Boxing: Hatton bout pick of long overdue home fights

New year forecast: what to expect in the next 12 months
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The Independent Online

Next year will be the year that British boxing is dominated by British boxers. Too many recent years have been influenced by fights in American cities involving British boxers against Americans, but this year it will change.

Next year will be the year that British boxing is dominated by British boxers. Too many recent years have been influenced by fights in American cities involving British boxers against Americans, but this year it will change.

There are several weights where two, three, four or even five quality domestic fights could take place. It is unlikely that any of the long overdue fights will be for the British title but the belt on offer is not really important.

In March, Belfast's Wayne McCullough goes to Glasgow to face the local idol Scott Harrison for the World Boxing Organisation featherweight title. It was Naseem Hamed's belt for more than six years and hopefully he will end his bizarre exile and fight again.

There are equally entertaining fights at lightweight, welterweight and light-middleweight and if one or two promoters can act reasonably quite a few fighters will make more money and gain a reputation.

The big domestic fight will take place in June or July at Maine Road between the life-long Manchester City fan Ricky Hatton and his nemesis, Junior Witter, for the World Boxing Union light-welterweight title, but the 40,000 spectators will not be concerned with the fake glitzy belt.

Promising youngsters such as Matt Macklin, Carl Froch, Matt Thirlwall and David Haye are unlikely to have difficult fights – 2004 will be their year. But the next few months are crucial to Audley Harrison, whose spectacular decline in popularity has surely put at risk a new, lucrative BBC contract. He fights in early February, but nobody seems to care.

Prediction: Lennox Lewis to wish he had retired in 2002.

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