Matthew Hatton: 'Being Ricky's lickle brother won't help me win a world title'
'Our Kid' Matthew Hatton tells Steve Bunce how hard taking the spotlight has been as he trains to fight brutal Mexican on Saturday
Thursday 03 March 2011
It was nearly dawn and Ricky Hatton had been in bed about 10 minutes when he heard the door open to reveal his naked brother Matthew, wobbling unsteadily, clutching two bottles of champagne and singing. It was the perfect end to a beautiful night.
It was the morning after Ricky had stunned the boxing world and knocked out Jose Luis Castillo in front of about 10,000 travelling fans at the Thomas and Mack Centre in Las Vegas. It was also the occasion that Matthew, fighting yet again on his big brother's undercard, won the International Boxing Federation's intercontinental welterweight title. The Mancunian brothers, alongside the Rooneys, then went on a crawl through the Vegas night with karaoke, Guinness and laughter. "I wasn't naked," insists Matthew. "I had my new championship belt on."
A lot has changed in the world of the fighting Hatton brothers since that dawn rendezvous in Ricky's suite at Caesars Palace in 2007 and it will turn full circle this Saturday in Los Angeles. Matthew is in a real world title fight against an unbeaten Mexican called Saul Alvarez and Ricky will be ringside, a nervous witness to the little brother, or as he puts it "lickle" brother, who he has protected for a long, long time.
Four years ago they were back in Las Vegas, a few months after the Castillo win, when Ricky made over £15m but lost to Floyd Mayweather Jnr and Matthew was an anonymous eight-round winner on the undercard once again. This time there was no celebrating just a long night of pain, which they shared like good brothers.
Ricky went in the ring three more times, followed by thousands to the bitter and savage end in Vegas in 2009 against Manny Pacquiao. Matthew was there each night in good fights of his own, swinging at his brother's side. His first fight was on a Ricky undercard at London's York Hall in 2000, and the pattern continued for many of his 47 fights. At the start he was little more than a sideshow, a weak attempt at a double act, hidden under the impressive shadow of the man the fans adored.
"I tried to fight like Ricky back then and that didn't work," says Matthew. "Being Ricky's brother has opened doors for me and I've boxed on some massive nights. It's been good in some ways, but it's me in the ring.
"Ricky can't take the punches for me and he can't throw the punches for me. I know what it feels like to watch your brother fight, trust me. I've tried to throw punches for him.
"I've never been jealous of Ricky and everybody that is close to us knows that, but it's not been easy at times. I've had some bad times, bad fights and at the same time Ricky was flying. That can be a bit of a problem. Not jealousy, not envy. When Ricky's had setbacks, I've always been there, always. And he's been the same with me," adds Matthew, who at 29 is three years younger than Ricky.
Last year Matthew fought for and won the European welterweight title in a difficult fight against the veteran Italian Gianluca Branco and this time Ricky was the promoter. In many ways it was the start of Matthew's journey from the edge of fighting oblivion to the centre of things, one that looked in danger when Matthew was forced to defend against Yuriy Nuzhnenko last summer. Nuzhnenko's only defeat had come a year earlier when he lost his world title and on the night he sent Matthew, who started as a solid underdog, crashing to the canvas in the opening round.
"That was a hard fight and it shut a few people up," continues Matthew. "He [Nuzhnenko] was a very good fighter – and remember that it was the promoters, my dad and my brother, who made the fight. That's how protected I've been. My dad and my big brother tried to get me knocked off."
Matthew fought his way back into the fight, with Ricky at ringside living every tense second, to win clearly on points and legitimately put himself in a position for a world title. A few months later the papers had a frenzy with Ricky's drug problems and once again Matthew was pushed into the shadows. "I was with Ricky every day during all that, at The Priory. It was a terrible and difficult time for everybody in our family – everybody was upset but Ricky kept telling me to stay focused on what I was doing."
Matthew stayed in the gym, helping Ricky get back into something like shape, and hoped for a break. Two months ago there was a rumour about a fight in Los Angeles against Alvarez, who is nicknamed "El Canelo" because of his ginger hair (It's a Mexican tree that has a red hue because of its berries). He has been called the "next great Mexican fighter" by so many that it is clear they cannot all be wrong. Still, he is just 20, has a record of 35 wins, with 26 stoppages and one draw, which is predictably stuffed with the lost men from a business that is often on the very edge of Mexican society.
