Boxing: Pinto can bring the best out of Hatton

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The Independent Online

You don't have to be an expert judge of fighting flesh to appreciate that Ricky Hatton is on the brink of superstardom. No boxer in Britain generates more raw excitement or raucous support when the bell sounds.

You don't have to be an expert judge of fighting flesh to appreciate that Ricky Hatton is on the brink of superstardom. No boxer in Britain generates more raw excitement or raucous support when the bell sounds.

His last performance against the top-rated Ghanaian Ben Tackie in December oozed class and quality, as near perfect an exhibition of box-fighting the British ring has witnessed in many years.

His 34th victory and 11th successive defence of his WBU light-welterweight title helped bring the Manchester Hit Man nicely to the boil and it is essential that he stays simmering while awaiting adventures against the star names in his division, like Kostya Tszyu, Arturo Gatti and Sharmba Mitchell (who appears on the same bill at the MEN Arena on Saturday).

It is there that 25-year-old Hatton will endeavour to keep up appearances against another formidable opponent. Kelson Pinto, 27, may not be a household name outside his Brazilian home-town of Salvador but he has acquired a reputation in the trade as a fearsome puncher, winning all his 20 bouts, 18 of them by knock-outs, 11 of them in the first round.

"Anyone who watches this guy for the first time will think 'flippin' hell, he can bang a bit,' " says Hatton. "But he's never fought anyone like me. I'll go at him all the time.

"People may not have heard as much about Pinto as some of the other men I've beaten but I've sensed a tremendous buzz in Manchester, probably because Junior Witter [the British, Commonwealth and European champion from Bradford who is chasing a showdown with Hatton] pulled out when he was due to fight him. They want to see how I deal with him.

"Right now I don't believe anyone can beat me. I'm not quite at my peak yet but I'm fast approaching it."

With Pinto's scything body shots and Hatton's own remorseless switch hitting it promises to be an explosive night. While it lasts.

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