THURROCK boxer John Wayne wrote another enthralling and brave chapter in his boxing lifestory as he retained his Commonwealth Superlightweight title in terrific encounter at the Copper Box in East London on Saturday night.
The match ended in round 12 when Hibbert finally put 21-year-old opponent Tommy Martin on the canvas. He took a knee and waited as the referee counted but timed it wrongly and in the end was counted out.
Though a little controversial, the manner the ending didn’t end the outcome as Hibbert was well ahead, though it was far from plain-sailing and he had plenty of problems to overcome.
On the first round Martin opened aggressively but Hibbert responded with some assured boxing, forcing his younger rival against the ropes several times with a combination of punches, though the challenger came back with a better second round.
It featured far less punches but perhaps the best shot came late in the piece from Martin, though Hibbert looked unruffled.
The third was almost all Hibbert on the front foot and he landed some handy blows, drawing blood from the nose of Martin.
Hibbert looked assured, polished and comfortable in the fourth as he controlled the fight and once more delivered a series of combinations with Martin pushed back on the ropes.
It was the same story for much of the fifth but Martin then rocked Hibbert for a second or two with a cracking punch but Hibbert recovered quickly and ended the round on the front foot again.
Another flurry from the younger man worried Hibbert early in the next but he was unable to capitalise on it and again spent spells on the wrong end of Hibbert’s rapid punches, though it looked a round that was shared, albeit that overall Hibbert, who was beginning to show some wear and tear on his face, was well ahead.
The gap was much closer after the seventh, won by Martin who was increasingly catching Hibbert with big shots and looking much improved. And in the eighth the momentum well and truly turned with Martin bringing blood from Hibbert’s nose and Hibbert was looking increasingly circumspect, though he battled bravely back with a strong sequence of punches including a forceful right hand that pushed Martin back.
The ninth was closer and both had their moments, delivering some solid punches in what was becoming a war of attrition, but Hibbert shaded it. And in the tenth, a slower affair, he grabbed the ascendancy again and Martin spent much of the three minutes backing off under a siege of punches from the battle-hardened older man.
Hibbert, having ridden the storm, was straight on his case again in the 11th, leading with some strong jabs as Martin fought a rearguard, still looking to try and catch Hibbert with a big shot.
In the end, Hibbert’s strength was seeing him home and his continued forward pressure eventually got his man down and if the end came a little prematurely he was always going to win at that point.
After the fight the two boxers, long time friends and sparring partners paid sporting tribute to each other.
Hibbert said: “What a fighter I didn’t think he had that in him. He hurt me and he proved that he is there to stay and he will come again.”
Conceding the result was the right one, Martin explained what had happened at the end, saying: “I was gutted, I miscounted, I thought it was seven and it was nine.”