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Hatton emerges from the shadows

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Ben Dirs | 16:29 UK time, Wednesday, 2 March 2011

One of my brothers speaks five languages; the other one is better looking than me. Both facts have led to feelings of inadequacy down the years. But, I suspect, not as much as if one of my brothers was among the finest boxers this country has ever produced and one of the most popular sportsmen to boot.

For the best part of a decade, Matthew Hatton watched from boxing's foothills as older brother Ricky was making his way to the summit of the sport, eventually landing world titles at two different weights and charming the British public with his determinedly down-to-earth persona along the way.

Matthew, two-and-a-half years Ricky's junior, had his successes, winning British Central Area titles in two weight divisions. But many suspected Matthew had found his level when he lost to Craig Watson in a Commonwealth welterweight title fight in 2008.

But last year, Matthew proved plenty of people wrong by outboxing veteran Italian Gianluca Branco to claim the European welterweight title. And on Saturday, he will fully emerge from Ricky's shadow when he fights Mexico's Saul Alvarez for the vacant WBC light-middleweight crown. Good things come to those who wait - and pay no heed to the doubters.

Ricky and Matthew HattonCan Matthew (right) emulate brother Ricky and land a world title? Photo: Getty Images

"Ricky had a fantastic career and was one of the best fighters this country has ever produced but there's only one Ricky Hatton," Matthew, 29, told BBC Sport.

"The support he had and what he achieved in the game was great but I've never tried to emulate him. I've always just wanted to be the best I could be. Even though I wasn't performing too well early in my career, I always believed that one day I would compete at this level and that I had so much more to give.

"Every kid will tell you, when you first lace on the gloves, that the ambition is to become a world champion. Very, very few people achieve that. It would be all the sweeter for me because I've had people write me off in my career, people who said 'he won't do this, he won't do that'."

Matthew acknowledges being Ricky's younger brother has had its upsides professionally. It meant he fought on some of the biggest shows of recent years in some of boxing's greatest arenas. He was on the bill when Ricky fought Floyd Mayweather at Las Vegas' MGM Grand in 2007 and again when he fought Manny Pacquiao in 2009. While Ricky lost both bouts, Matthew notched up a couple of wins. Not that many people noticed.

But Matthew says merely bearing the Hatton name brought extra pressure, while dad Ray believes opponents would up their game against his youngest, as if by beating Matthew they would somehow take a piece of Ricky as well.

"It must have been difficult for Matthew at times, even though he never showed it," Ray told BBC Sport. "He always supported Ricky and there was never any jealousy. The same support they always gave each other is still there, which is lovely.

"Matthew never had it easy. Fighters I'd seen before who hadn't looked that great would come out against Matthew as if it was a world title fight - because he was a Hatton.

"It was difficult at times, watching Ricky getting all the attention. But we knew how hard Matthew was trying and we kept our fingers crossed that the ability we knew he had would eventually come through and he'd get the recognition.

"You can't take anything away from Ricky because he was a very exciting boxer and I can't remember a boxer who was as popular as he was. But now Matthew has stepped out of his shadow and a lot of people appreciate how hard Matthew's worked."

Hatton's shot is not without controversy. Neither he nor Alvarez has fought at 154lb before, while Ryan Rhodes, ranked number four by the WBC, claims he was never even contacted after Pacquiao relinquished the belt last month. The Sheffield boxer's trainer, Dave Coldwell, called it "boxing politics at its worst".

Saul AlvarezAlvarez poses a big threat to Hatton. Photo: Getty Images

Meanwhile, others have registered their disgust that a belt that has been held by Pacquiao, Mayweather, Shane Mosley, Oscar de la Hoya, Terry Norris, Thomas Hearns, Wilfred Benitez and Britain's Maurice Hope is being given away so easily.

Hatton is quick to point out he was scheduled to meet Alvarez, the WBC's number one contender, before Pacquiao stood down. However, it is difficult not to be cynical. Alvarez is handled by Golden Boy Promotions, who also promoted some of Ricky's biggest fights. The plan is clearly to offer Hatton up as a sacrificial lamb to Alvarez, who they hope will be a superstar of the future.

Few think Hatton stands a chance against Alvarez. The baby-faced Mexican may only be 20 but it is not only his red hair and freckles that set him apart from the crowd. Since turning pro at 15, he has racked up 35 wins and a draw from 36 fights. Twenty-six knockouts tell you he hits hard. And while not the slickest, his last two wins have come against former world champions - and gnarled old veterans at that.

In contrast, Hatton has only 16 knockouts from 41 wins, almost all of which came at welterweight. He has always been functional rather than spectacular but he will need to be spectacular in Anaheim on Saturday to force a win. A baying Mexican contingent, 'home' judges and a 'home' referee will demand it. Not that Hatton seems fazed.

