“I think just sticking with it,” said Maxi Hughes, when asked for the secret of his recent success.
The popular lightweight contender improved to 26-5-2 with last week’s victory over Kid Galahad in Nottingham, notching his seventh win in a row.
He’s become the UK’s latest Cinderella Man following victories over Jono Carroll, Ryan Walsh, Paul Hyland, previously-undefeated Viktor Kotochigov and Jovanni Straffon.
The scalping of former IBF featherweight champion Galahad might be the one that earns him the big money fights he craves. Before the Galahad bout was signed, there was talk of Hughes facing Jorge Linares or Ryan Garcia. But the disappointment of not landing either did not manifest itself for long.
“At this point in my career, I’m not motivated by a certain fighter, I’m motivated by continuing to fight for these good paydays that I’m getting now,” Hughes explained.
“Barry [Kid Galahad] and [his trainer] Dom [Ingle] were getting the fight they really wanted… “I was sort of politely forced into that fight, not that I was frightened or trying to get out of it. He [Galahad] was coming off the loss [to Kiko Martinez], he was the challenger and he’s again chosen this fight and he’s got it. I quickly got over it, moved on, agreed to fight… It is what it is… He’s a credible name and former IBF champion, not of five, six years ago but less than a year ago, so those were the positives we took going forwards.”
There have been plenty of positives with Hughes’s career trajectory. He’s learned from his losses and improved. Hughes is also full of praise for his team, including training partner Josh Warrington and coach Sean O’Hagan.
“I’m inspired and motivated by Josh, training alongside him,” Hughes added. “And the methods that Sean uses, I can’t explain how Sean does it but he’s found a way of bringing the best out of me and doing it very calmly. Our personalities gel really well and it’s getting results. Obviously, you see the success that Josh has had and being a part of that has definitely played a big part of it [his own success].”
What of the losses? Hughes was defeated for the first time by Scott Cardle in 2013, suffered a pair of reverses to future world title challenger Martin Ward and lost to Sam Bowen (stopped with a swollen eye) and Liam Walsh. But he never wanted to stop fighting.
“I didn’t want to quit, I’ve learnt about myself, without realising, that I’m really resilient,” Maxi explained. “The five losses I’ve had have been at a good level. Every opponent who has beat me has at one time been British champion and some have gone further, so that’s the experience I’ve learned and gained. And by sticking with boxing that experience has gone with me to get these results. Every fighter who’s successful has that moment in their career when things start going right for them – mine probably later than most – and now it’s my time.”
Hughes talks with a confidence that he took into the Galahad fight. The Sheffield man was stunned by Kiko Martinez in one of the upsets of 2021 and had moved up two weight classes afterwards to fight Hughes, having toiled at featherweight for too long. That was part of the reason Hughes approached the fight certain of the outcome.
“They always say you’re only as good as your last fight, and my last two fights previously to Barry I’d not dropped a round in 24 rounds, so I was very confident,” Hughes added. “And being a natural lightweight, Barry coming up two divisions, and knowing the demons he would probably carry into the ring, I just felt it was my time. Sean knows him [Galahad], Sean and Josh have boxed him three times, twice in the amateurs and once as a pro, so there were just little things there, extra one per cents… and I was confident in my own ability. A year ago, if you’d paired me and Kid Galahad together for a fight, people would have said he was leagues above me, I was the nearly man and I wouldn’t stand a chance. But here we are now and I’ve beaten him, a former IBF world champion.”
Hughes wants the big names to be talked about again, and the big money fights to be back on the table. The 32-year-old is ready for a “life-changing” opportunity.
“I just want the big money fights to come my way, that’s what I’m hoping for,” he said. “That life-changing fight that [promoter] Eddie [Hearn]’s promised. Eddie’s created the momentum with the Maxi Hughes train so it’s time for him to deliver.”