JOE Hughes says that he is fighting fit again after illness thwarted his chance at a shot at the Southern Area light-welterweight title.

The 23-year-old was due to face John Wayne Hibbert last weekend but a virus forced him to withdraw.

However, Hibbert went on to box on Saturday night and instead of fighting for the Southern Area, which was supposedly vacant but according the British Boxing Board of Control is retained by Ricky Boylan, the Essex man claimed the International Masters title - the belt that Hughes won in March.

But now the Malmesbury fighter is now targeting a September return.

“It was very disappointing to miss out on that fight,” Hughes said. “It was going to be the biggest fight of my career.

“But it was the right thing to do. I was ill for about a month, every time I tried to train I just got worse.

“If I had gone on and boxed, I would have only been about 50 per cent because there wouldn’t have been enough time for me to build my fitness back up.

“It was very disappointing to miss that fight - I was really excited especially after all the injuries I had last year.

“Then I got this virus - fingers crossed when I come back in September there will be no injuries or illness.”

But Hughes hasn’t given up hope off getting his chance of fighting for the Southern Area title.

“I’m back in the gym now doing light training, getting my weight and fitness sorted because when I come back at the end of September hopefully it will be another 10-rounder.”

“Maybe I’ll fight for some sort of Masters title in September,” he said. “But I’ll leave that to my manager (Andy O’Kane).

“After that then hopefully we can sort out another crack at the Southern Area.”