IT couldn’t have been easy for Maxi Hughes to sit and watch Ryan Garcia fight Javier Fortuna last weekend knowing the opportunity to fight Garcia, one of boxing’s big stars, was within his grasp just weeks ago.

Had that fight happened, it would have been the big opportunity Hughes has been waiting for. It would have been his chance to step beyond domestic level, where he has flourished since 2020, and announce himself on the world stage. But, alas, for reasons beyond his control, it wasn’t meant to be.

“Garcia personally reached out to me on Instagram,” Hughes told Boxing News. “They were trying to make the Isaac Cruz fight and his message to me was: ‘Isaac Cruz looks like he’s going to bitch out of this fight. So if you want the fight on July 16, let me know.’

“So I screenshotted it and sent it to my manager and he then forwarded it to Eddie (Hearn, promoter) and we’ve never had a quicker response from Eddie to anything. Eddie told me how to respond and we told Golden Boy to contact Matchroom and they’d get it on, no messing around.

“Within a few days they sent Matchroom an offer, which I would have taken, but the offer was turned down. The next thing I know Fortuna has taken the first offer and they’re fighting him instead. What a kick in the teeth that was. The opportunity to headline in America would have been great.”

Eager now to forget it, Hughes’ next fight could be late September or early October and will again probably see him face domestic opposition. His opponent, for what will be pro fight 33, appears likely to end up being fellow Yorkshireman Kid Galahad, 28-2 (17), a featherweight with whom Hughes, a lightweight, has history.

“I know the fight has been offered and we said, ‘Yeah, so long as the terms are on our side,’” said Hughes. “I spoke to my manager today and he’s predicting 24th September, which is fine by me. But if the rumours are true about (Conor) Benn and (Chris) Eubank Jnr on October 8, I wouldn’t mind being on that bill. As a fan, I’d like to be part of that.

“I first read about his (Galahad) interest in the fight a few weeks back when (Dominic) Ingle (Galahad’s trainer) did an interview and said offers had been made to Maxi and both parties are in agreement that the fight would happen. But at that time we weren’t. We were still in talks with Garcia and Golden Boy about that fight. So, I don’t know where that came from.

“But now, because I didn’t get the Garcia fight, I think Matchroom have thought, Yeah, actually that’s a good fight. It seems like the Ingles are getting what they want because Matchroom are telling me this is the only offer they’ve got for us.”

Kid Galahad
Galahad busts up Jazza Dickens (Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing)

Frustrated enough by the Garcia situation, Hughes’ frustration has since then seemingly been exacerbated by the emergence of Galahad as a possible next opponent. For Galahad, after all, is someone with not only a checkered history but was of course viciously knocked out inside six rounds in his last fight, Spain’s Kiko Martinez the architect.

“I’ll still get up for the fight because it’s a good fight, but it just annoys me that he gets the chance to choose who he wants to fight,” said Hughes, 25-5-2 (5). “That’s what pisses me off about it.

“There’s a lot of history between Josh (Warrington, Hughes’ gym mate) and Sean (O’Hagan, Hughes’ trainer) and him (Galahad) and Dominic (Ingle). Also, there’s the fact he got banned for taking steroids (in 2015, Galahad tested positive for the banned substance stanozolol, an anabolic steroid). I don’t like that.

“The positives are that I’m fighting a former IBF (featherweight) champion who was world champion in his last fight and is a good fighter. I’ll come out of it with a former world champion on my record and it should do me well in terms of my ranking with the IBF. Hopefully a win against him will push me further up and get me closer to fighting for a title.

“But he doesn’t sell and he’s just so negative. I know I can beat him, but I also know it will be a frustrating night’s work. I sparred him years ago and know what he’s like. He starts standing on your feet, grabbing hold, and using dirty tactics. The money’s all right, it’s a good payday, but it just feels a bit like I’ve been forced into a corner. I’ve got all this good momentum, which Eddie (Hearn) has helped build up for me, but now it seems like the Maxi train is not going forward, it’s parked in the station.”

Still, if there’s one guarantee with Maxi Hughes it’s that he will show up prepared, ready to go, and determined to win. His career, let’s not forget, was for so long fought largely in the shadows, where favours or advantages were few and far between. He wins fights nowadays ultimately because he’s a fighter, a seasoned one, not because he feels inspired by the opponent or energised by the occasion. He wins because he needs to win and because he has in recent years made a habit of winning. He wins because he knows how it feels to lose.

“I’m well up for it,” said the 32-year-old. “I told my missus, ‘This will be good karma vs bad karma. Good vs evil.’ He takes steroids and cheats and karma got him with Kiko. I’m a good person and karma will be on my side again. It would be nice to ‘Kiko’ him, like.”

Kid Galahad
Galahad’s KO loss to Martinez came as a shock to everybody (Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing)