Lee Haskins, the former IBF bantamweight champion, announced his retirement after losing to Davey Oliver Joyce in Belfast on Saturday night.
The 37-year-old held the IBF title from 2015-2017 was stopped six seconds from the end of the fifth round on the MTK Global show at the Ulster Hall, having seemingly suffered a reoccurrence of a knee injury.
“I said I was going to keep fighting until my next loss,” Haskins said. “Tonight is my last loss, so I’ll be retiring, I will never compete again.
“I wanted to do this tonight for myself, to see if I still had it. I’m 37 and I’ve really been struggling with some injuries. That was it. Tonight was my goodbye fight.”
Haskins had entered the ring with a support on his left knee, but after dominating the first two round, catching Joyce on the way in with some heavy shots, the former Irish amateur star upped the pace in the third round, taking the former world champion out of his comfort zone and landing a steady stream of shots.
Midway through the fifth round, Haskins missed with a wild left hook and his left leg seemed to give way as he tumbled to the floor. Referee Howard Foster gave him a count, but Haskins then struggled to put any weight on the leg.
Joyce drove Haskins back into the ropes and, with Haskins under heavy pressure, Foster stopped the fight.
“He was strong guy, a lot stronger than I thought he would be and he took some great shots,” Haskins said. “It was a great fight, I really enjoyed it. I believe he can do a lot more at super-bantamweight.”
Haskins was boxing in Belfast for the first time since he lost the IBF title in unification fight with Ryan Burnett. He had won the interim IBF title in 2015 by stopping Ryosuke Iwasa in six rounds in his home city of Bristol and was upgraded to full champion later that year when Randy Caballero failed to make the weight for their fight in Las Vegas. He made two successful defences, against Ivan Morales and Stuart Hall.
Haskins retires with a record of 36 wins from 41 fights. He previously held British titles at super-flyweight and bantamweight. He also held the Commonwealth title at flyweight and the European title at bantamweight.
It was by far the biggest win of Joyce’s fledging career, earning him the WBO European super-bantamweight title, and getting him back to winning ways after he was stopped by Leigh Wood in the opening round of MTK’s Golden Contract featherweight event in October.
“I knew I had the fitness, I just had to ease into it and not rush into Lee,” Joyce said. “I’m going to have a great 2020.”
Lewis Crocker got the best win of his career, as he battled his was to a conclusive 79-73 points win over former British title challenger John Thain in a welterweight eight-rounder, stretching his unbeaten record to 11 fights.
The first four undercard fights on the MTK Global show all went the distance.
Padraig McCrory extended his unbeaten record to ten fights with a six-round points win over Lewis van Poetsch, who shared one round in referee Paul McCullagh’s 60-55 card.
Pierce O’Leary, a Dublin super-lightweight known as Big Bang, was a four-round points winner over Liam Richards, McCullagh scoring it 40-36.
Omagh’s Callum Bradley won all four rounds of his super-featherweight bout with Michael Horabin, winning 40-36 on McCullagh’s card.
Also at super-featherweight, Ruari Dalton bagged the second successive win of his career with a 40-36 win over Jose Aguilar, a Spain-based Nicaraguan.
Dee Sullivan was a 39-37 points winner over Jiri Svacina, of the Czech Republic, in a four-round cruiserweight show-opener.