It may be several hundred years since Henry Tudor vanquished Yorkist king Richard III in the original War of the Roses, but on March 17 at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena Kell Brook (26-0) and Matthew Hatton (42-5) will hope to reignite some of that inter county rivalry of Red vs. White when they do battle in an intriguing welterweight showdown. Matchroom Sports promote and Sky Sports televise live.
25-year-old proud Yorkshire man Brook, undefeated in his campaign to the ring, is on the verge of landing a world title shot under the promotional guidance of Eddie Hearn, but first he must prove that he is the best 10st 7lbs fighter in Britain by overcoming the greatly improved Hatton who has already displayed his resilience in the face of adversity when he challenged the much bigger Saul Alvarez in America this time last year.
Although “Magic” Matt was never in a position to win the fight and claim the Mexican’s WBC light middleweight crown, he proved almost impossible to shift despite the best efforts of “Canelo” and only added to a reputation he has been desperately trying to build since he turned pro in September 2000 and lost fights to the likes of David Kirk and David Keir.
Being the sibling of one of British boxing’s best fighters of the last decade has seen Hatton, 30, benefit from fighting in Las Vegas and Boston as well as the experience of several American training camps, but the youngest of the two fighting brothers from Hyde has developed into a solid operator in his own right in recent years and exceeded most observers expectations when he claimed the European title on points against the ageing Italian Gianluca Branco in 2010. Two successful defences later, in which he overcame Yuriy Nuzhnenko and Robert Belge, saw him get an unexpected chance to challenge Mexican Golden Boy Alvarez in the hostile atmosphere of Anaheim.
Hatton then is here on merit and will undoubtedly prove to be the toughest test of the exciting but as yet untested Sheffield switch hitter’s career.
In April 2011 Brook, the former British champion, switched camps to Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Sports and has seen his profile rocket. His first fight under his new promotional banner was a tough 12 rounder against seasoned veteran Lovemore N’Dou, where he picked up the WBA intercontinental bauble with a commanding and impressive points win in which he came close to halting the grizzled world title challenger, before he went in against former European champion Rafal Jackiewicz, halting the Polish fighter in six rounds. Last time out in December Brook was handed his American showcase on the undercard of Froch-Ward where he faced brave but out gunned Luis Galarza. Kell did almost as he pleased with the man from Puerto Rico as he went through his repertoire of punches before the bout was stopped in the fifth.
After his routine victory stateside the popular consensus was that Brook and his handlers would look at the upper echelons of the division for an opponent that would, if Kell was victorious, send a statement of intent to the reigning world champions. The unveiling of Hatton, at a much hyped press conference, left many in the trade scratching their heads.
Delve a little deeper however and the fight becomes more and more interesting. “Special K” has at times lived up to his nickname but has yet to be asked many tough questions in his paid career. What is he like under pressure? Can he dominate an opponent who will be there to the end? Will his power trouble a man who withstood power shots from a much bigger foe?
“Matthew is a proven fighter who has had lots of fights. He boxed Alvarez, has never been stopped and brings that Hatton name.” said Brook.
“I can’t look past Matthew Hatton to world title fights. We can’t have any slip ups. This kid is coming to win. He’s been in with Alvarez so he isn’t bothered about Kell Brook.”
Throughout the build-up to the fight Hatton has remained calm, composed and confident he can spring the upset.
“Kells certainly not giving me sleepless nights” he said after Thursday’s press conference.
“I’ve lost the weight really easily, enjoyed the preparations and the build-up and I’m just excited for Saturday night now.”
Despite the short odds favouring Brook, the contest has the potential to be a close affair with the local man using his highly developed skill set to pick off the slower Hatton as he attempts to close the range and make him work for every second of every round. The challenger has always shown a solid set of whiskers throughout his career, and I can see him shrugging off the assaults of Brook before succumbing to a wide point’s loss in an absorbing battle.