ROBBIE Vernon will contest his first fight in six years when he makes his professional debut at the Newport Centre tonight.

The 23-year-old welterweight has been handed an all-Welsh four-rounder with old sparring partner JD Jones to get his tenure in the paid ranks under way.

He takes his place on an action-packed Sanigar Events bill “fit, ready and confident” of getting off to a positive start in the city where he trains under Tony Borg.

Now a member of the St Joseph’s stable, Vernon was a successful amateur at clubs in the Rhondda until he fell out of love with the sport and hung up his gloves at the age of 17.

He returned two years ago and is on the cusp of kick-starting a boxing career that promised so much early on.

“I won eight Welsh championships as an amateur and had two bronze and one silver medal in the British and won a tournament out in Finland,” he said.

“I packed it in when I was 17, I just wasn’t enjoying it, so I haven’t had a fight since then.

“I missed it so much and saw the boys doing well so I came back and felt I belonged in the gym when I returned.

“The first few sessions were gruelling. I was struggling to breath because I was so unfit, but then obviously you find your way.”

He added: “I came back two years ago and did nine months in Jamie Arthur’s gym but it wasn’t working out for me up there.

“I came down to St Joseph’s and you’re not going to get a better gym than this with all the top boys here. It’s an awesome gym. You feel welcome as soon as you walk through the door.

On Jones, Vernon, from Blackmill near Bridgend, said: “I used to spar with him quite a lot in Jamie’s gym.

“He comes forward with his hands up so I’ll keep the punches flowing and hopefully get the win.

“Maybe I’ll be a bit nervous on the night but it’s good to have nerves.”