Maxi Hughes Interview
Maxi Hughes turned professional eleven years ago, however 2020 was arguably the most important year of his career so far. Nominated for MTK’s fighter of the year and its most improved, he managed consecutive victories over Kris Pilkington, Jono Carroll and Viktor Kotochigov. In a year when many fighters faded away, he rose up and gained the number 15 ranking with the WBC. He will now face Paul Hyland Jr for the British lightweight title, on MTK’s March 19th show.
Maxi had been helping out his stablemates Josh Warrington and Reece Mould prepare for their fights on the 13th February. With both fighters being on the wrong side of the result in such an emphatic way, he admits that it was hard to get back in the ring.
“I had just come back from London for the Josh Warrington card, we were all a bit down. It wasn’t nice to see Reece go out that way, and then the same things happened to Josh. It was awful to see my mates get hurt like that and straight after I felt like I could pack it all in. I felt a bit down and gutted for the lads. I didn’t expect it to happen, I’d trained with them and saw how ready they were. I got a phone call from Lee Eaton wanting to know when I would be ready to fight. I said March or April, he rang me again an hour later asking if I would be ready for the 19th March and I’ve got you a shot at the British title. Straight away I said yes, put me in and sign me up. Something changed as soon as Lee phoned me, it just uplifted me and focused me. I’m in boxing for those kind of fights.
Hughes took this fight on only four weeks notice; however, he knew an opportunity might arise and has not stopped training. Since the start of 2020, boxing has had to adapt, with more domestic fights taking place and fighters having shorter training camps due to the uncertainty.
“Over the last couple of years I have really dedicated myself to boxing. After my fights I’ll have a week off and then I’m straight back into the gym. I used to pig out when I was younger, but with my age and experience I now look after myself outside the ring and keep training so I am ready to take a fight on four weeks notice. If I stay fit, I can take a good opportunity when it comes. Boxing has changed and you’ve got to be ready because that phone will ring. You aren’t going to get long training camps unless you’re a world-level fighter. I’ve got this momentum at the minute with two big wins, and I just want to constantly improve. I’m really enjoying boxing. These kind of opportunities can do really good things for your career, and I’m very confident of winning the British title, and then lets see where I can go from there.”
With a shorter camp, his team had to make adjustments in the way they've led up to the fight. This was mainly the case in sparring, having to ensure he got as many rounds as possible before fight night.
“We have had to get the amount of rounds in quicker, and do more spars in a week. I also hadn’t realised my medicals ran out as well, so I had my brain scan and couldn’t spar for a week beforehand. After that we’ve been playing catch-up, doing ten rounds three times a week and making sure I get twelve rounds in so I know I’m ready. It is a bit physically draining and taxing on your body, sparring with bigger kids and it zaps it out your body. But I was already fit, and it's been enjoyable having a short camp. Before you know it, it has been and gone, it wasn’t a long mentally draining camp. I am more than ready.”
Not only is the Doncaster-born fighter training for the British title, but also continuing his full-time job. Competing at such a high-level whilst continuing to work is something that should be admired. He stated how his ultimate goal is to fully commit to boxing, and winning this title will be a significant step in doing so.
“I’m still a fulltime painter and decorator and on the building sites everyday. I come home, have some tea, put my daughter to bed and then go out to train at the gym. There’s been times when I’ve been tired but I never pull a sicky from training, I always turn up. Because I am still working, I’m able to put the fight money I get away and hopefully I’ll be able to pay my mortgage off before I retire. If the money goes up significantly I would look at going full time so I can further myself. This fight will be a step closer to do that, if I win the British title my money will go up and I’ll be closer to being able to be full time.”
MTK had originally scheduled Liam Walsh to take on Paul Hyland but the former had to pull out due to lasting effects of Covid. Hughes had not been looking at these fighter previously as potential opponents, but could not turn down such a great opportunity to win such a prestigious belt.
“I’ve became quite friendly with Liam Walsh since we fought, I was going to watch it and was rooting for Liam. I hadn’t actually thought about fighting either, I was looking at other routes after getting the WBC international belt and wanted to climb those rankings. But I was never going to turn down a chance at the British title. If I hadn’t taken it, they might have brought in someone not as good to fight Hyland and I’d be sitting at home kicking myself thinking that should have been me. It is a massive opportunity and it means so much to every British fighter. To win that title you’ve got to be at a good level and it can set you up for bigger things. I would be so proud to win that belt.”
There is a calm confident aura surrounding the Doncaster-fighter at the moment, which can be attributed to such an impressive year. He predicts he will continue 2021 in the same vein, with a dominant victory on March 19th.
“I’m definitely coming out the winner. I know I’ll be able to adapt and put my game plan into play. I’m not sure how it will end, but it will with me coming out on top. Everything I have done in my career so far will help me and I’ve been in a lot of top level fights. All that experience will play its part on fight night, and will help me come out with a win.”
Previously in his career, many fans and ‘experts’ have perhaps overlooked his ability to win big fights. This was especially the case last year in his bout with Jono Carroll, with many in the build-up predicting a walkover for the Irishman.
“I think it comes down to the amount of knockouts, which people think are the be all and end all. It's not something I worry about, the numbers aren’t there but I know I punch hard enough. This is my eleventh year now and I think I’m getting into my physical peak, and that these will be the best years of my career. I don’t mind being overlooked and being the underdog, I love it! The bookies get it wrong a lot. They had me as a 12/1 underdog against Jono Carroll, they just looked at the losses, nothing else.. Maybe they saw his blue tick on Instagram. They hadn’t done their research, and I hope somebody got a telling off after that fight! I don’t gamble, I’m too tight but after the fight people were coming up and thanking me for making them money. I didn’t know the odds before the fight, but if I had I'd put have put some money on myself!”
A impressive performance against a highly thought of opponent such as Carroll will garner respect and for Hughes it felt like a weight had been lifted. He also spoke about how fighting behind closed doors helped him, and took some of the usual pressures away.
“I’ve been in some big fights that haven’t gone my way, so it was nice to finally get the result against a big name. I said to myself after, ‘There you go, you knew you could do it and there’s your proof’. People around me knew I had the ability so it was nice to get a win like that. I’m no longer the ‘nearly man’, I am able to pull these big wins off. It’s a shame my friends and family couldn’t be there live. Though it was quite enjoyable boxing behind closed doors. In the build up to there was no pressure to try and sell tickets, which was a big bonus. I had a great year and I’m looking forward to another one. Physically and mentally I have momentum and I’m happy which really helps.”
Should Hughes come put victorious, there are some mouth-watering matchups that can be made. Most notably with the current Commonwealth title holder, Gavin Gwynne, which has been discussed. Although Paul Hyland must command some respect, and his record shows just how competitive the fight will be.
“When I’m running I will often just daydream about future fights and thinking where I could go. I’d like to win all of the belts and then fight for a world title. But when I’m training I make sure I am focused on one fight at a time, and to make sure I get the win first. The Gavin Gwynne fight has been mentioned, and it is one id like to have. I’m trying to not get carried away and I’ve still got a hard fight in front of me, Paul Hyland has got my full respect. Paul has a baby on the way, and will be really up for this fight and has been training a long time for it. Once I have got that title I can look more to the future.”
Maxi Hughes is an extremely likable fighter, and his ‘underdog status’ makes him someone who is hard not to root for. There is a feeling that he has hit a turning point in his career, and that momentum and confidence makes him an extremely dangerous fighter.
You can watch Hughes take on Hyland live on IFL TV in the U.K and ESPN+ in the United States.