Lee Haskins (34-3, 14 KO’s) emerged from his grudge match with Darlington’s Stuart Hall (20-5, 7 KO’s) with his IBF bantamweight title intact. Haskins (117lbs) outpointed Hall (116lbs) in a European title fight back in 2012 and repeated the feat by earning a unanimous decision after a hard-fought contest.

Hall managed to rein in the anger he has directed towards Haskins during the build up and fought a disciplined, controlled fight. Rather than throwing caution to the wind, Hall concentrated on keeping things tight and establishing a solid jab. Maybe he kept things too tight in the early rounds as Haskins (117lbs) found him easy to read. However, as the fight moved into the second half, Haskins’ feet began to slow and Hall was able to get his right hand off.

Haskins was able to utilise his unorthodox footwork and elusive head movement to avoid the majority of Hall’s shots. The 36-year-old has transformed into a different fighter since bursting on to the world stage, but he will regret the slow start which allowed Haskins to settle into his usual broken rhythm.

Moments of excitement were few and far between and the fight became a battle of fine margins and Haskins always managed to stay a step ahead of the man from the North East. Hall was able to build enough momentum to sweep the middle rounds but it wasn’t enough.

The scores were 115-113, 117-111, 116-112

‘The Playboy’ has longed to perform on a stage like tonight’s for years and will be keen to stay at this level, with an attractive rematch with Jamie McDonnell—who he outpointed over eight back in 2008—surely topping his wish list.

“I think I could have edged it but I started a bit late. I thought it was closer than the cards though. In the early rounds I gave him too much time didn’t I?” Hall said after the fight.

“It’s hard not to tire against somebody like Stuart but I felt I was winning the fight clearly with my shots and I made him miss a lot,” Haskins said. “He’s like a pitfall. Take it from me, he hits very hard. I’m not here to show I’m the toughest man in Britain: I’m here to win the fight.”