Joe Hughes back in the ring on Sept 27
The last time you saw the new Ricky Hatton, he was twiddling his thumbs in the changing rooms at the York Hall.
Joe Hughes has done a lot of that recently.
Being a reserve for ‘Prizefighter’ in July was a return to the spotlight of sorts for a fighter who turned professional with Frank Maloney after winning the ABA light-welterweight championship in 2010.
Maloney reckoned he had discovered the new Hatton – both won the ABA title, both are stocky crowd-pleasers – but defeat to Joe Elfidh, the loss of Maloney’s TV deal and injuries have kept Hughes out of the ring since last October.
After almost a year out of the ring, he’s back to the top the bill against William Warburton on promoter PJ Rowson’s show at Trowbridge Civic Hall on Friday, September 27.
“It hasn’t worked out for me yet,” said the 23 year old from Malmesbury, “but I feel like I’ve learned a lot.
“I’m a better fighter because of everything that’s happened.
“But it has been very frustrating. This is the biggest break I’ve had between fights since I started boxing.
“Frank lost his TV deal and I’ve had a few injuries. My wrist flared up, then I had problems with my knuckle and a tendon in my knee and I’ve had shoulder problems all my life.”
Hughes was born with Erb’s palsy and his right arm is two-and-a-half inches shorter than his left.
“I started boxing when I was eight years old to help my muscles and shoulders develop,” he said, “and it’s ended up being my job.”
Not that he’s been able to do his job much recently.
“I’m a full-time boxer,” said Hughes, “and I’ve been scraping by for the last year or so. I’ve got some sponsors (Bush Building and Bricklaying, Bantumm Surfacing, The Borough Arms) and have done some personal training to pay the bills.”
Following the loss to Elfidh in front of the Sky Sports cameras by a single point, Hughes has had low-key wins over Matt Seawright and Mark McKray.
“Since Frank lost his TV deal, I’ve been boxing on local shows and had to sell tickets,” said Hughes.
“But I’m happy to travel to fight. I know you have to win big away from home – and I’m happy to do that.
“I don’t need to fight lots of journeymen. After four or five more fights I will be ready to fight anyone in the country.”
Hughes has been sparring British champion Darren Hamilton – “he’s immensely strong” – and added: “I feel as good as I have for several years.
“Strength wise, I feel fine. I’ve been sparring big guys like Danny Butler and Nick Blackwell and it’s making me stronger.”
Butler, the current English middleweight champion, and Hughes are trained by Andy O’Kane at Paddy John’s gym in Bristol.
O’Kane, who thanked Steve Ford Sports Massage for helping Hughes recover from his knee injury, said: “Joe can still be the British champion. He just needs a lucky break . . . “