DiBella Entertainment has expanded its impressive stable of female bantamweights with the signing of undefeated WBA Bantamweight World Champion Nina Hughes. Hughes, who hails from Billericay, Essex, England, was the fastest ever British professional boxer to win a world title when she captured the WBA strap in just her fifth fight.
In November 2022, at 40 years old, Hughes, now 6-0 (2 KOs), took a chance, and traveled to Dubai to face the previously undefeated Jamie Mitchell, 9-1-2 (5 KOs).
“People dismissed me because of my age,” said Hughes. “They laughed at me.”
Hughes was undeterred. Using a consistent jab and getting the better of the exchanges, she won a 10-round unanimous decision against Mitchell, cementing her status as the WBA champion at 118 pounds.
The doubters didn’t consider her extensive and successful amateur career, one that began at 25 years old when she stepped foot into Chadwell St. Mary Amateur Boxing Club in Essex. She had stopped in for a boxercise class, with the intention of getting in shape. She so enjoyed it that her coach convinced her to try one amateur fight. She won her fight and was hooked.
She would go on to travel the world, representing her home country in numerous international tournaments, engaging in more than 70 amateur fights. It was a career that would be put on hold after a heartbreaking loss to Nicola Adams in the 2012 Olympic trials.
Hughes took some time off to start a family. Now a single mother of two sons, she relishes the opportunity to show them how hard work and dedication can pay off.
“My oldest son, Leo, carries the belt to the ring with me,” said Hughes. “He would carry the Commonwealth title I won in my third fight and now he carries my WBA belt.”
Her younger son is still getting acquainted with the sweet science but sometimes accompanies his mother to the gym. Both boys look up to their mom and she fights for them.
“My kids push me,” said Hughes. “I want to succeed for them. I want them to see me keep winning, and see the determination that pushes me on. I promise them a trip to the toy shop every time I win, so I can’t be losing.”
After her first son was born, Hughes returned to boxing to get back into shape post-pregnancy. To help give her extra motivation, she planned to fight in one more amateur bout. However, she wouldn’t stop at just one, competing in the amateur circuit for several more years.
She made her professional debut in December 2021, winning a decision against a far more experienced professional in Klaudia Ferenczi, a veteran of 114 fights. Hughes has been trained by Kevin Lilley, out of Newlands Gym in Essex, since her pro debut. She has also recently signed with manager Leon Sudbury.
One of Hughes’ keys to success is the support around her. Working part time as a legal secretary, mostly from home, Hughes has been able to get training in during her lunch break, with the approval of her employers who traveled to Dubai to see her win her world title. Hughes’ parents also play a pivotal role in helping with her children.
On June 10, 2023, Hughes made the first defense of her WBA title, winning a near-shutout 10-round unanimous decision against Katie Healy at Wembley Arena in England.
“I’m really excited to carry on my journey with DiBella Entertainment,” said Hughes of the signing. “I can’t wait to get back in the ring. I want to become the unified world champion and then become undisputed.”
“I’m thrilled to have Nina join our stable,” said Lou DiBella, President of DiBella Entertainment. “She’s a great lady, and I’m proud to promote another resilient single mom who never quit on her dream.
“This is such a stacked division, and we have several bantamweights on the DiBella roster,” DiBella continued. “We’re going to get Nina busy and fighting. There are so many good fights to make at this weight, and I’m excited to work with Nina, Leon and Kevin.”
The DiBella Entertainment stable includes some of the top talent in the women’s bantamweight division. IBF World Champion Miyo Yoshida, IBO World Champion Amanda Galle, IBF #1 mandatory contender Shurretta Metcalf, and top Australian fighter Cherneka Johnson, a former world champion, all count themselves among DiBella’s roster of talented women.
Yoshida, Metcalf and long-time DBE fighter Heather Hardy are also single mothers. Hardy fights for her daughter Annie’s college tuition, Metcalf is raising two sons, one with autism, and the world saw Yoshida share her world title victory with her daughter Miina.
Twitter: @LouDiBella, @DiBellaEnt