TOM McGinley felt it was his “fitness and heart” that carried him to the British Challenge Super bantamweight title as the Essex boxer landed the prestigious title in Kent.

In just his sixth professional bout, the 30-year-old from Hatfield Peverel claimed the title by beating two-time Southern Area contender Martin Hillman at Mote Park in Maidstone.

Hillman, who is 27 and from Sidcup, entered the bout in his own back yard as the favourite, having had triple the experience in the paid ranks and previously held the International Challenge belt at featherweight in 2016.

However, McGinley, trained by Russ Smith at Champions Gym in Colchester, had reeled off four straight wins heading into the contest and made it a fifth as he claimed a 77-75 points victory over eight rounds.

He said: “Fitness and heart won me that title.

“I took the fight as the underdog, travelled to my opponent’s home town and took the belt - that makes it even sweeter.

“My trainer Russ Smith had the tactics spot on.

“He kept me in that fight by dealing with my cuts brilliantly.”

The fight didn’t start well for McGinley as he had his gumshield knocked out and suffered a bad cut after an early clash of heads, but he looked to get on the front foot.

Hillman had the better of the exchanges, though, and was a clear winner in the opening round.

In the second, McGinley came back into the fight and was scoring the more eye-catching and heavy punches.

Although referee Kieran McCann had to stop the fight to take a look at another cut that opened up above McGinley’s left eye, the Essex puncher found his rhythm and was overwhelming Hillman, who found it difficult to keep up with the pace.

McGinley kept pushing the tempo of the fight and was the busier boxer throughout.

Hillman was looking haggard by round seven and despite surviving until the final bell, the Kent man was left disappointed as McGinley was announced the winner and had his arm held aloft as the new British Challenge Super bantamweight champion.

McGinley’s win now has now put him in line for further title shots.

He added: “I always dreamt of boxing for a professional title and now I have my sights set on winning the prestigious Southern Area belt.”