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Matthew Hatton: Fighting out of the Shadows

By Donald Stewart

It would be easy to believe that every boxer in Europe has a brother when you have the news dominated by the Klitschko clan. There is, however, one other set of brothers worthy of mention whose achievements are unequal.

For the moment…

Ricky Hatton, 45-2, 32 KO’s, never announced his retirement but his subsequent promoter’s license and personal problems perhaps are a big enough clue that he isn’t going back in the ring. The time has come to put others in. One of the fighters he has taken under his wing is little brother Matthew. Matthew Hatton 41-4-2, 16 KO’s, is currently European Welterweight Champion. His career having become far more productive since his big bro retired.

That’s not to say that Matthew was wandering about clueless before Ricky started to manage him. It’s just that he was literally in the shadow of his big brother. Matthew won the IBF International Welterweight title on a Ricky Hatton undercard. He won the IBF Intercontinental title in Las Vegas… on a Ricky Hatton undercard. The best fight of his career – against Ben Tackie was on a (you guessed it) Ricky Hatton undercard. He was even quoted, albeit very quietly at the tail end of 2009, as a possible Mayweather, JR., opponent but then again who hasn’t?

Fighting on the same card as his big brother wasn’t always a success. His challenge for the Commonwealth title was lost on semi home turf The City of Manchester Stadium, home of Manchester City. Perhaps this was due to him fighting in City’s home ground as he’s the only Hatton who is a Manchester United supporter, the rest of the family being City daft!

For Matthew having Ricky as his guide has undoubtedly helped. The name opens doors, begins discussions and certainly has helped him find a pathway through the Division to begin to reach his potential. You see, despite his twitter feed claiming otherwise, Matthew Hatton is reckoned to be the second best welterweight in England. For many the best is Kell Brook, 23-0 16 KO’s.

Many feel that Matthew, with his brother’s help and advice, skipped past quite a few contenders to get his shot at the European belt. There are a few who may argue with that but the fight against Yuriy Nuzhnenko was proof that Matthew has the ability at this level. Up off the canvas in the first round to take the European belt Hatton gave many of his doubters food for thought.

Ricky Hatton is certainly astute in his management of Matthew and is learning that managing your fighters and their careers is quite an art. The thing about fighters is all the fans want to see is the big fights, the close scraps, the exciting contests which remain in the memory. Fighters want to have a memory remaining so will duck and dive, dodge and weave opponents that their promoters know would end their career until one day – the big payday – it’s worth the gamble.

Promoters and fixers get the blame when the fight we all want goes wrong or there is a contractual reason as to why the big fight can’t happen – the venue is wrong, the split isn’t good enough, the TV deal doesn’t work for them or the size of their head won’t get through the doors at the stadium. Whatever the reason we don’t like them and we won’t accept their reasons for the call offs.

The fight game is not a long term career plan. Forget Foreman, Hopkins, Holyfield and the rest of those guys back for another shot at glory. Good luck to each and every one of them but your career as a top flight boxer is generally short. Ricky knows that you can be up there one minute and staring up there the next as you land on the canvas and that elusive thing – legacy – gets lost in your last battle. The game can give you riches but it can give you the poverty of self doubt and over the top criticism, much from people who wouldn’t know how to lace a glove.

The career pathway Matthew has taken has seen a polished performance against Lovemore N’Dou, impressively stopping and his controlled performance against Ben Tackie – much like his brother’s – brought him to many people’s attention. Keeping the European belt against Roberto Belge in Bolton, England on the 26th November last year has set his name in the frame for a World title shot.

Now his sights are set on Viacheslav Senchenko. A more realistic fight than any others for a World Belt you can bet careful plotting is going on behind the scenes to bring Senchenko to the table and perhaps even to Manchester. Hatton’s home town it has been the sight of many a Hatton triumph and Ricky would do well to bring Matthew’s first World title shot to England and England’s chance to celebrate another Hatton World title triumph.

If WBA Champion Senchenko can’t be caught, WBC Light Welterweight champion Junior Witter has been mentioned. Matthew does not pack the type of knockout punch that would make either a quick contest but he surprised many, including himself, as to how effective his body punching was against Belge. It could be a tactic he will employ more and more.

Whatever the fight Ricky brings to the public it can be said that most of the UK public would cheer on a Matthew Hatton fight long before a return of Ricky Hatton. It’s is down to the legacy he left that we adored and still adore him but as a promoter he has a future, as a fighter he has a golden past. Now, if you like the idea of fighting brothers we have two sets of brothers from England – three in each family – working their way up to glory… You’d think all we had in Europe were fighting brothers… no wait a minute the Klitschkos won’t fight each other will they?

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