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Walsh and Hughes clash at the crossroads in Bethnal Green

Liam Walsh
Action Images/Peter Cziborra
Lightweights Liam Walsh and Maxi Hughes put their careers on the line in a good-looking 10-rounder at York Hall, Bethnal Green, writes Matt Bozeat

LIAM WALSH and Maxi Hughes put their careers on the line in a good-looking 10-round lightweight clash on MTK’s show at York Hall in Bethnal Green this Saturday (November 9). Broadcast duties are shared by iFL TV (UK) and ESPN+ (US).

From the old pit village of Rossington in Yorkshire, southpaw Hughes is domestic boxing’s nearly man, twice beaten for the British super-featherweight title, while Walsh has shown moments of genuine world class during his 22-1 (15) career. Walsh was out for two years following his sole loss, to Gervonta Davis in a challenge for the IBF 130lb belt in May 2017. That fight was over before it even really began.

After two quiet rounds spent trying to draw mistakes from each other, Walsh was buzzed. He tried to bluff his way through and ended up getting dropped and stopped, possibly prematurely. The manner of that loss must have been so hard to take. Ever since he was a small boy, Liam’s late father had given him the belief that one day he would be a world champion. “I lost around 25 of my first 30 amateur bouts and dad still said it,” he remembered. When his chance finally came, he left the ring knowing he could have given more of himself.

Of the three boxing brothers – twin Ryan is British featherweight champion and elder sibling Michael could be returning – Liam was always the quiet and thoughtful one and thankfully, he had other things to occupy his mind during his two years out of the ring. The father of four built a house and opened a couple of ice cream shops in Cromer, the charmingly shabby Victorian seaside town where he’s lived since he was nine years old.

“Now I’m cutting weight I’m beginning to think it’s the worst idea I’ve ever had,” he joked the other week. Whether it’s because of his sweet tooth or not, Walsh has decided that at 33, his battle to get down to 130lbs is over. He was 136lbs for his comeback fight in May and looked sharp in dispatching journeyman Reynaldo Cajina with a third-round body shot. It was good to see Walsh back. He’s always been very watchable; a smooth switch-hitter who takes risks.

On his best night, he boxed sublimely to school Andrey Klimov (then-19-2) over 12 rounds in October 2016, but to the annoyance of trainer Graham Everett and the delight of fans, Liam likes a fight and as he showed when out-toughing Paul Appleby in one of 2011’s best domestic bouts, he has the heart for a hard scrap.

Now 29, Hughes is known as a gritty and capable left-hander who’s always in the fight. Only Sam Bowen, in a clash for the vacant British 130lb belt last March, has ever really got hold of him in his 19-4-2 (4) career. Hughes had his moments early on, but ultimately, Bowen was too strong (l rsf 8).    

An honest pro, Hughes has boxed once since, unravelling the previously undefeated Kieran McLaren with body shots in four rounds in July, and following that, he switched trainers to work with Sean O’Hagan. Josh Warrington’s father is a better trainer than he’s given credit for, but even with O’Hagan in his corner, the likelihood is Hughes will be beaten sometime in the second half of the fight.

Gervonta Davis vs Liam Walsh
Walsh’s big night against Gervonta Davis ended in disappointment (Action Images/Andrew Couldridge)

The 10-rounder between the 17-0 (2) Michael McKinson and Argentine Luis Veron gives the confident Portsmouth southpaw with the ‘catch me if you can’ style the chance to break into the WBO top 10 at 147lbs. Veron is ranked No. 6 after compiling a 17-0-2 (8) record in his home country. The ranking flatters the 28-year-old, who has drawn his last two against domestic opponents.

McKinson’s recent form is rather better. In July, he pulled away in the later rounds to unanimously outpoint Russian puncher Evgeny Pavko. McKinson says he struggled to find his rhythm that night because he had limited sparring. With a spell training with Tim Witherspoon behind him ahead of this, he can beat Veron clearly on points.

Northampton’s Chantelle Cameron, 11-0 (7), can become the WBC’s mandatory challenger at two weights with victory over Anahi Sanchez, 19-4 (11). Already in line for a shot at the WBC lightweight crown after dominating Anisha Basheel in July (ud 10), Cameron is up at 140lbs to take on the Argentine – a former world champion at both super-featherweight and 135lbs.   

The 10-twos fight also gives Cameron the chance to prove a point to Katie Taylor and Jessica McCaskill, who are both on her radar. Taylor and McCaskill each beat Sanchez unanimously on points and Cameron said: “I want to make a statement. I want to demolish her.”   

Sanchez doesn’t have the quickest of feet or hands, but she’s full of fight. When she gets hit, Sanchez hits back. She got off the floor from a body shot to give Taylor one of her tougher nights (October 2017) and the crowd warmed to her as she slugged with McCaskill in May. Cameron predicts that Sanchez will give her “my toughest fight,” but still, the Jamie Moore-trained box-fighter looks better in all departments and could get the stoppage she wants. Essex middleweight Danny Dignum, 11-0 (5), steps up for what he describes as his first 50-50 fight – a 10-rounder against Coalisland’s Conrad Cummings, 17-3-1 (7). To beat the Northern Irishman you need heart, and southpaw Dignum can walk him onto punches and dig in when required to win on points.

THE VERDICT: Lots to look forward to in the East End.

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