Maxi Hughes (15-2-2) tore up the script on the Mark Dunlop-promoted bill at the Europa Hotel in Belfast tonight, defeating the home favourite, James Fryers (11-1) on a split decision, and thus earning the right to be the next mandatory challenger of the British Super Featherweight Title held by Liam Walsh, in this eliminator contest.
Scores were 97-93 and 96-94 Hughes, and a perplexing 98-93 for Fryers. This writer agreed with the 97-93 scorecard.
Fryers found his Derbyshire opponent too awkward, agile, and smart. He could not hit the slippery southpaw, and when he did, it lacked sufficient power to halt Hughes’ movement.
The contest was also made simpler for Hughes, by the fact that Fryers was not cutting off the ring, and therefore the space for Hughes to escape.
Fryers started to catch up with Hughes in the second, tagging him cleanly on few occasions near end of the round. Again, Fryers stopped Hughes’ movement momentarily with a left hook to the ribs, and a straight right in the next combination in the 5th. However, Hughes regained his authority in the 6th, as he grew in confidence, and landed much more than previously.
Perhaps beginning to realise that the contest was slipping away from him, Fryers upped his workrate in the 8th. Hughes was warned by the referee for a low blow, as he was forced to dig in the trenches more by the Ulsterman. Fryers was able to catch Hughes with some neat hooks to the head.
But once again, Hughes was able regain control of a round after he had lost previously. with his best round of the fight. The looping hooks that Hughes threw, when in a ducking stance was slamming the face of Fryers as he was walking in, before escaping with his tremendous side-stepping movement.
The final round was a barnburner, as Fryers, driven on by his huge support, aspired to get the comeback from behind victory, but alas it wasn’t to be as the Englishman was able to claim the victory at the final bell.
Defeat need be not be the end of the world for Fryers. This was his first step up in class against an experienced opponent who proved to good for him the night. He would have learned more from defeat here, than at any easy win against foreign journeymen. As proven by Hughes, it is possible to comeback from defeat, in order to get another shot at the title.