LEE HASKINS looks almost lost as he sits on the stage inside Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay. He can’t quite believe what is happening. He glances to his left and he can see Oscar De La Hoya addressing the bustling media. Haskins is startled as Bernard Hopkins grabs his shoulder and poses for a picture alongside him. Behind them is a sprawling poster of Cotto vs Canelo, and in two days, the Bristol bantamweight will challenge for the IBF title – against unbeaten Randy Caballero – on the undercard. Haskins looks around again and, smiling briefly, attempts to take it all in.
“It’s so hard,” Haskins tells Boxing News about the surrealism of the occasion. “When you’re actually in the build-up to a fight it’s so unreal. It just feels like it’s not real. When I’m back in England and I sit down I might think, ‘Wow, I’ve done all that?’ It will be major but at the moment, it just ain’t real.”
Haskins has come a long way. Gone are the days when he would not train properly, and cheat his natural gifts out of the chance to perform. It’s nine years since Tshifhiwa Munyai hammered him into defeat in six rounds, and eight since Ian Napa took a round longer to repeat the feat. With just over one week to go before he turns 32, the two-weight British champion admits there were times when he considered packing it in.