(from left: Kell Brook, Eddie Hearn and Matthew Hatton)
If a promoter’s aim is to squeeze the mostest out of the leastest then Eddie Hearn, the prodigal son of Matchroom Sports’ bedrock, Barry, appears to have the chops to fill his old man’s shoes. Hearn lays on a weekend welterweight attraction from the Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield, which sees the city’s world title hope, Kell Brook, sink his teeth into cross-Pennine rival Mathew “Magic Man” Hatton. And although a one-sided drubbing looks a foregone conclusion, it hasn’t stopped Hearn from shifting close to 10, 000 tickets. Now that’s magic.
Hearn, cosy with good fortune it would seem, caught a break earlier in the week after news filtered through that a rival show (and a better match-up) had been hooked offstage. After Hammersmith’s George Groves pulled up lame on Monday ahead of his rerun with the malevolent Celt Kenny Anderson (rumours that Groves had sustained whiplash and a broken a nail in scrambling to sign to fight Robert Stieglitz have still to be substantiated) Hearn’s bill suddenly had the spotlight all to itself.
Hatton is the maligned kid brother of working class hero Ricky, Manchester’s beloved “Hitman,” who captured a bonafide world championship in an era of incoherent governing bodies, spin and diluted accomplishment. It is a feat only a handful of British fighters have equalled throughout history. Forever destined to be the poor relation as a result, Matthew is a fairly limited and one-dimensional boxer who has, nonetheless, made the most of his talent through hard work, thick skin and a dogged determination.
Despite labouring to a draw against the 38-year-old version of Lovemore Ndou in 2009 — a bout which seemed to highlight his ceiling as a prize fighter – Hatton, 42-5-2 (16), hit a purple patch the following year. A switch to Mohawk sporting taskmaster Bob Shannon brought immediate dividends. With his conditioning enhanced, Hatton managed to gut out a European title win over Civitavecchia’s Gianluca Branco in Dagenham before a brace of successful defences in Bolton propelled him to California to be positioned opposite Mexico’s Saul Alvarez. Despite taking a 12 round trouncing from an opponent superior in every department, Hatton earned universal praise for his tenacity.
Brook, 26-0 (18), is improving with each fight. Currently rated sixth at 147 lbs. by Ring Magazine, the Wincobank wood chipper has dominated his last two opponents; accomplished Pole Rafal Jackiewicz and the less well-equipped Puerto Rican, Luis Galarza. A balanced and leveraged chopping machine, Brook is altogether quicker, more powerful and has better movement than the man from Stockport. While a good many judges have this pegged as a competitive bout, oddsmakers beg to differ with Brook posted as an early 8 to 1 on favourite.
Essentially, this breaks down as a contest between pitcher and catcher. Hatton has broached this level only once before and was roundly walloped for his temerity. Losing gamely is still losing, however plucky the shift. And those who have built reputations on such similarly mournful foundations, men such as Henry Wharton, Crawford Ashley, Nicky Piper and more recently Derek Chisora, never quite figure out how to clamber into the winner’s circle in tests such as these. Hatton, an industrious and affable sort, looks set for a painful evening. Brook, keen to land a date with one of the HBO poster boys at the top of his division, will be aiming to stop him and he just might, sometime after the half-way stage.