Kid Galahad left the ring in disbelief.
The former IBF featherweight titlist and his team could not have been more disappointed in the announced scores, as Maxi Hughes escaped their twelve-round lightweight bout with a majority decision win. Terry O’Connor (114-114) had the contest even, overruled by Marcos Morales (116-111) and Giulio Piras (114-113) in favor of Hughes in Saturday’s DAZN main event from Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham, England.
Hughes defended his lightly regarded IBO lightweight title with the win.
Galahad hadn’t fought since his stunning knockout loss to former IBF junior featherweight titlist Kiko Martinez to end his IBF featherweight title reign last November 13 in his Sheffield hometown. The now former titlist made the bold decision to move up two weight divisions to face the streaking Hughes, who carried a six-fight win streak into Saturday’s makeshift main event.
The 32-year-old Galahad physically appeared to carry the extra weight well, looking filled out at a career-heaviest 134.7 pounds during Friday’s weigh-in. His skills seemed sharp in the early going, working his jab out of a southpaw stance as Hughes struggled to find his offensive groove.
Galahad flipped between orthodox and southpaw throughout round three, enjoying success from both sides. Hughes—fighting out of his customary southpaw stance throughout the fight—continued to fight behind a high guard, offering constant upper body movement but rarely having an opportunity to let his hands go. Hughes managed a straight left hand late in the round, providing minimal returns.
Action was slow in rounds four and five, with both boxers pawing with their respective jabs. Yorkshire’s Hughes picked up the pace in round six, landing a straight left hand. Galahad remained poised, shaking off the blow and smartly boxing out of an orthodox stance. Referee Marcus McDonnell grew tired of having to break up several clinches, warning Galahad to refrain from tying up every time Hughes worked his way inside.
Hughes found a home for his jab in the second half of the fight. Galahad was less successful with legal scoring blows, drawing a final warning for pushing Hughes back with his right palm as the two became entangled during an exchange. Hughes closed the round with a jab and a left hand over the top of Galahad’s guard.
The pace threatened to intensify at the start of round nine. Hughes let his hands go at the urging of his corner, to which Galahad responded with more clinches. Hughes adapted to the approach by offering more movement whenever Galahad looked to tie up the 32-year-old southpaw. Hughes’ jab set up straight left hands which found their mark upstairs, before moving out of harm’s way as Galahad looked to counter.
Galahad exhausted the patience of referee McDonnell, who deducted a point from the former titlist early in round ten for leading with his head. The infraction forced Galahad to settle down and box cleanly, as Hughes was unable to capitalize on what could have been a two-point round at a crucial point in the fight.
Hughes connected with a right uppercut at the start of round eleven, coming as both boxers pawed and fell short with their jabs. Galahad stood in the center of the ring, shooting his jab but not able to land anything behind it. Hughes caught Galahad with a left hand to the body roughly one minute into the round. A clinch and clash of heads left Hughes with a cut over his left eye, opting to stick and move in the final minute of the frame.
Both main event participants fought with a sense of urgency in the twelfth and final round. Hughes was constantly on the move while Galahad was on the hunt. Hughes often fell short with his punches as Galahad avoided the incoming and responded with his jab and occasional right hand. Neither boxer was able to land anything of consequence or substance down the stretch, as the two embraced at the final bell while sweating out the final decision.
Galahad suffers his second straight defeat as he falls to 28-3 (17KOs). He has yet to win since claiming the vacant IBF featherweight title in an eleventh-round knockout of James ‘Jazza’ Dickens in their rematch last August 7 in Brentwood, Essex. He was in control through four-plus rounds in his title defense against Martinez before getting clipped late in round five and finishing in the sixth round of his final fight at featherweight.
Hughes advances to 26-5-2 (5KOs) as he picks up his seventh straight win. The fight came about after he was once asked to remain prepared for a possible showdown with unbeaten lightweight contender Ryan Garcia. The call made to the Brit was more of a backup plan, before Hughes moved onto the fight that could be made.
Following Saturday’s victory, Hughes and Matchroom Boxing chairman Eddie Hearn both indicated a strong desire to pursue a lucrative fight in the U.S.
Hughes-Galahad was elevated to main event after secondary WBA featherweight titlist Leigh Wood was forced to withdraw from a planned title defense against Maurcio 'Bronco' Lara due to a biceps injury suffered during training camp.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox