Cinderella Returns: Underdog Maxi Hughes Faces Off With Ex-Champ George Kambosos

The IBO lightweight champion goes in with the former unified king
08:00, 17 Jul 2023

The term 'Cinderella Man' has been applied to many of boxing’s underdogs since James J. Braddock somehow beat Max Baer for the heavyweight championship in 1935. Maxi Hughes is the latest to wear the crown, as the British lightweight has been in the form of his life against all odds.

Hughes will be adopting the underdog role once again on Saturday as he takes on George Kambosos Jr. ‘Ferocious’ is coming off three consecutive fights for the unified lightweight championship. He won the first, upsetting Teofimo Lopez to capture the crown. Two chastening points losses to Devin Haney put him back in his place, but the Australian has still mixed in world class for a few years now.

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Hughes has been operating at a level below, but he has found form on a higher plain than anyone predicted. ‘Maximus’ had gone 23-5-2 when he was matched double-tough against IBO lightweight champion Jovanni Straffon. 

The Yorkshireman had begun to pull the nose up on a mixed career by the time of the fringe world title fight, snagging the British lightweight title with an eighth-round knockout of Paul Hyland Jr in his previous fight. But the cultured Straffon was seen as a different proposition altogether. British fans had been given a glimpse of ‘Impacto’ four months before. Straffon had destroyed highly-regarded James Tennyson in one brutal round in Manchester. It was the Mexican’s third fight in a row that didn’t make it past the second round. This was a fighter to be feared.

But Hughes displayed no such concerns as he manfully boxed and slugged, not letting Straffon into the fight. If Maxi was wary of Straffon’s power, he didn’t show it, walking the champion down and ripping the title from his grasp. It was a star-making display. Overnight, Hughes went from an up-and-down domestic fighter to a world champion. The fact it was the lightly-regarded IBO version took nothing away from the achievement given ‘Maximus’ had travelled further than anyone thought possible.

Sometimes the exploits of a successful underdog can take on an 'after the Lord Mayor’s Show' feel. History is littered with fighters who won the big one against the odds and never recaptured that form. Arguably, Kambosos is fighting here to prove that he isn’t such a figure. But for Hughes, finding himself at lofty new heights hasn’t proved a problem. The 33-year-old simply hasn’t stopped winning.

First came an IBO title defence against former British featherweight champion Ryan Walsh, Hughes triumphed, cutting the Norfolk man on the way to a unanimous decision nod. Then came arguably his best victory, a majority decision win against former world champion Kid Galahad last September. Hughes is now ranked by two of the four major governing bodies. A win over Kambosos will likely see him appear in all four rankings, a space the Australian currently occupies.

For Kambosos, this fight is a different proposition from his most recent outings. For the first time since his 2019 win over Richard Pena. ‘Ferocious’ was up against it in wins over ex-champions Mickey Bey and Lee Selby before dethroning Lopez. The Haney fights saw him priced as an underdog too. The 30-year-old isn’t used to being the favoured man.

Hughes is right where he’s used to being, another big assignment he isn’t expected win. And yet ‘Maximus’ keeps doing exactly that. If he wins this one, it will propel him to even greater heights. At 33 and with five losses on his record, the Yorkshire-born star can earn himself a shot at a genuine world title. This really is a Cinderella story worthy of Jimmy Braddock himself.

kambosos vs hughes fight odds*

*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change

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