LONDON -- Bantamweight titleholder Lee Haskins vowed to knock out his British countryman and former titlist Stuart Hall in the sixth round when they met on Saturday night on the Gennady Golovkin-Kell Brook undercard at the sold-out O2 Arena.
But while Haskins whiffed on his prediction, he grinded out a unanimous decision, winning on scores of 117-111, 116-112 and 115-113 to retain his title for the second time. ESPN.com scored the fight 114-114.
Haskins controlled most of the first half of the fight before Hall came on very strong in the final third, when Haskins appeared to be winded.
"It's hard not to tire against someone like Stuart," Haskins said. "I feel like I was winning the fight clearly with my shots. I made him miss a lot and I think that is what won the fight for me.
"You try boxing this guy. He just keeps coming forward, forward, forward. He's like a pit bull and take it from me -- he hits very hard. I am not stupid enough to stand here and get caught by big shots. I'm not here to show I'm the toughest man in Britain. I'm here to win fights and get paid."
The 32-year-old Haskins (34-3, 14 KOs) and Hall, 36, were meeting in a rematch of Haskins' 2012 unanimous decision to win the vacant European title. Now Haskins is 2-0 against Hall (20-5-2, 7 KOs), whose four-fight winning streak came to an end. He was bidding to regain the 118-pound world title he held from December 2013 to June 2014.
Haskins and Hall were chippy with each other during the buildup and the emotion spilled over at Wednesday's final news conference when Haskins slapped at Hall as they faced off for a photo, forcing them to be pulled apart as tempers flared.
But early in the fight they showed a lot of respect for each other and meaningful punches were few and far between. Haskins appeared to win many close rounds in the first half of the bout on the strength of a decent jab that regularly caught a lunging Hall, who tackled Haskins to the mat in the fifth round.
In the seventh round, Hall landed a good left hand to the head that got Haskins' attention. He was out of sorts for a few moments but then regained his balance and began to jab again.
Hall's corner implored him to throw more punches and he tried, catching Haskins a few times in the eighth round that sent him on the run.
Hall continued to press forward and forced Haskins into retreat during the ninth round as the momentum seemed to swing his way. And then he hurt Haskins with a left hand in the 11th round.
Hall came out steaming toward Haskins to open the 12th round with the fight seemingly on the table. He was all over Haskins, who did his best to box and move away from the intense pressure.
"I could have edged it but I think I started a bit late," Hall admitted. "I thought it was closer than the points but I started late. It was silly and it is a bad night.
"I should have started a bit earlier. I gave him too much time in the first few rounds. I thought I did enough to maybe nick it at the end but in the first few rounds I didn't do enough."
Casimero KOs Edwards, retains flyweight title
Flyweight titleholder Johnriel Casimero (23-3, 15 KOs), who regained his belt in a fourth-round knockout of Thailand's Amnat Ruenroeng on May 25 in China in a rematch of his title loss 11 months earlier, retained his belt for the first time in a dominant 10th-round knockout of England's Charlie Edwards (8-1, 3 KOs).
Edwards, who was a top amateur, got a world title shot after just 18 months as a pro but the inexperience of the 23-year-old showed. He was short with punches as he struggled to find his range the entire fight.
Edwards fancied outboxing Casimero in the lead-up to the fight, but Casimero's pressure was too much for him. He stalked Edwards and connected with some heavy shots. There was an uppercut that rocked Edwards in the fourth round and a solid right hand in the seventh round that did damage. Edwards, who was bidding to increase the United Kingdom's world titleholder count to 15, took several powerful punches in the seventh round that forced him to retreat and then to hold on under Casimero's assault.
In the 10th round, Casimero, 26, of the Philippines -- who was boxing in his ninth different country -- landed a clean left hand that dropped Edwards hard. He struggled to his feet and looked out of it, but referee Steve Gray allowed the fight to continue. Casimero, in his first scheduled 12-round fight, walked to Edwards, landed two right hands and as Edwards slumped over, Gray called it off at 1 minutes, 57 seconds.
"I really enjoyed fighting in England. I respect Charlie for his effort but he needs some more experience before fighting on this level. With more experience he can be a world champion," Casimero said. "I will be watching the Roman Gonzalez fight (on Saturday night) closely and would love that fight if he wins versus Cuadras."
British super middleweight contender Callum Smith (21-0, 16 KOs), awaiting a mandatory shot at the world title held by Badou Jack, stayed busy by methodically beating down Hungary's Norbert Nemesapati (21-4, 16 KOs) to retain his regional belt by seventh-round knockout.
Smith went right at him in the opening seconds, driving him into the ring post with a series of head and body shots. He looked like he might make it a quick night, but Nemesapati covered up and wriggled out of trouble. From there, Smith worked him over round after round. But in the seventh, Smith finally floored him with a series of punches as the round ended. Nemesapati made it to his feet but the fight was waved off in the corner during the rest period.
Junior lightweight Martin J. Ward (15-0-2, 8 KOs) knocked out Andy Townend (16-4, 11 KOs) in the eighth round to win the vacant British title.
It was an action fight but Ward got the better of Townend and had him in trouble in the sixth round. Townend's face was marked up and Ward landed a series of heavy shots that snapped Townend's head back.
In the eighth round, Ward was landing almost at will. He backed Townend into the ropes and fired a hard straight right hand that buckled Townend's legs, causing referee Marcus McDonnell to step in at 54 seconds to stop the bout, sending Ward into a wild celebration.
British light heavyweight Paul Smith (38-6, 22 KOs), who twice lost world title fights to Arthur Abraham, knocked down Hungarian journeyman Daniel Regi (28-14, 15 KOs) six times en route to a fifth-round knockout. Smith knocked Regi down in the third round and three times in the fourth round, each time with left hooks to the body. In the fifth round, Smith, older brother of super middleweight contender Callum Smith (who was on the card), put Regi on the canvas with a right to the body and then a left hook to the head. He beat the count but was done and referee Jeff Hinds waved off the fght at 2 minutes, 16 seconds.
Welterweight Conor Benn (4-0, 3 KOs), the 19-year-old son of former two-division world titleholder and British legend Nigel Benn, knocked out England's Joe Ducker (0-2-1) in the second round. Benn dropped Ducker three times, flooring him with a powerful left hook to the chin and again with a flurry of punches, punctuated by another left hand, just as the bell ended the round. Seconds into the second round he dropped Ducker to a knee, who took the 10-count from referee Hinds at 24 seconds.