knee injury at the time he stated: “I’ll never fight again, I’m really struggling with some injuries.”

It was the end of an illustrious career, which included holding the IBF World Bantamweight Title from 2015 to 2017. In his 17-year professional career he suffered just five defeats in 41 fights, also winning the English, British, Commonwealth and European titles at flyweight, super flyweight and bantamweight. But unlike for many ex champions, working out what he wanted to do next wasn’t hard for Haskins.

He said: “You know I have always spoken about wanting to open a gym when I retired, and that’s what I’ve done. And am loving it to be honest.” Haskins opened the Round One gym just before lockdown started, but it’s now picked up and is going from strength to strength.

He continued: “It’s getting busier, we have regular sessions with good numbers. There is a boxing part, but we have weights and cardio bags upstairs too.”

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On the day we arrived, Haskins was joined by his 21-year-old son Anton. Anton, who has been coming to boxing gyms since a baby, is now a professional fighter himself having five fights and winning them all convincingly - his latest was victory over Karl Sampson at The Galleries Underground last month.

Lee Haskins talked to Neil Maggs as part of Bristol World’s Legends of Bristol seriesLee Haskins talked to Neil Maggs as part of Bristol World’s Legends of Bristol series
Lee Haskins talked to Neil Maggs as part of Bristol World’s Legends of Bristol series | Bristol World

Lee is his coach. So how does he compare to his dad? Haskins said: “Well he’s very confident, even a bit cocky - but I have to be honest he is a lot better than I was at that age. He has far more power.

“So he can go as far as he wants to go really,” he added. Does Anton feel the pressure having a former world champion as his dad and coach? He said: “I am comfortable here, as I have been in and around boxing gyms with my dad all my life so no I don’t feel the pressure.”

Anton is not short of confidence and says how far he thinks he can go. He said: “I truly believe I can go on to become a world champion in a few different weight categories. Yes I really believe that.”

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Neil Maggs speaking to Lee Haskins and his son AntonNeil Maggs speaking to Lee Haskins and his son Anton
Neil Maggs speaking to Lee Haskins and his son Anton | Bristol World

They both concede that to achieve this there is a long way to go and this journey will take some time. Real sacrifices will have to be made for Anton to become the best. The pair train every day together at the gym, and we were treated to a rare exhibition of Anton’s boxing in the ring with Lee on the pads.

A southpaw like his dad, whilst he moved fast, what was most impressive was the sheer power he generated. Haskins senior emerged from the ring with his hands stinging. The two are very competitive and spend a lot of time jostling and making fun of eachother, but it’s clear how close they are.

On social media videos and photos that they regularly post of their training, it’s always prefixed wth a strap line and hashtag - ‘unbreakable bond.’ And that’s clear for all to see. This is one unbreakable bond that could well see another Haskins heading right to the top of the boxing world. Bristol waits and watches with interest.

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