Nobody should worry about Matthew Hatton. He has seen the bright lights before. He has seen the big opponents and the hoopla they bring. He knows exactly what to expect on Saturday night, when he faces the young Mexican sensation Saul Alvarez in their HBO-televised 12-rounder at the Honda Center, in Anaheim, CA.
But one thing will be different. For the first time, it is Matthew, not his big brother Ricky, in the full glare of the spotlight. The other problem is this: The fighter sharing it with him is a streaking, unbeaten prospect who is already being groomed for greatness.
After more than ten years in the shadows, and against the wishes of his camp, the younger Hatton is stepping up a division to fight Alvarez for the WBC super welterweight championship given up by Manny Pacquiao, the man who effectively ended his brother's career nearly two years ago.
Not surprisingly, Hatton is a long shot with the oddsmakers - as high as 6-1 against in Britain - and an even bigger outsider in America despite six previous appearances in the U.S.
But the 29-year-old from Manchester, England, says he is confident he can "tear the script up." He claims speed and workrate hold the key to him pulling off a victory that would rank among the biggest upsets of recent years.
"I'm on a roll at the moment," said Hatton, 41-4-2 (16), just before flying out to the States from London. "I've won the European [welterweight] title and successfully defended it twice. A world title opportunity was the next stage. It's quite a surprise that I'm getting it at junior middleweight, but it's a good opportunity and I'm ready to take it."
His most vocal supporter will be his brother, who is co-promoting the fight under the Hatton Promotions banner, but the younger Hatton insists he has never felt any pressure to match his sibling's achievements.
"Ricky's been a fantastic fighter, but it's never really been my ambition to emulate him or other fighters," admitted Hatton. "I just want to be the best I can possibly be. It's always been my ambition to become a world champion. It's within touching distance now, so I can't wait for it."
He might have to go through hell to win. Alvarez, still only 20, is unbeaten in 36 fights and already provoking comparisons with the great Mexican fighters of the past. But Hatton stressed: "The pressure's on him. People make him a strong favourite to win. Also, he's got a massive following. The fight's near LA, where there's a large Mexican contingent. The crowd are going to be behind him. I do feel as if it's a situation where I've got everything to gain and nothing to lose, and I think that makes me very dangerous."
Fighting away from home won't worry Hatton at all. In the space of three years from 2006, he fought five times in Las Vegas and once in Boston, all on major HBO cards topped by his brother. But he is far from complacent. Hatton is expecting his toughest fight against Alvarez, who will be having his third bout in the U.S. since joining Golden Boy Promotions last year.
"He's a good all-rounder," conceded Hatton. "He can box, he can fight. He's been pretty dominant in most of his fights, and that's a testament to him because he has been [several] levels above his opponents. Saul is definitely the best fighter I will have faced in my career so far, but I believe, likewise, I will be the stiffest test of his career so far. I think I'm a better fighter than the level of opposition he's been facing.
"[Carlos] Baldomir and [Lovemore] Ndou [Alvarez's last two opponents] don't have the desire or the determination that I have. I'm a very fit fighter. I'll take him out of his comfort zone. I'll fight at a high pace, which I don't believe he's used to. He's got strengths, but he's also got weaknesses."
Hatton last fought Stateside in May 2009, winning an eight-round decision over the Mexican Ernesto Zepeda on the undercard of his brother's crushing second-round loss to Pacquiao at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
"I've improved massively since then," insisted Hatton. "I don't just think I'm the most improved fighter in Britain, I think I'm one of the most improved fighters in the world. I think they'll see a big difference. People in the States might be writing me off, but I think I'm going to shock a few people, for sure."
"I do feel as if it's a situation where I've got everything to gain and nothing to lose, and I think that makes me very dangerous."
Posted 12:00 AM | Mar 2, 2011
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