BOXING: LIGHT welterweight fighter “John” Wayne Hibbert believes he’s been handed a great chance to make his mark on the European fight scene when he takes on Giuseppe Lauri in Grays later this month.

Hibbert – who enters the ring wearing a Stetson in honour of his cowboy hero – is about to square up to the best opponent he’s ever fought. And the British Masters title holder, who lives in Horndon but trains in Stanford, knows that this is his chance to shine.

“Lauri is a class fighter and has been in the ring with some of the best men in the sport, including Ricky Hatton. “I’ll be on my home ground because the fight is at the Ciivic Hall in Grays, but there is no way that a partisan crowd is going to intimidate or put off a fighter of his quality.

He has boxed at world level and his record speaks for itself.” Former European champion Lauri has 54 wins (including 31 knock outs) to his name.

Hibbert said: “But I’m hoping that with three or four hundred fight fans screaming for me to win this could lift me and I’ll be trying to put together plenty of combinations.

“I’m trying not to think about him and I’m working hard with my trainer Mark ‘Sach’ Bates to be at the very top of my game for this one.

“Mark thinks that it may be one of my last chances to go up a level in boxing and it’s true that if I don’t do well I may have to ask myself if I want to go through all the training and dieting.

“But I’m confident and I’m busy working on my conditioning as I think that this one may go the full eight rounds, but, of course if there is a chance to finish it early I’d love to be able to do this. “But neither of us are youngsters and beating him would send me into the European rankings which would be good for me and my family.”

With a one daughter and now a five -month-old baby boy to think about, the Thurrock carpet-fitter has the backing of several borough businessmen who allow him to train three times a day.

This year has been a mixed bag for the popular fighter who lost his last fight under controversial circumstances in a battle which saw an angry crowd furious at the officials when the decision went against Hibbert. Mark Bates – who runs the Spartan Gym – believes the fight on June 29 may be Wayne’s last real chance at advancing in the fight game.

“Wayne’s 29 now and fully aware that this may be the last bite of the cherry for him. Wayne is not one to sit around or to go backwards.

He wants to go forward and this will be a real test.” Hibbert’s sponsors include: Dean Crumpton, Reed’s Butchers, White Scrap Metal, T&P and Micky Doddkin.

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