In conversation with disabled boxer Joe Hughes

At the age of eight Joe Hughes started boxing after his dad cunningly tricked him into doing his physiotherapy exercises. Born with Erb’s palsy, Joe hasn’t let his condition hold him back from working towards his dream: winning a British boxing title.

Erb’s palsy is the paralysis of the arm due to an injury during childbirth. People living with Erb’s palsy can make movement difficult in some cases, with movement of the shoulder or upper arm challenging.

Despite movement difficulties, boxer Joe Hughes has not let this hold him back. Already making waves in the world of boxing, we caught up with Joe ahead of his fight at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool on Saturday (30 March) to discuss boxing with a disability.

Living with Erb’s palsy, how has the impacted on the way you train and fight as a boxer?

I have to do extra training on both sides: the right to try and improve it so that it will become more effective, but also on the left as I use it so much. I have to make sure my left side is conditioned well enough to cope with the extra work it does in a fight. My style is based mainly around attacking with my left and using the right more for defence and only sparingly as an attack.

Your next fight is in Liverpool on 30 March, how are you preparing for it?

Lots of hard work like any boxer, lots of traditional boxing training, bags, pads, sparring as well as running and boxing specific strength and conditioning, usually two or three sessions a day depending on how close to the fight I am.

In what way are you working towards winning a British title?

The same way as I do for any fight – even though the European title is a bigger title – the British has a lot of history and prestige attached to it, and has always been a title I’ve been after, I drew for it in the past in a fight I felt I won, so it would be great to officially win it this time.

During your matches, are there any adaptations made to compensate symptoms of Erb’s palsy? 

Yes, I have to try and score most of my punches with my left in order to be effective as my right is nowhere near the same standard as my left.

What was it like to become the European Super Lightweight champion?

It was a great feeling, I was the underdog going in to the fight and most expected me to lose so to go over to Italy and win was brilliant. The only title bigger than the European is the world title so it was a huge achievement for me.

You’re making waves as a boxer, but living with Erb’s palsy, how are you using your platform to promote the condition?

Most people don’t have a clue what it is as it’s not particularly well known. It would be great to raise more awareness of Erb’s to help people living with it and also to help avoid it happening in the first place. 

Finally, what advice do you have for disabled people who are interested in getting involved with boxing, but are apprehensive their disability will hold them back?

Go for it! Boxing has helped me and my Erb’s greatly and I would recommend it to anyone, even if it’s just for the training and not to compete if you want to give it a go don’t let anything stop you.

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