Jamie Hughes is not your normal boxer. He’s not your normal person, truth be told. But who wants normal? Truth is an important word to the new #TeamSouthpawJab man; he relishes in brutal honesty, he loves seeing reality hit home like a headbutt. This is a man who knows pain, and his playful, ever so slightly joyous ability to make a room his own, then set fire to the party and watch it burn is both endearing (how many people are really that honest?) and unique. When I caught up with him, just after his recent win, and trip to an art gallery, the middleweight was no less truthful, funny and just Jamie than usual.
Not long since being out at York Hall, dominating Darryl Sharp in his first six rounder, Hughes had plenty to say about a fight in which a hand injury caused a change of tack, as the he boxed to the orders of much respected, long time trainer John Rooney.
“I felt comfortable, I thought the fight was easy, I wanted more from the opponent but I didn’t get it, which was disappointing. But he got hurt in the first round and he didn’t want it after that.”
Surely though, you can’t be unhappy with your opponent’s performance?
“Yeah I can be unhappy with his performance!”
Taking obvious delight in having caused his victim some pain, (“I felt my hand go in to his stomach”) Jamie elaborates on his frustrations, and how the hand injury came about,
“I saw the whole face change, that’s when he covered up, went in to a shell. Had his hands right up, showing me the forehead, so I just just thought I’m gonna keep punching you on your forehead until you open up some next part of your face for me to hit. And that’s how I hurt my hand. Maybe that was his gameplan…
When you’re fighting a southpaw it’s like the right hand becomes a jab as well, so once I hurt my right hand I had to start using my left hand to jab more. I was trying to pull his gloves down and parry to create openings as well but, my timing was a little bit off and also I didn’t want to open up the cut again.”
Having suffered some rather brutal cuts, Hughes was keen to not go through that again, for the first time completing the distance required for a shot at a title. He’ll probably hate to be called this, but Jamie is a smart guy, and an even smarter fighter. He spars with an unabashed, almost reckless abandon; as if he isn’t taking it seriously. It’s never clear whether he is or not, but those who know John Rooney will know the inimitable, “Jamie!” being shouted in John’s Belfast accent as Jamie toys with yet another duellist.
“I wanted to make the fight as easy as possible for me, and that meant not getting hit, not getting cut… I’ve boxed eighteen rounds now as a pro, in a year and a bit. I’m happy just to get as many rounds in as possible. I ain’t even worried about stopping people. People get a bit weird about stopping opponents but I know the power is there, there’s no question, I know it is there.”
But what next? Well, here is where the fighter’s desire and the trainer’s acumen depart from one another.
“What I wanna do? I want that Southern Area title. That’s what I want. What my team want is another six, eight then ten. John wants to take his time. Not cut any corners. I want to go as far as possible, otherwise it’s pointless doing. I don’t make any money out of this, prospects don’t make any money.”
It’s an astute biopsy of the business of boxing. Jamie continues,
“I’ll tell you something, these guys who turn up and go in the red corner and all the prospects, in inverted commas, who sell all the tickets and make all the money to pay them; who is the mug in all this? It’s me, I’m the fucking mug, me, us in the home corner.”
Truthful, honest, sweary. Jamie. Despite his cynicism, Hughes is excited for the future and very much happy in the moment. “I’m over the moon, I’m sat in Borough Market, it’s sunny, I’ve got a T-shirt!
Since the turn of the year, boxing, I’ve got new love for it. Since that Callum Ide fight and training with Erik (Lee Briscoe- strength and conditioning coach), I’m feeling good in the gym, I’m buzzing, before I was all depressed and that. Now I’m like Picasso man, I’ve got a muse and some motivation and I’m turning out my best work, that’s how I am at the moment. A 1932 Picasso.”
A 1932 Picasso. Then a final word to his new team, Hughes signs off with,
“I’m joining a team of champions. Guys, let’s fucking have it!”