Joe Hughes is nearing a full three years since he fought Sam Maxwell. The former European super-lightweight champion hasn’t laced up the gloves as a professional prizefighter since then. In his latest column for Boxing News the 33 year old admits he should call it a day but explains why it isn’t easy to do so.

KNOWING that August 29 will be three years since my last fight makes me feel old.

When I fought Sam Maxwell, I was 30 and at that point, I was thinking I’m getting on a bit as a boxer so to be three years removed from it makes you feel long in the tooth.

I haven’t had a lot of fights in my career, but I’ve had a lot of rounds in the gym and been training since I was five years old. Most of that has been on one side of my body so there’s a lot of miles on the clock in that sense.

It makes me feel almost a bit remorseful because I think what I could have done in those three years if I’d have a bit of a different backing or pushed for more fights. I could have done a couple of small hall shows, I could have brought myself back into contention. At the same time, I could have got seriously injured. Since then, we’ve had our youngest child. My life’s changed.

Since then, I haven’t trained flat out at all. I had a little stint where I trained for a month where I nearly had a fight lined up with Dalton Smith, probably 18 months ago that nearly happened but didn’t. I trained flat out for the month and dieted but since then I haven’t really trained properly or been strict on my food or lifestyle. I’ve been busy working. It’s a weird feeling. I still haven’t officially retired I suppose but before I stopped, I used to think to myself I won’t be one of these fighters that feels bad about retiring.

I think every fighter thinks they have one more in them when they’re trying to find the right time to stop. I’m sure for a lot of people that’s true. I could do it again but is that careless? You’re better off having one too few than one too many. If I was told I’m gonna earn a million pounds in my next fight, then I’d jump at the chance but then realistically the most it’s gonna be is 15 to 20 grand and that’s if I was lucky enough to be offered a big fight. Is it really worth it putting myself through it? The money I’d lose anyway, through work I wouldn’t be doing. And then what it’s putting on to your body in terms of the actual physical toll because there is one. The fact of the matter is you are taking shots to your brain that it isn’t supposed to be taking. I’d dread to think in my lifetime how many times I’ve been punched in the head. It’s got to be tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands so do I need to keep adding to it? And the age I am now can I take punches the way I used to?

Taking shots never worried me because I had a good chin. I’ve never been dropped in sparring; I’ve never been dropped in a fight and as an amateur I’ve never even had a Standing eight-count. But I haven’t been punched properly for three years. Can I still take it? The fact that I haven’t been punched does that mean I won’t be able to take it again. Is my body not conditioned to it anymore? All those questions run through your head. It’s a difficult position to be in because you think where is your place in the world. My whole life I’ve been a fighter. I still haven’t said I’ve retired. Am I just hanging on to it even though it’s not going to happen.

I’ve been down about it at times and spoke to my wife and she says, “You’ve had an amazing career, think of all the stuff you’ve done, why do you need to do it anymore.” But in my mind, I never fought for a world title. I had goals that I set for myself. In my mind I was good enough to achieve them. Look at some of the fighters I fought like Jack Catterall, who is one of the best in the world at light-welterweight and Sandor Martin, and in my opinion, he beat Teofimo Lopez and Lopez is the number one at 140lbs. I hardly trained for the Martin fight because I had a back injury going into it. Not to say it was an excuse but I still hung in there. Some of the lads I’ve fought have been world-level fighters and I felt like I wasn’t out of place.

I walked away with the European title, but I would have liked more and whether that was defending it a couple of more times because I felt I was robbed when I lost it anyway.

To have fought for a world title or fought in America on the world stage I felt like they were things that were within my grasp, and I didn’t quite achieve. My wife and family would say you’ve achieved a lot and shouldn’t have a regret, but I do because I feel like I could have done more. I think if I had a world title shot would I be happy? You probably can never be satisfied.

I’m realistic enough to understand it’s got to happen. There’s been times over the past few months I’ve almost wrote something on Facebook to say thanks for the support, I’m not going to fight again. I’ve almost written it out a couple times and then thought you never know.

Last year I gave myself an end of year deadline. If I didn’t get offered anything worthwhile, I was going to officially knock it on the head. I said that to my wife and parents and it came and went. And I said well you never know something might come up and it hasn’t. And I think to myself do I push it to the end of this year? I have actually done more training in the last month than I have in the last couple of years. I’m getting fitter, the weight’s coming down a little bit but not a lot. I’m still a super-middleweight but I’m a fit super-middleweight. But realistically I could see myself in the next six months… really, I should just say it now.

But I’ve been through a lot of things in my life, things I’ve overcome with my disability and still been able to push through. I’ve been told I can’t do things my whole life by so-say experts, Doctors who are supposed to know it all and I blocked it out and mentally overcame it and believed in myself.

I’m so used to not giving up or giving in, just calling an end to something. Everything I’ve ever done I’ve pushed through and continued and persevered with it. To do the opposite, that’s the harder thing to do and you’d think that would be the stronger thing for me to do and just say no, not anymore. It’s almost against my DNA to call it a day and to give in, to give up. I know that isn’t what I’d be doing but I guess subconsciously that’s how I view it.