The Doncaster fighter was content being known as a professional boxer but after sparring with then British super featherweight champion, Gary Sykes, Hughes’s career goals changed.
It has been a long and less-travelled road to a world title shot for Hughes, as he takes on Jovanni Straffon for the IBO lightweight title at Headingley tonight.
After winning his first nine fights, he earned a shot at the Central Area title but suffered his first career defeat in that bout.
Another six unbeaten contests followed before he took on Martin Ward for the WBC international super featherweight title, but again he tasted defeat.
The proud Yorkshireman – and Leeds Rhinos fan – has suffered five defeats in total throughout his career, all of which have come in title fights.
However, he is now arguably in the form of his life having picked up the WBC international lightweight belt and the British title in his last two fights.
“I never really set out to fight for a world title,” said the 31-year-old.
“Turning pro, I never really had any aspirations, I was just happy to be pro. Then along came the goal of wanting to be British champion after sparring with Gary Sykes.
“That was my goal and I achieved that. Everything that happens now is a bonus. It is just about making sure I take these opportunities with both hands.”
He added: “You can’t buy, borrow, beg or steal experience – you have to go out and earn it. Being against some top domestic fighters has led me to where I am. Every fight I have took has led my to this. It is time to reap the rewards of my resilience. I have been in the pro game for 11 years but I feel like I am only getting started.”
Straffon won the IBO title in May thanks to a stunning first-round knockout against Belfast’s James Tennyson.
It promises to be a raucous atmosphere as Hughes looks to win the world title on home soil.
Hughes knows the Mexican will want to stand and trade as many punches as possible but he doesn’t plan to leave himself open to a knockout blow.
“Just don’t stand and trade with him – it is as simple as that,” responded Hughes when asked what he needed to do to leave Headingley as a world champion.
“Seeing his eyes at the face-off, it felt like he was trying to intimidate me. I know what he is going to do, he wants me to stand and fight.”