"I'm going out there with everything to gain and nothing to lose," said Hatton. "I think that makes me very dangerous. A lot of Alvarez's fights, he's had things his own way, but I've had sticky moments in my career where I've had to dig deep and grind out a win.

"I'm 29 now, physically and mentally I'm coming towards my peak, so I believe this fight's coming at a good time for me. I've always believed I could be a world champion, It's a life-long dream and I'm within touching distance now."

Victory over Alvarez seems unlikely. But spring an upset and Matthew will be able to look Ricky in the eye when they are both in their dotage and say: "What I pulled off that night in California was the equal of anything you managed." And he would be right.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Good luck, Matthew. He seems like a smashing lad and I for one hope he does it. It has nothing to do with luck and if Hatton has trained like an animal and brings the right game plan anything's possible.

    Honeyghan Curry anyone?

    That being said, its a tough ask and unfortunately I don't seem him coming back with the belt.

    Alvarez UD or stoppage.

    Hope I'm proved wrong!

  • Comment number 2.

    Matthew Hatton sounds like a half decent lad but anyone who is a boxing fan will know he is limited. He is domestic level at best.

    Fair play for jumping through hoops and going away for a World Title fight but it will be one hell of a shock if he pulls it off. American hype can be overkill sometimes as we all know what happened to fighters like Jeff Lacy & Jermain Taylor once they had proper tests but this Alvarez looks very heavy handed and could easily cause Hatton Jr a lot of problems.

    I have seen Matthew on the box and also on a few of the Ricky undercards and he has developed a bit because he doesn't try to rush fighters now as he looks like he thinks a bit more and boxes but not to be offensive he is domestic at best as he has thought non-punchers at European level.

    Fair play for him for taking this fight but will be AMAZINGLY shocked if he doesn't get landslide outpointed or stopped.

  • Comment number 3.

    politics deffo played its part in this matchup,but what you expect from the wbc,ie we be countin!!!,easy sanction fee for president suliaman,rhodes must be royally teed off!!!! good luck mat but even if the mexican wins he himself will be exposed by someone soon enough as he isnt anything special.

  • Comment number 4.

    Sorry but Matthew Hatton is distinctly average

  • Comment number 5.

    When I heard he had got a world title shot it really summed up what is wrong with boxing today for me. This guy is a nice guy but he is barely domestic class and should be nowhere near a world title shot.

  • Comment number 6.

    Give the guy a break, lets hope he can hit Ricky's heights. One to watch for sure.

  • Comment number 7.

    Alvarez HAS had 3 fights at Junior Middle, beating Baldomir and N'Dou. He's probably got a better chance there and at middle because he'll be too slow at welter to challenge at world level.

    Typical WBC again though - apparently even though GDP have agreed to a 150lb catchweight the WBC are insisting it takes place at 154. Wasn't a problem for Pacquiao-Margarito was it!!

  • Comment number 8.

    "One to watch for sure."

    You obviously haven't watched him.

    He's not that fast, gets hit too easy and has no power, perfect for Golden Boy's new golden boy.

  • Comment number 9.

    Ben, I'm not sure you can class Ricky as one of Britain's finest boxers! Most likeable, yes. He was a brawler who led his his head and came up short against Mayweather and Pacman.

  • Comment number 10.

    Agree with trueboxer - Ricky was avery likeable and great role model for working hard and getting the best from your ability, and for that he should be commended. But he did look out of his depth against any boxer of quality, particularly hand speed.

    He was tough as they come, but he got picked off too easily, I can see this happening to his brother as well.
    Although no-one can blame him for taking his chance. Whether it's politics or not, I cannot think of many boxers who would refuse the opportunity - but it's a very tough ask.

  • Comment number 11.

    No doubt this fight will be spectacularly one side and over in 5 or 6 rounds, I predict.

    But where can I watch this beating, it doesn’t seem to have been picked up by Sky, any good websites people can suggest?

  • Comment number 12.

    I wish him well, it cannot have been easy seeing his brother achieve so much. Fingers crossed.

  • Comment number 13.

    #9 he came up short against two legends of the ring, not this era any era.

  • Comment number 14.

    As for Ricky being one of the greatest British fighters of all time, no, but certainly he is one of the best of the last 10 years.

    The fact he came up short against Pac-Man and PBF, who hasn’t! Unfortunately the manner of his defeats showed his glaring limitations at true world class.

    But you can’t take away from him, how he was dominant at 140 pounds for a period and the interest in boxing and fan base he created.

  • Comment number 15.

    I cant agree with you that Ricky is one of the countries most liked sportsman. He once charged my girlfriend and I £20 per person just to have our photo to be taken with him. Thats after following him around the world supporting him. I hope his brother has some better manners.

  • Comment number 16.

    Huw88 - Alvarez's last few fights were at light-middle in name only, he was about 4lb under the 154lb limit in all of them.

    To those questioning whether Ricky is one of the finest fighters this country has produced, world titles at two different weights says he is. Yep, he came up short against the very best, but then who hasn't against Pacman and Mayweather?

