Not the average Joe – “What I’ve achieved with Erb’s Palsy means you can achieve what you want”

In his latest column for Boxing News former European super-lightweight champion Joe Hughes talks about his week teaching boxing to schoolkids, why having a disability shouldn’t hold you back and gives his thoughts on Anthony Joshua’s latest win.

Last Friday I was at a Primary School summer camp just outside Bristol. That went well. The company we’re doing it with put on different sports or games. They work with different schools, and I get sent for one day to do a bit of boxing with the kids there. You get some that are really interested and enthusiastic and want to know everything about it. And you get a few of the kids that are not interested in the slightest. I won’t be changing my profession to P.E teacher any time soon. But it’s fun, something different and the majority seem to enjoy it.

When I get there, I normally bring one of my belts and do a talk about who I am because most of them don’t know who I am. I’ll tell them about my career and my disability Erb’s Palsy because that’s a big part of my career and what I’ve achieved despite having it.

This week I worked with an autistic lad who goes to a specialist school but he’s struggling over the summer holidays. He’s quite enthusiastic and wanted to do some boxing. I’m going to be working with him a bit more over the summer holidays. Some of the kids I work with don’t go to school for whatever reason, so it makes it easier to find time with them but when they’re at school it makes it harder to find that time to work with them. He seemed to get something out of it. When it’s like that it’s rewarding work.

In future columns I do want to speak about the incompetency in boxing in terms of what it’s like in the professional boxing world. I’ll have some little stories of the way I’ve been treated over the years. I’d also like to speak about my disability. I go back and forth in my head about it because I sometimes think to myself if I wasn’t disabled, I’d be a world champion and I’d be this, I’d be that. At the same time, I think I probably would never have been a boxer or set foot in a boxing gym. A question I get asked a lot is, what do you think you’d be like if you didn’t have it. It’s not like I was 25, on the way up and got injured. My whole life would have been different.

I get a lot of messages off parents who have kids with Erb’s Palsy specifically or children with other disabilities. Just because they’ve got a disability doesn’t mean it’s going to ruin their life or give them less of a life or be less happy or anything like that. What I say to the kids is what I’ve achieved with Erb’s Palsy means you can achieve what you want.

I saw some of the Derek Chisora fight last Saturday. He’s a great entertainer, a great personality and who is anyone else outside of the ring to tell him he can’t do it anymore. If you don’t wanna watch it don’t watch it. If people had said to me, you can’t do certain things then I would have the right hump. I know it’s a different situation.

There will be concerns regarding Chisora’s wellbeing in the future. That is something I can understand people being worried about. The person who should be most worried about it is him and his family. It’s up to him. If he’s passing the medical, I suppose what else can you do.

It wasn’t the most impressive performance from Anthony Joshua against Robert Helenius. He did what he needed to in terms of winning and with a spectacular knockout. It still looked to me he was still unsure of letting his hands go. There were moments where he was boxing at range nicely, landing the jab and then he’d smother himself whereas in the past he would have rattled off a five or six shot combination and done some real damage. And with an opponent like Helenius that’s what I would have liked to have seen him do.

It’s difficult after having to change opponent so close to a fight so there are reasons you could sort of give. But do I see him becoming the best heavyweight in the world again? Not off the back of that performance or his last few. It doesn’t mean he can’t be but there’s a lot of work to do still. The most passion he showed on the night was after the fight. It was almost like there was a huge relief at the end so maybe all of it was a mental release for him.

Me, my wife, and my oldest son are going up Pen Y Fan in Wales this weekend. My oldest is into that type of thing. He did a Race for Life a while ago and did 5k in 35 mins. He’s only six. My mother-in-law went up Pen Y Fan it for charity a couple of months ago and since then he’s wanted to do it. He’ll be alright, I’m sure, knowing him.

I’ll be coaching Saturday morning then it’s the Women’s World Cup Final on Sunday. My oldest is right into his football. We watched the match against Australia, and he was jumping all around the living room. It would be quite some feat if they won.

On Monday I’ll be back to coaching and working away trying to get by.

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