SWINDON boxer Jamie Cox admitted he doubted his ability right up until the first bell of his long-awaited return to the ring on Saturday night.
The light-middleweight celebrated a convincing points victory over Frenchman Matiouze Royer at the Oasis - his first fight since September 2011 following a career-threatening injury to his left hand.
However, the 26-year-old, who now boasts a perfect record of 17 career wins, told the Advertiser that he questioned his credentials ahead of the fight.
“I don’t know why but I was extremely apprehensive before the fight,” said Cox. “Everyone expected. Everyone wondered whether I still had it.
“I found myself questioning myself a lot more than usual.
“I kept thinking to myself ‘Have I still got it? Can I still fight?’.
“Even though I had been sparring good in the gym and boxing well, I still questioned myself.
“It was like my first fight over and over again.
“It was good to get that one out of the way. It’s a relief and now I know what it is like to be back in the ring.”
Both boxers made a scrappy start to the fight as Cox tried to land his trademark left hook, while Royer came forward at every opportunity.
Cox tried to box behind the jab and showed glimpses of his undoubted class when he did.
But Royer continued to close the gap between the pair, forcing Cox to work inside to the body and try to land with left and right hooks.
The Swindon boxer comfortably took the opening round and started to settle into the fight early in the second.
Good work to the body from Cox pushed Royer back, while his jab kept the Frenchman at range during the opening minute of the round.
As the round went on, Royer managed to creep forward despite taking a series of heavy body shots from Cox.
And although Cox had easily done enough to bank a second round in his favour, Royer gave the Swindon boxer a reminder of the threat he posed, landing a good right hand in the latter stages.
Entering the third round, it was clear to see why the durable Royer had never previously been stopped in his career.
Cox landed a fine one-two combination and continued to target Royer’s body before the pair traded punches once more.
Royer did catch Cox in the dying stages with a good left and right hook, but the Swindon man had already done enough to win the round.
The action continued at close range in the fourth as Royer enjoyed his best round of the fight. He landed a fine straight right and a sneaky uppercut as Cox took his turn to prove he had a chin.
Cox remained untroubled and hit back with his jab and a good right hand in what was an even round.
An impressive fifth round from Cox illustrated the quality he possesses as he started to pick Royer off with ease.
A strong right followed by a lovely left hand hurt Royer as did a series of punches low to the body.
Royer’s complaints of a low blow were waved away by the referee and sensing weakeness, Cox punished the Frenchman further with more punches to his body.
A relentless final round followed as Royer powered forward, knowing he was well behind on points.
It made for a scrappy last three minutes as both boxers stood toe-to-toe.
Still Cox tried to work behind his jab but found it a near-impossible mission against an opponent who refused to drop his work rate.
Both boxers landed with wild shots throughout the round until the sound of the final bell marked a winning return for Cox.
The Swindon boxer admitted he had been in a tough fight and praised Royer’s performance, saying: “You are not going to get any bigger light-middleweights than him.
“Fair play to him, he is a tough campaigner.
“I knew I couldn’t take him lightly. He gave me a hard workout and it was a tough fightback.
“Credit to him, it was a privilege to fight him and good to test myself against a tough guy like him.
“I didn’t mind going the distance, it’s done me good to get the rounds in and there are a lot of fighters out there who are not as tough as Matiouze.”
Also in action at the Oasis was Swindon cruiserweight Lawrence Bennett, who eased to a classy points win against Simeon Cover.
Bradford on Avon boxer Gareth Heard won the vacant British Masters bronze welterweight title after stopping Faheem Khan.