Martin was 7-0 – and McKinson knew all about him. “When we were amateurs, he was the best around my age group,” he said. “He was in the age group above me and after I boxed, I would stay to watch him. He used to win a lot of fights by knockout. I was a massive fan of his!
“I got into his head at the press conferences [before the fight]. I was telling him how I remembered all his amateur fights – and even what shorts he used to wear. I could see him thinking: ‘Wow, he’s really studied me.’ He definitely had a mental dip.
“The crowd booed me all the way to the ring and I smiled at them. I go into every fight believing I can’t be beaten.”
That confidence also carried him through a test against veteran Colin Lynes in November, 2016, a sixth-round stoppage win that sent the 39-year-old former two-weight British champion into retirement. “After that, nobody wanted to fight him,” said Ballingall. “Why risk your fighter against someone who could humiliate them?
“People acted as if we didn’t exist. They wouldn’t pick up the phone. I’ve tried every single way I could think of to get my fighters recognised.”
McKinson got a chance when paired with McNess (10-1) at the York Hall. To the disappointment of the majority of the East End crowd, McKinson dished out a boxing lesson to win unanimously. Barry Jones, the former WBO super-featherweight belt-holder, described McKinson as “a bit of a revelation”, and he built on it with six straight points wins, including the victory over Kongo (12-0) on the undercard of the Dillian Whyte-Alexander Povetkin rematch in Gibraltar.
That secured McKinson a deal with Matchroom and a points win over Poland’s Przemyslaw Runowski (19-1) set up the clash with Ortiz Jnr, cancelled this week when Ortiz became sick and replaced by a 10 rounder with Alex Martin on DAZN. McKinson said, “Nobody can say I don’t deserve this chance. I started out at the bottom of small-hall shows, took gambles and worked my way up.”