The Doncaster fighter had retired but was lured back by a feeling he still had the potential to win major titles.
And in an English lightweight title eliminator against an unbeaten opponent, Hughes demonstrated there may well be something in that feeling as he demolished McLaren with a slick performance.
Showing no signs of ring rust, he demonstrated excellent hand speed and jabbed well against a cautious opponent.
Hughes counter punched with great accuracy, getting in and out quickly with little coming back the other way.
By the third round Hughes was beginning to dismantle McLaren, with left hands regularly piercing the guard.
He began to land hooks and overhand lefts that McLaren had little answer for.
A volume of shots had McLaren down early in the fourth and while he made the count, the end was in sight.
Hughes maintained the intense pressure, clipping McLaren and landing a harsh body shot than dropped him again with referee John Latham waving the fight off.
Sheffield super middleweight Christian Kinsiona stopped Scott Hillman in the third of six rounds, having had his opponent down twice in the second.
There was also a stoppage win for Doncaster's Jamie Hughes, who ended his cruiserweight clash with Zac Thompson in the second round.
Jimmy Joe Flint battled out a surprise draw with journeyman Lee Connelly, ending his 100 per cent record in his seventh fight.
Lewis Booth made it a perfect ten with a shut out points win over Danny Little while Jack Roberts eased through his second pro contest by outpointing Andy Harris.