Maxi Hughes turns in valiant performance as he misses out in title contest with Liam Walsh
Brave Maxi Hughes far from disgraced himself as he came up short in his bid for the WBO European lightweight title against Liam Walsh.
In a thoroughly energetic and superbly paced contest, Hughes was on the wrong end of a unanimous points decision despite giving the new champion plenty to think about over ten rounds.
The Rossington fighter showed tremendous defensive skill and smarts to consistently make Walsh miss, and worked well off the jab.
But it was the aggression of Walsh – whose only career defeat came when challenging Gervonta Davis for a world title – that likely saw him take scorecards of 97-93, 98-92 and 96-94.
Multiple rounds were exceptionally close and the wider of the cards look more than a little harsh on Hughes’ overall performance.
Walsh seemed to struggle to find his range in the early stages against southpaw Hughes, who showed excellent head and foot movement to steer clear of danger for long periods of the first round.
Walsh did find success with a one-two combination but failed to build upon it in what was a positive opening from Hughes.
It was a tentative opening to the second round from both fighters but Walsh began to let his hands go more frequently as time progressed and showed some decent accuracy off the jab.
Walsh controlled the middle of the ring in the third with Hughes having trouble making any headway. There was little flashy from the Lancashire fighter but he was again effective with the jab.
Hughes, watched on by gym mate IBF featherweight champion Josh Warrington, enjoyed a good fourth round as he showed smart defences, making Walsh miss regularly and firing back with some smart jabbing of his own.
The fifth was excellent from Hughes’ perspective. Walsh came out aggressively at the start of the round but soon grew frustrated as he failed to trouble the Rossington fighter.
Walsh then switched to the southpaw stance himself but tasted several jabs and straights for his trouble before seeking to rough up the fight with a dose of wrestling, through which Hughes showed very good composure.
Walsh appeared to learn his lesson, taking a more considered approach at the start of the sixth and produced some good accuracy with the jab.
He was still looking for a way to unsettle Hughes and even disengaged at one point to throw the Doncaster fighter off, without real success.
Walsh was certainly the aggressor with Hughes spending much of his time evading shots, and doing a good job at that.
The pace quickened considerably in the seventh with both men letting their hands go with greater frequency.
Again Walsh appeared to try to unsettle Hughes by dropping his hands and beckoning him on, which saw him taste a sharp one-two combination.
But then Walsh finally threw caution to the wind and attempted to walk Hughes down, enjoying his best spell of the fight to that point in the process.
For the first time the former world title challenger knocked Hughes out of his groove and consistently landed shots.
Again Walsh came on strong in the second half of the eighth round after both men had enjoyed some early success.
The aggression from the Lancastrian was a big factor as he pushed forward and threw multiple quick shots which Hughes struggled to respond to.
A stiff body shot was the last punch thrown in the round and appeared to trouble Hughes.
But he pressed on in the ninth, looking to close down the space and disrupt Walsh’s work.
Again however, Walsh saved his more energetic work for the later stages of the round, finishing strongly with a barrage of shots.
And Walsh was stronger in the final round, showing good accuracy as he regularly picked off Hughes, who was at his most aggressive in search of a big round.
With the defeat, Hughes slips to 19-5-2.