Three-time Southern Area title contender Martin Hillman (13-6) has stepped in to replace Jack Budge (4-0) in a Southern Area featherweight championship clash with Chris Matthews (10-2) on April 27 at Mote Park in Maidstone.
Medway’s Budge was forced to withdraw due to a family issue. He released the following statement on social media: “Due to circumstances out of my hand to do with the twins health I can’t fight for the Southern Area next weekend.
“Without going into detail friends and family know the situation and I need to be there to support my family. Everyone who has bought tickets will get their money back in full and it has already been confirmed later on in the year I’ll fight with the winner out of the two lads fighting for the belt now.
“I wish them both all the luck in the world, but family will always come first. I can’t apologise to everyone enough, thanks all for the support.”
Orpington’s Hillman was over the moon to be given the opportunity and wasted no time in accepting the last-minute call up.
“Only eight days notice, but no problem! Very happy to announce that I will be fighting for that prestigious Southern Area featherweight title!
“Hard fight against a good fighter but it’s a chance I can’t turn down as it would be a dream come true for me to win that belt.”
Martin Hillman was actually the last person to contest the very same title back in May 2017, once again at Mote Park, but very valiantly failed to dethrone the reigning champion, Jamie Speight (14-11), a three-time Southern Area titlist from Devon. Hillman was halted in the last 30 seconds of the fight with a dangerous looking head swelling.
It was ‘The Pie’n’Mash Kid’s’ second attempt at winning an Area title, having previously challenged for the vacant super-featherweight version
against Boy Jones Jr (10-0-1) in November 2016, losing widely on points – 92-99.
His third attempt was down at super-bantamweight last July against home fighter Duane Winters (9-1) in Bristol. He was unlucky to come away with 96-97 reverse from the away corner, the closest he has come yet to bagging the belt he so desperately craves.
On his fourth attempt it’s Maidstone’s Matthews who stands in his way.
The 24-year-old has won 10 from 12 fights and been signed to JE Promotions since the start of his career in 2015.
The bin man, who makes his ringwalk to the sound of Lonnie Donegan’s ‘My Old Man’s a Dustman’ whilst wearing a yellow hi-vis vest, gets the chance to fight for his first title after making it to double figures on his win record on February 23.
Prior to that he slipped to two points defeats in the previous 12-months. The first was an unlucky 57-58 points reverse to Jules Phillips (1-12) in February 2018, in a fight which could have been scored either way. The second was a wide points loss to Dmytro Kostenko (1-8-1) at the York Hall on a Goodwin Boxing event.
Since then, the super-featherweight prospect has been reunited with his former trainer, ex-world champion Johnny Armour, and reeled off a convincing points win over debutant Uzzy Ahmed in his last fight to line up his maiden title shot.
There has only been a handful of Southern Area featherweight champions over the past 20 years including Paul Halpin; Rocky Dean; Matt Marsh; Akaash Bhatia; Ian Bailey; the aforementioned Jamie Speight; and Josh Kennedy from nearby Folkestone.
Tommy Rogers was the first ever holder of this prestigious title way back in 1933, followed soon after by legendary two-time British and Commonwealth champion Dick Corbett – the most notable name in the esteemed list of champions.
Either Martin Hillman or Chris Matthews will add their name to this collection of champions in a fight that will be very closely contested. Neither challenger is blessed with power, Hillman has just two knockouts from a dozen victories and Mathews hasn’t any, so it’s likely their meeting will last the distance.
Hillman has proved his durability by reaching the final rounds of all three of his Southern Area challenges, so will be hard to halt. Matthews is also tough and game but hasn’t experienced any championship rounds yet in his career, so his engine will be tested for the first time. He hasn’t yet faced a qualified opponent, so Hillman will be the best he has shared the ring with to date, which will also test his skills and ability.
Also on the bill is Maidstone’s ‘Main Man’ Lenny Fuller (5-0); Paul Brown (3-0), a 28-year-old light-heavyweight trained by Mario Michael in Margate; and debutants Jimmy Peckham, Dave Matthews and Jordan Smith will all make their pro bow on the same night.
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