SOUTH Essex ring professional “John” Wayne Hibbert is getting ready for the biggest fight of his life.

The Horndon-based 29-year-old will do battle at the Civic Hall in Grays on Saturday, July 19, for the vacant Southern Area light welterweight title.

He is taking on the up-and-coming Joe Hughes from Wiltshire in a contest which Hibbert, who enters the ring wearing a John Wayne cowboy hat, believes he is overdue.

He said: “This is huge bout for me. The biggest of my career.

“My grandad, who died about five years ago, was called John and I’m going to win it in his memory.

“Grandad was very knowledgeable about boxing and backed me all the way.

“The John in my nickname is for him and that’s why I’m going to win it.

“I was next in line to take on the former Southern Area holder Ricky Boylan.

“But he doesn’t want to fight me, so the belt’s been vacated and as the mandatory challenger I’m now due to fight Hughes.

“It’s going to be a great bout to see and I’m hoping to get about 300 supporters along to see me box.

“I’m already well into an 11-week training camp and throwing in a lot of extra training for this one because it’s going to hard.”

As well as his usual fight sessions at Gateway ABC in Corringham under Mark Bates, Hibbert has also been sparring against former WBC world champion Ricky Burns at Hainault.

The Scotsman has provided plenty of challenge in Hibbert’s intensive sparring sessions.

Hibbert is also doing plenty of track strengthening under Alex Breeding at Waterside Farm on Canvey.

And Breeding has been throwing in a lot of short distance sets, with distances ranging from 100m to 400m – all done with short recovery times to get Hibbert fitter and stronger for what promises to be a real test at Grays.

Carpet fitter and builder Hibbert said: “I’m working now but getting in plenty of training.

“And I’m hoping that, for the last four weeks before the fight I won’t have to work and will be able to concentrate even more on the training.

“This is my big chance and when I win this it could open doors to perhaps a shot at a British title, so that’s why I’m giving this one everything.

“I’m just hoping that there will be plenty of support for me on the night,” added the fighter.

Hibbert’s sponsors include Reeds Butchers, painter and decorator Dean Compton, and T&P Roofing.