Hughes confident of shocking the world as underdog against Kambosos

Perennial underdog Maxi Hughes has left nothing to chance as he prepares for the fight of his life against Australian George Kambosos.

They meet at the Firelake Arena in Shawnee, Oklahoma, on Saturday with Hughes in the form of his career and Kambosos hoping to breathe new life into his.

Hughes has been in Oklahoma for two weeks, trying to adjust to the time and temperature, because he is a long way from home in England.

“It’s good, I’ve enjoyed it,” Hughes said in the middle of fight week. “They only tried to originally give me limited time out here, but I’ve paid for myself to come out a bit longer. I looked at the weather forecast and it’s red hot here, and with the time difference and stuff, I just thought I’m better off paying that bit extra and coming out early and giving myself the best chance and it’s paid off. I’m definitely glad we’ve come out earlier.” 

It's a huge stage, platform and opportunity for Hughes, and he doesn’t want to be found wanting. He has invested in himself, knowing a win would take him into the Promised Land at lightweight and aware that defeat could knock him back to domestic level.

“We came down to reception on Monday morning and [Belgium’s] Francesco Patera, who’s fighting Keyshawn Davis, he’s just arrived and it’s going to be nearly weigh-in day by the time he’s got used to things,” added Hughes. “Then he’s going to be weighing in and fighting.”

Hughes said his body clock has adjusted to the point he’s able to push it back so he’s feeling energised in the evening, when he fights, and waking up later. He is also soaking it all in. He’s seen his name up in lights and on billboards locally.

“In my early pro years, it was just a fairy tale,” Hughes recalled. “I used to listen to people say, ‘It’s only the top per cent of fighters that get to do that.’ Well, I’m not in the top percentage of fighters and I don’t know if I’ll ever be but my goal was just to keep chasing the British [title] and once I got that British it was like, ‘Right, let’s reset the goals now I’ve achieved that.’ Let’s go for the world level fights. And I still never knew I’d be fighting over here, so it is fantastic to be here. 

“I know it’s only the IBO [title], but get rid of George on Saturday and there should be a deal with Top Rank in there for me. That’s really where it’s pinch yourself stuff. I’ve had no major amateur career, I was backed by a local small hall promoter and now I’m fighting on the biggest stage possible with the biggest promoter. It’s a bit surreal.”

Hughes is a student of the sport. He watches old fighters, documentaries and he listens to old interviews. A common theme, he said, is that fighters regret not enjoying the moments as they live them, only when they reflect upon them later in life. Maxi is drinking in each day. 

“I’ve heard a lot of fighters [looking back] say, ‘I wish I’d enjoyed it more, the journey.’ It’s not until they finish and look back, so I’m reminding myself every day, enjoy today. Enjoy going out and doing this. Enjoy the journey. As we all know, it’s a very short career the boxing career, so you’ve got to make sure we embrace it and enjoy it.”

Sydney’s Kambosos is 20-2 and coming in off back-to-back points losses to Devin Haney. The Australian is 30 and has talked about getting back in the mix with the leading 135-pounders. Hughes is offering to be his roadblock to the bigger fights.

“What you see is what you get from him,” Maxi said of Kambosos. “He is what it says on the tin. I do think his opinion of himself is higher than what he is. That being said, we can’t take away that fantastic night when he won all the belts against Teo[fimo Lopez]. I believe that was the night he climbed the mountain, he reached the summit that night, as the underdog, as the challenger in the champion’s back garden. He did it and then he fell short, quite a bit short, against Devin Haney twice last year. He made his money so I admire him for what he’s done. That’s what I’m trying to do. That’s still my goal, to do what George has done in terms of financial security, so I admire him for what he’s done. I’ve got mixed thoughts of what his mindset is and what he thinks of me. He has to keep checking himself. He gets carried away a bit. ‘I want to fight Tank, I want to fight Tank. I want to give Lomachenko an opportunity, there’s this guy, there’s this guy… Oh, but I am concentrated on Maxi.’ And I’m thinking, ‘Yeah, sure you are George.’ So we will see about that. But I admire and respect him, from fighter to fighter. But I’m confident in myself of doing a job and shocking the boxing world again.’

In Hughes’s magnificent three-year run, he’s upset Jono Carroll, Ryan Walsh and Kid Galahad. He might not be moving the needle as a threat in the US, but his experiences mean he has no fear of Kambosos.

“I’ve been a pro 13 years now, it’s going to be my 34th fight, so I’ve been around and seen all the styles so there’s nothing George is going to do that I haven’t seen,” Hughes continued. “And in four of my last six fights, I’ve been the underdog, so I can rise to the challenge. That’s what I’m about. I personally don’t think I’ve got enough credit for my last fight, against Kid Galahad, because I know he’s not very well-liked but he’s a very, very hard fighter to look good against and beat. And I managed to do it. It was a close fight but I managed to edge him out fair and square. It was tough and I don’t think the fight with George is going to be as mentally taxing. I think the fight with George is a lot less tricky than what Kid Galahad brings, but he [Kambosos] brings that ferocity and stuff, but I’ve got experience with that against Jovanni Straffon, when I won the IBO. I don’t think George will hit as hard as him. He might be technically better but he [Straffon] did bring it for 12 rounds and I had the answers. So I’ve got good experience behind me.”

Hughes has been Stateside with trainer Sean O’Hagan and stablemate Reece Mould. O’Hagan’s son and frequent Hughes training partner/sparring partner Josh Warrington will be joining them later in the week. But more than trying to figure out what Kambosos might bring, Hughes has been leaving nothing to chance so he can be at his best on Saturday, and he thinks he will surprise everyone, Kambosos included.

“I think what I do, people don’t find out until it’s too late,” Hughes stated. “I remember having a chat with [former opponent] Ryan Walsh and they [the Walsh team] had watched me and [brother] Liam [Walsh] had fought me, so they knew what they wanted to do and when I spoke to them after they said, ‘We knew what we had to do, actually doing it… We couldn’t do it on the night.’ They’d watched the tapes, practised in the gym, practised sparring but until you’re in there with me, it’s a lot different. We always say with Sean [O’Hagan], ‘We’ll take it a round at a time, and if we need to adjust or change something, we’ll do that.’ That’s what we do in training when we prepare for fights. We don’t have just one look at George and say, ‘Right, he’s going to come forward all night.’ He might turn up with something with totally different, so we prepare for a lot of different stuff. Same with sparring. We will spar all different styles just so we feel we have a good round mix of all the styles.”