Maxi Hughes continued the remarkable upturn to his career as he outboxed Jovanni Straffon to claim the IBO lightweight title on the Lara-Warrington undercard in Leeds.
A little over a year ago, Hughes’s career seemed to be going nowhere fast. But an upset win over Jono Carroll, was followed by a win over unbeaten Kazakh Viktor Kotochigov in Dubai and then victory over Paul Hyland Jr to claim the British title.
Winning the fringe IBO title might not be the end of his journey either, as it puts the 31-year-old in line for some exciting fights in a division where the best seem to be largely unwilling to fight the best.
Hughes was brilliant. Boxing to an excellent rhythm, he picked off Straffon, beating him to the punch throughout, while never offering the Mexican a target.
Straffon had blown away James Tennyson on his last journey to the UK. But there was no chance that Hughes was going to get involved early on. Instead, he bobbed in and out, kept his hands high, moved out of distance and used a hard southpaw jab to throw the Mexican off balance. Straffon swung away, but there was little to aim at.
At the end of the third round, as Hughes turned away from another attempted left hook, Straffon frustratingly waved at Hughes as if to invite him in for a fight. And Hughes did step things up in the fourth, using his left more and landing when he tempted the Mexican to throw and miss.
Early in the fifth, Hughes landed a huge left that turned Straffon’s legs to rubber. He followed up, landing time and again, while Straffon stumbled around the ring, but somehow, he did not go down. By the end of the round, Hughes looked to have punched himself out, while Straffon was still standing.
Hughes continued to press his advantage in the sixth round, though, landing well to the body and hammering the left over the top.
With the first half of the fight seemingly in the bag, Hughes boxed with some assurance from the seventh onwards, as Straffon tried to unload but left himself open to Hughes’s counters. By the later rounds, Straffon was falling over his feet in his desperation to land a big shot to turn matters around. But it was never going to come and he left himself open for Hughes’s sharp counters.
The result was a formality, Howard Foster and Leszek Jankowiak giving it to Hughes by 120-117 and Pawel Kardyni by 119-109.
Ebanie Bridges looked to be handed a bit of a gift as she claimed victory on the scorecard of referee Steve Gray against Mailys Gangloff in their bantamweight eight-rounder.
Bridges started well but faded in the second half of the fight, having appeared to pick up an injury to her right hand in the third round.
Gangloff, the French champion, who had lost to Ellie Scotney in March, was the busier and more accurate, taking over the fight from the fourth round onwards and making Bridges look one-paced.
Bridges was happy to take one to try to land one early on and threatened to walk through her French opponent. She got through with two hard rights in the first as she walked forward and forced Gangloff back.
Gangloff was busy but couldn’t really keep Bridges off her. In the second round, a bruise started under Bridges’s right eye, but the more the Australian came forward the more she measured Gangloff with her looping right hand.
The fourth was a better one for the French boxer, as Bridges was caught repeatedly on the way in and seemed to tire, while there were signs she had hurt her right hand, as she grimaced whenever she threw it.
The fifth went the same way and Gangloff couldn’t miss Bridges in the sixth, beating her to the punch and while Bridges put in a big effort in the seventh round, Gangloff was producing all the better work and finished the round landing two big rights.
If there was any doubt about the result, Gangloff looked to settle things in the last, as she finished in style, rocking Bridges back in the final minute. Referee Gray decided differently, though, scoring it 77-76 to Bridges.