New purple patch for the Sanigars

Mark Butcher
21/09/2015 3:38pm

More seasoned fight fans will remember the ‘Bristol Boys’ era of the late 1990s and early 2000s where, dressed in striking purple shorts, the likes of Glenn Catley, Ross Hale, Dean Francis and Scott Dann set the dormant West Country boxing scene alight. Now the latest incarnation of the Chris Sanigar stable are enjoying a new purple patch with two of their champions Lee Selby and Lee Haskins boldly taking on the U.S. market in the coming months.

The renaissance of Chris Sanigar and his Bristol Boxing Gym, with son Jamie Sanigar at his side, has been one of the stories of the year. Just two weeks after Selby mesmerised Evgeny Gradovich to win the IBF featherweight title, Haskins uncorked the punch of his career to drop and stop Japanese dangerman Ryosuke Iwasa to clinch the IBF interim 118lbs title and a career-defining contest against champion Randy Caballero on the Miguel Cotto-Canelo Alvarez card in Las Vegas on 21 November.

“I think the win has given Lee [Haskins] a bit of vindication,” Jamie Sanigar told BM at London’s Welsh Centre last week at a media lunch for Selby. “Some well-needed self-belief in his own ability; that he can produce the big performances on the big night and a spectacular finish – and be exciting. He’s had criticism over the years. Rightly so in the early days, but I think over the last three or four years Lee has been in exciting fights.

“It’s now about him being on the big stage against Caballero. It’s really exciting for us. We’ve had him since he was 13-years-old and just a kid. So there’s a lot of emotional investment for us all after working against the adversity. We were boycotted by Sky Sports boxing, which was unfair and unjust, so Lee had to work his way back, with Mick Hennessy and Channel 5, to get this big shot. It’s been a vindication for all those years of hard struggle.”

America is a natural progression for gifted IBF 126lbs champion Selby who has linked up with influential advisor Al Haymon to break the lucrative U.S. market and pit his considerable skills against the cream of the featherweight division. The journey begins with a defence against three-time world title-holder Fernando Montiel in Glendale, Arizona, on 14 October.

“Lee has been doing training camps out in America with dad and the feeling always was that he has the potential to really crossover in America,” Sanigar told BM. “Go and beat the likes of [Leo] Santa Cruz and [Abner] Mares. That’s where the market is – we wanted those opportunities as well as dipping back into the UK and Wales. There’s also the exciting prospect of a Josh Warrington fight. Now we’ve got options.

“You look at the top featherweights in the world and 70%-80% are with Haymon Sports so, if you want those fights, you’ve got to deal with the politics around it and teaming up with Al Haymon allows us to tap into that pool of fighters. It was the right plan of attack for Lee. It might not be for every British fighter, but in the case of Lee Selby it was a nice fit to go to America, on those US networks, and obviously get well-paid.

“A hindrance [in Wales] is the Motorpoint Arena [in Cardiff] only holds 4,500-5,000,” he continued. “The next step up is the Millennium Stadium. It is very hard to bridge that gap. The dream scenario is for us to come back and bring the likes of Santa Cruz or Mares to the UK in the Millennium Stadium with other big fights. If we stayed UK-based Josh Warrington would have been the only opportunity. There’s nothing else really on the table so going to America has opened it up. We’re talking about the top, top level with Lee Selby. There is no hot air around him. He can beat any featherweight in the world and that’s the plan; to go over to America and become one of the first British fighters ever to really dominate over there and become a superstar. Beat Santa Cruz in LA, beat Mares and these types of fighters. Fight Lomachenko, fight Walters, and hopefully Lee can become a marquee name.”

On 30 October at Newport Centre in South Wales, another Selby will enter the pro ranks as former amateur star Andrew debuts with the Sanigars, eager to emulate his brother’s meteoric success. Jamie told BM that they are still shopping around for the right promoter for the younger Selby.

“We’ve had discussions with Haymon Sports and obviously Eddie [Hearn] and other British promoters. At the moment, we’re just trying to work out what is the best route for him,” Sanigar told BM. “Just because one [direction] fits for Lee doesn’t mean it’s right for Andrew Selby. He is his own man and we’ve got to find the right path for him. It is very important he builds his name in the UK. Everyone in boxing knows there is a special talent there. Andrew didn’t perform at the [London 2012] Olympics and was unfortunate when he drew the Cuban [Robeisy Ramirez Carranza] who went on to get the gold. He has this unique talent and it’s just about us harnessing it and getting the best for him.

“He should have turned over a while back to be honest,” continued Sanigar. “He stayed [amateur] a little bit too long and I think that started to show in his performances, especially in the Commonwealth Games. Mentally, he wasn’t 100% there. Also, he’s gone from 5x3 minute rounds in the WSB and switched back to the real amateur, three-round format where it’s just the whippersnappers and it is fast and frantic again. It’s quite hard to alternate back and forth between those different styles.

“You need the buzz and that challenge. And I think that challenge had gone for Andrew having been to two European championships [winning gold twice], two Worlds [silver and bronze] and the Olympics. He’s 26 and now is the time. If he waited until after the [Rio 2016] Olympics it was going to be too long. After the injury he had and his performance at the Commonwealth Games [a points loss to Reece McFadden] he wasn’t a sure bet to qualify for the Olympics. Time was running out.

“Andrew has seen the success that Lee has and is thinking I’d like a piece of that myself. Lee would be the first one to tell you that, naturally, Andrew probably has the more talent,” said Sanigar. “I think Lee has got more grit. It will be interesting to see the path we create for Andrew. With the WSB, I think he was 9-0 and he already has that [virtually pro] experience so it shouldn’t belong before we are dropping him into eight and 10-rounders. We’ll see how the first couple of fights go and hopefully get him out two or three times before the end of the year. We need to get moving.“

Photo: Lawrence Lustig.