    John - Not sure your story is particularly relevant - whether true or not, he's still one of the most popular sportsmen this country has ever produced.

  • Comment number 17.

    I think calling Ricky a “2 weight world champion”, although technically accurate, is abit optimistic. One winnable world title fight at Welter then immediately back down to 140 is hardly proving himself best in that division.

    Although, for me he will go down as a British Great, it seems as he lost his two highest profile fights, he is given a Tim Henman’esq nearly man tag, which isn’t fair at all.

    As for Matthew on Saturday… Good Luck. But I cant see any way he can possibly win, unless his older Brother sits on him Saul.

  • Comment number 18.

    What is it about so many British based boxing fans that seems so negative? Ricky lost to two boxers who are the p4p best boxers going and have been for the last 5-10 years respectively. He had a quality career and made a lot of half decent boxers look distinctly average. He also dominated his natural weight. I loved Calzaghe, but I hate this strange attraction to an unbeaten record that seems to have spawned. Legends are not made by never being beaten. Ali through to Pacquaio, they all lost and they all made sure they beat whoever beat them. Afterall, how many Floyd fights will be talked about throughout the future? I would bet that Manny v Barrera, or Morales or etc... will long outlast the memories of Floyd not getting hit for 12 rounds. For me the prime example is someone like Khan, who for some reason was almost hated for having the gaul to fight someone with the power to knock him out, he got hit, and he seems to have learnt.
    It is said that after a while you can never get better at Chess without playing someone better than yourself, to take yourself out the comfort zone and attempt to push yourself further is to learn.
    So to put myself midly back on topic, good luck to Matthew, perhaps that experience of having been beaten will stand him in good stead. Maybe a bit of luck will be needed and if the right punch gets through against a young fighter eyeing their first title maybe he'll capitalise. My money though would be on a stoppage before the 8th and that bruise on Matthew's eye to look a lot bigger...

  • Comment number 19.

    150lbs is 3 pounds over the welterweight limit though isn't it?! Therefore, Junior Middle!

    Can you confirm if what I've read about the WBC insisting that no catchweight will be allowed is true though? Absolute disgrace if it is! They made that rubbish diamond belt for Manny when he was fighting at a catchweight against Cotto!

  • Comment number 20.


    I have also heard the WBC are refusing to acknowledge the catch weight but it is an agreement between the fighters, hence the Hatton camp threatening to pull out if SA weighs over the agreed 150.

    I think the annoyance about this fight being at a catch weight, is from genuine light middles who have been working hard to get a title shot, then an average welterweight has got a title fight out of knowhere with no experience in their weight division, so the proposed catch weight just rubs salt into the wounds of the bitter light middle weight contenders.

    Personal I don't think the fighters should be able to make the rules / weight divisions up as they go along, when a world title is on the line, it makes a mockery of the belt.

  • Comment number 21.

    In response to 3. tommyhearns and someone else saying he isn't anything special and will be worked out soon enough, the kid is 20 years old... I agree he's being pushed and pretty much given the belt, but to say he'll be worked out or really to say much at this point is premature. 36 pro fights no matter the level of opposition is hugely impressive and nobody knows how he'll be when he hits his peak.
    I agree that Rhodes will be annoyed though, not fair they dismissed him in the rankings mainly due to the Hatton name. Regardless though best of luck to Hatton and I hope it's a good fight.

  • Comment number 22.

    Matthew Hatton still fails to emerge from the shadow of his brother. This fight has undoubtedly been made on the back of Ricky's reputation in the US of a few years ago. The Americans will think they're getting another Ricky and an exciting fight, paying a premium for tickets as a result. What they'll get is a one-sided blow-out of a very average fighter well out of his depth. The most embarrassing facet of this 'fight' is how Ricky himself fails to see how he's been used by Golden Boy. They've shown a total lack of respect to the Hattons and their promotional team in coming in well over the 'catch-weight'. It was obvious they were going to disregard this 'agreement' from the off, knowing full well that the idea of future 'shoulder rubbing' in a promotional sense would be too much to resist in terms of calling off the fight. Ricky made noises of doing such before the fight, should Alvarez come in over weight, but Alvarez's camp knew full well they wouldn't; a belief borne out at the weigh-in when they couldn't even be bothered making 150lbs. Ricky's ending two careers here tonight; his brother's, when he's on the end of a one-sided, inside the distance defeat, and his own, in terms of trans-Atlantic promotion, when he realises that he was being used as a means to an end –good luck trying to sell a Crolla etc. fight in the US in the next 5 years - a sobering realisation of the 'special relationship' that exists between all US-UK transactions be they sporting or political - they say "Jump"…

  • Comment number 23.

    Come on Matt, prove your doubters wrong!

  • Comment number 24.

    Looks just like his big brother tbh! Good Luck mini Hatton!


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