An emotional Ryan Walsh apologised to his fans after seeing his world title dream crumble.

Walsh was on the receiving end of a unanimous decision in Leeds on Saturday night which saw Maxi Hughes successfully defend his IBO world lightweight title at the first attempt.

Eastern Daily Press: Ryan Walsh can only look on as Steve Gray raises Maxi Hughes' arm in victoryRyan Walsh can only look on as Steve Gray raises Maxi Hughes' arm in victory (Image: ©Mark Robinson Photography/Matchroom)

The judges scored it 120-108, 119-109, 118-110 – a bruising and harsh reflection of the fight.

“I’m not as good as I thought I was,” said the 35-year-old with disarming candour.

“I didn’t perform as good as I hoped I would, and Maxi is better than I thought he was.

“I will never get a better opportunity to win a world title, I will never get a better opportunity to represent Norfolk in a positive way and massive apologies to everyone who spent the time and money.”

Eastern Daily Press: Maxi Hughes, left, on the attack against Ryan WalshMaxi Hughes, left, on the attack against Ryan Walsh (Image: ©Mark Robinson Photography/Matchroom)

Walsh had come out of the blocks quickly and won the opener, possibly the second round as well, but for the following 10 rounds he struggled to catch the judges’ eyes. Scoring boxing matches is pretty much black and white: most rounds are won and lost, but the margin can be fine. Walsh was never as far away from Hughes as the scoring suggested – although his calm reflections in the dressing room afterwards were briefly ignited by the opinion of one judge who gave him a big fat zero.

“I’m disappointed that one judge had the cheek to say he beat me in all 12 rounds,” said Walsh. “That’s squit, rubbish.”

Twin brother Liam – whose comfortable win over Hughes in 2019 appears to have been the catalyst for the purple patch the Yorkshireman has enjoyed since – was in the corner, scoring his brother each round.

“If I did win the first round, which I thought I did, I thought I even won the second one, but Liam said no, it’s too close,” said Walsh.

“We are honest with each other, you can see where you are during the fight, you don’t want dishonesty or rubbish. I had a good awareness throughout the fight the way it was going and I couldn’t then do what I needed to do to win the fight.

“Liam said I got three or four, which is probably right.

“I’ll watch it back and form my own opinion, but I thought it was a real close fight, but the champion did win, he did deserve the win. He was slippy, and credit to him, I have no excuses, no qualms, but I am in shock that I am having this conversation about being a loser because I never envisaged that.

“I never thought that, I never trained for that and there is no excuse for that because all the people who have got behind me in this fight, I can’t thank them enough.

“I love this sport, but the best man won and he was the best man.”

Eastern Daily Press: Ryan Walsh takes evasive actionRyan Walsh takes evasive action (Image: ©Mark Robinson Photography/Matchroom)

Why he won and Walsh lost will be the subject of many post-fight inquests in the Walsh camp.

“You have to give him the credit for adjusting,” added Walsh. “He was really slippy. And he had a good consistent jab, we knew that. I tried to take the jab away and I still think I made him miss quite a bit, but obviously not enough.

“In boxing you need to go out there and rip it away from them and he had the ability and skills to stop me ripping it away from him. He created distance... I wasn’t good enough.”

Trainer Graham Everett said: “I have to congratulate Maxi Hughes on his performance, he did everything we didn’t want him to.

“The better man won on the night. We tried very hard to get him to engage - that style is a little bit alien to Ryan, but we worked hard at it, but it just wasn’t to be.

“We planned to attack the body more, but he had this little knack of just sliding away, twisting out of danger, using his long arms – you have to congratulate him on his discipline.”