Hughes excited for pro debut
When James Hughes’ hopes of representing Canada at the last Olympics ended with a semifinal loss at the Olympics Trials in December 2020, his thoughts immediately turned to the pro ranks.
“From that moment until now, seems like such a long time ago,” Hughes said, after a workout last week to prepare for his pro debut this Thursday at the Rebel Entertainment Complex in Toronto. “I had fought 17 fights that year and I fought again in February. I was reaching out to people and I wanted to go pro ASAP and then COVID happened.”
The Saint Francis alumnus wasn’t too concerned when the pandemic first arrived.
“It didn’t hit me at first because it was a month shutdown and we never knew how long it was going to be. It ended up that I didn’t fight for two years,” he said. “I was so disappointed with that.”
Hughes’ opportunity to turn pro came after he caught wind of a sparring session in Toronto.
“I made my way up there, sparred some pros and got to know the promoter, Lee Baxter. He agreed to put me on one of his shows and let me show my talents,” the St. Catharines Amateur Boxing Club member said.
He can’t wait for the fight.
“I have been dreaming about this since I was a kid. It is the next step from when you were an amateur.”
Hughes won’t be getting a lavish pay cheque from his first fight and he also has to sell tickets for the card. He knows he has to pay his dues before the bigger opportunities will come.
“Everybody has to start somewhere.”
One thing that won’t be lacking for Hughes is confidence.
“I think I am the best in the world and I have the style to be a world champ,” he said. “I am long, I am very big for the division (middleweight), I have all the confidence in the world and I have 60 fights in my amateur background.”
St. Catharines coach John Robertson likes Hughes’ chances in his debut against Mikhail Miller, a 36-year-old Toronto native with a pro record of 3-6-1.
“The guy he is fighting for his first fight is not a pushover but James is more skilled than him,” he said. “He is more of a brawler and James is more of a boxer and taller than him.”
Robertson feels Hughes can make a successful transition to the pro level.
“He is a patient fighter and he take his time. In amateur, you really have to show your stuff in three rounds and in the pros you can be a little more patient and take your time. That will translate well.”
Robertson isn’t worried about ring rust.
“He has been doing a lot of sparring here and at other clubs and a lot of the sparring is like fights.”
Hughes has been fighting amateur three-round fights and his pro debut will be four rounds.
“It is the same game plan. It is get on him right from the beginning,” Hughes said.
His preparations have remained the same despite the move to pro from amateur.
“It is showing up, sparring, running and doing hill sprints.”
He can’t wait until the fight is over.
“I had to cut a little weight so I am excited to get a knockout first and then get some greasy food afterwards. I am a big Wendy’s and McDonald’s fan.”
Hughes is not sure what his next step will be after Thursday’s night.
“I am just going to focus on that and see where it takes me. I can’t look too far ahead yet.”
In Hughes corner will be Robertson, SCBC coach Joe Corrigan and Toronto-based coach Billy Martin.
“You get to a certain level that you know what you are doing and to have people in your corner who know you is important.”