Joe Hughes boxed for the European super-lightweight title four times in two years during his career. On Saturday night (November 18) Slough’s Adam Azim boxes for the same belt against Franck Petitjean. In his latest column for Boxing News the former champion discusses Azim and takes a trip down memory lane looking back at his four EBU title fights.
I HAVEN’T watched loads of Adam Azim or Franck Petitjean, but I’ve seen more of Azim. I know Petitjean’s been around a while, and he’s experienced. He’s been around the block, he’s fought some good fighters, he’s won and lost against some of them, so he’s a good test for Azim.
I still think Azim is an unknown quantity. I’m quite shocked he’s got a shot at this [title] so early in his career. It’s his first legitimate title and it’s the European, but I guess his team believe in him enough that he’s ready to step up and bypass domestic level. Either that or their thinking is we can make a lot of noise if he wins, but if he loses, we’ve got excuses to fall back on such as age and experience.
I’m a bit old-fashioned and prefer to see fighters progress traditionally, fighting for the English, British and then move on. This is a test, I suppose, because he’s not fought anyone near Petitjean’s calibre. I know they tried to build up his last opponent [Aram Faniian], but he wasn’t of the standard of a credible European opponent, in my opinion. I haven’t been as impressed by Azim as those making all the hype around him. Not to say he’s not that good but you have to prove it. To me, I don’t think he is what they are making him out to be. But we’ll maybe get a better idea in his next fight.
I won the European super-lightweight title nearly five years ago at my second time of trying against Andrea Scarpa in Italy. The first time I boxed for the EBU title it was against Anthony Yigit. I had just come off a draw against Tyrone Nurse for the British title in a fight where most people thought I won but they gave it as a draw, unfortunately.
Yigit was an unbeaten champion when I fought him and highly ranked and highly regarded at that time. I came up short in that fight. I did well the first third of the fight and then my arm started playing up – but no excuses. Yigit won fair and square, but in my mind I knew I was good enough to be at that level.
I then boxed in an eight-rounder to get another win under my belt before fighting for the European again against Scarpa. It was a good experience for me going over to Italy as the underdog and winning the title. Matchroom were pushing Matchroom Italy and their expansion outside the UK. I think I was brought in as the sacrificial lamb. Luckily, I won the fight.
It was the first time I’d boxed abroad. We arrived at the airport and they took us straight to the press conference in Florence. Some of the sights were amazing; it’s an amazing place. I would definitely like to go back there at some point without the stress of fighting. The food over there was good, even in the airport. The buffet food in the hotel was 10 times better than what we get over here.
With Matchroom being involved, the whole thing wasn’t too dissimilar to what I was used to. After the fight everything was closed by the time we left. I had to do the drug testing straight after the fight. When we got out, I was desperate for a pizza. I always had a pizza after a fight, and I thought it would be even better over there, but everything was shut. I was gutted. But I did get one the next day.
My next fight for the EBU title was a defence against Robbie Davies Jr in a fight that was also for the British. Again, that was a real frustrating night for me because I thought I clearly won the fight but didn’t get the decision. I tried to push for a rematch which never happened, and it fell dead in the water. It was a frustrating time in my career. I was supposed to then box Lewis Ritson on short notice, but I got injured and the fight never materialised, which is a shame because I think that would have been a really entertaining fight. I’ve got a lot of respect for Ritson. He’s a good boxer and he was riding the crest of a wave at the time. He cleaned out the lightweight division domestically but was moving up. I had a back injury, the fight fell through, and he ended up boxing Davies and beating him.
I fought for the EBU again but this time against Sandor Martin. I hadn’t recovered after pulling out against Ritson. I probably shouldn’t have taken the fight. The injury still plagues me now. When I got offered it, I had just come off a loss and when I got offered the Sandor Martin fight, I felt like I couldn’t turn it down. In my mind I thought, I don’t know what will happen if I say no. I’m always one to take the risk and say, “Well I rolled the dice, rather than not giving it a go and never knowing.” I didn’t have what I needed in the tank for that fight. He was very good. Tricky, slick, hard to pin down and a good opponent. Unfortunately, that was my last run-in with the EBU. That’s four European title fights, so I’ve got a bit of experience with it. On Saturday I’ll be watching Azim-Petitjean with interest.