MALMESBURY boxer Joe Hughes is the new European super-lightweight champion after defeating Italy’s Andrea Scarpa in Florence last Friday, writes JONATHAN LEIGHFIELD.

The 27-year-old suffers with Erb’s palsy, a condition that left him with one arm three inches shorter than the other, but still produced a dominant display featuring a barrage of left-arm jabs, which saw him fulfil his dream of becoming a European champion.

Hughes felt he dominated from start to finish in defeating the Italian, but only received a split-decision verdict, one judge scoring the contest 116-112 to Scarpa, with the Brit taking it 118-110 and 116-112 with the other two officials.

Hughes was surprised by the scoring, but not by the result, and said that his game plan worked to perfection as he continuously got inside Scarpa with a stinging left jab.

He said: “I out-boxed him for the duration of the fight.

"I went in there confident I’d be able to shock him using pressure and being aggressive, while still using my skills rather than getting into a fight.

“It all went to plan from our point of view. In my opinion, I won every round, but the judges didn’t see it like that, somehow.”

Cheered on by a vocal Malmesbury contingent, Hughes paid tribute to his travelling fans, adding he was grateful for their brilliant support.

He said: “At times, it sounded like there was more of them than there were Italians.

“It was really something and fair play to them because it was a hell of a journey to make, just to watch a boxing match.

"I have nothing but appreciation for those people that came to support me. It was really, really helpful.”

Hughes’ second son was born in October, however, just a week before his crowning moment, his Grandad passed away. Upon award of his European belt, the 27-year-old dedicated his win to his late Grandfather and said it has been tough to stay focused in amongst his fragmented personal life.

“I’ve had a few up and downs over the last couple of months. My baby son was born five weeks ago, so that made preparing hard work, but that was obviously a big up," said Hughes.

“My mum is really ill at the moment so we’re trying to raise some money for her that could possibly give her a few more years of her life.

“And with my Grandad passing away exactly a week before the fight, there was a lot going on outside of the ring which made it tough to stay focused in the ring.

"Once the fight was over, it was a big relief that it had gone well and I could process everything else.

“It was great that I could go through it and be successful."