Hughes eyes pro game
Boxer James Hughes’ hopes of representing Canada at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo ended with a semifinal loss in mid-December at the Canadian Olympic trials in Montreal.
The St. Catharines Amateur Boxing Club member opened with an unanimous decision victory over British Columbia’s Anthony Varela.
“I handled him pretty easily and I cruised as much as I could so I would have as much left in the tank as possible,” the St. Catharines resident said.
The 19-year-old fighter then lost a split decision to Newfoundland’s Junior Petanqui, the Canadian B champion. Petanqui would go on to lose a close split decision to national champion Wyatt Sanford in the final.
“It was honestly a close fight and I thought after the fight that I had won it,” Hughes said, of the semifinal match. “I went back to the coaches and told them we had won it, but that’s boxing. A lot of people said I landed more significant shots but he was a little bit busier.
“It is hard to tell when you are in the action, because you don’t remember much.”
Hughes has been disappointed before when he hasn’t clearly won a fight and left it open to the interpretation of the judges.
“You obviously want to go out there and dominate as much as possible, but it was a tough fight.”
It was another great learning experience for Hughes, who qualified for the trials by winning the 69-kilogram division at the Ontario Silver Gloves boxing tournament in Toronto.
“First of all, I learned not to leave it in the judges’ hands,” he said. “I have to go out and give it my all. When I watched it afterwards, I wasn’t too impressed with myself.”
He also learned to ditch the game plan on the fly and get busy if the fight is close.
Hughes enjoyed his first Olympic trials.
“Obviously I wanted to win but the experience was awesome. I had fun when I was there and I got two more fights under my belt,” he said. “All you can ask for as an amateur is experience.”
He also took the loss in stride
“I took it as a positive and I wasn’t too bothered,” he said. “I don’t care if the judges say I won or lost.”
His first Olympic trials experience may end up being his last.
“I’m not even worried about the next four years and I am on to the next thing,” the St. Francis alumnus said. “I want to keep the ball rolling, the Brampton Cup is next and I want to be ready for that.
“The end goal is for me to turn pro eventually and I don’t think I am going to stick around (as an amateur) for another four years.”
His desire to turn pro is simple.
“I want to make some money,” he said, with a laugh. “If I am going to be putting all this time in the gym, I want to get some money out of it. I obviously love this sport, but some money would be nice.”
Hughes’s cousin Antonio Napolitano also trains at the St. Catharines club and Napolitano is unbeaten in the pro ranks.
“It’s big for me because he was the first one I know to take that step,” Hughes said. “He led the way.”
Napolitano is a good mentor for Hughes.
“In the gym, he puts in the work and he works like a dog,” he said. “Anyone beside you working that hard, you have to look up to them.”
Hughes isn’t sure when exactly he will take the plunge into pro boxing.
“The nationals are coming up and I might give that a shot and then we will see after that,” he said. “I don’t want to put anything in stone.”
Hughes took a few weeks off after the trials before returning to the gym. He trains five days a week at the club and also does his road work every day.
“It’s the love of the game and maybe one day I can hold a world title belt,” he said. “You never know. I want to see how far it takes me.”
With that goal, comes an epiphany.
“I realize that I have to stop with the too many nights off and going out partying,” Hughes said. “I have to stay in the good books and focus a lot more on myself.”
Next up for the St. Catharines boxing club is the Ray McGibbon Gloves Viva Las Vegas Show on Friday, March 6 at the Optimist Club on Napier Street in St. Catharines.
Monies raised from the event will be used to help send a team of St. Catharines boxers to Las Vegas.
Boxing will begin at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $15 at the door and $20 in person. Also available are VIP tables and they can be reserved by calling 905-988-1244.