However, he did turn professional at just 15, which in Mexico is not so rare, and Oscar de la Hoya, who promotes Saturday's fight, has also attached a sentence of praise that will last: "El Canelo looks like an Irishman, acts like an American and fights like a Mexican."
At first the Hatton fight with Alvarez was for something obscure, a strap with bad diamonds and fake bling, but 10 days ago the bout was upgraded, rather fortunately, to full World Boxing Council light-middleweight title status. Alvarez has a high world ranking at light-middle and Matthew is ranked at welterweight; the original fight was made at 150lb, 4lb inside the light-middle limit. There remains a bit of cattle-trading to locate a weight that sits comfortably with both fighters, their people, the WBC's suits and the promoter. Ricky has flown out to be more than just a ringside observer. He still feels protective, still loves "our kid".
"I've been a pro for over 10 years and I've been in the spotlight and out of the shadows for less than 18 months," adds Matthew. "I'm just a pro boxer, with a young family, a mortgage and I'm fighting to earn a living. I'm also Ricky's lickle brother, but that's not going to help me against this kid. I will be on my own and that suits me fine."
It is a real fight, Matthew is a real fighter now and he is right: being Ricky's brother won't help him.
Tale of the tape: How the Hattons compare
Birthdate: 15 May1981 (Age 29)
Current weight: 150lb
Current WBC Rank: Welterweight – 5th
Total fights: 47 Wins: 41 Wins by KO: 16
Losses: 4 Draws: 2
Belts held: IBF intercontinental welterweight title; IBF international welterweight title; European welterweight title
Birthdate: 6 October 1978 (Age 32)
Fought at: Light-welterweight, welterweight
Total fights: 47 Wins: 45 Wins by KO: 32
Belts held: Two-time IBF and IBO light-welterweight champion;
WBA welterweight champion;
WBU, WBA light-welterweight champion;
WBC, WBA, WBO intercontinental light-welterweight champion
A brief history of Boxing brothers
Saul and Rigoberto Alvarez
The Hattons are one of many sets of brothers to compete for world boxing titles. Matthew Hatton's opponent on Saturday Saul's older brother, Rigoberto (33), is a former WBA interim super-welterweight world title holder, which he lost to Austin Trout last month. Rigoberto boasts an impressive record, having lost just three times in 27 fights.
Dick and Randolph Turpin
Dick was the older brother of Randy and in 1948 became the first black fighter to win a British boxing title, taking both the British and Commonwealth middleweight crown. Dick's last fight was in 1951 and then he became full-time coach of younger brother Randy, who was destined to be the more famous of the two and beat Sugar Ray Robinson on 15 July 1951, on a 15-round points decision, to claim the world middleweight championship. After his retirement, Randy had money problems and committed suicide when declared bankrupt in 1966. A statue to his memory stands in Warwick.
Amir and Haroon Khan
Amir needs little introduction as the WBA world light-welterweight champion and an Olympic silver medallist. His record is tarnished by only one defeat in 25 fights and has moved up to the super-lightweight class. Haroon, younger by five years, is a 2010 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist but elects to box for Pakistan.
Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko
Vitali is the elder of the two, five years older than Wladimir. He is rumoured to be close to retirement but is the current WBC heavyweight champion and has never been knocked out or knocked down in his career. Wladimir is the longest-reigning heavyweight champion for the IBF, WBO and IBO titles in both defences and time. Both hold PhDs.
Juan Manuel and Rafael Marquez
Juan Manuel Marquez has won eight world titles at three weights. In 2004, he drew with Manny Pacquiao, one of only two draws in the great Filipino's career. His younger brother by two years, Rafael, is a former world champion at two weights. Four sets of Mexican siblings have held world titles – the others being the Espadas, Arredondos and Ruelas.
Manny and Bobby Pacquiao
Manny is the first boxer to win 10 world titles in eight divisions and is widely regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Bobby is two years younger than Manny and was a former super-featherweight and lightweight challenger. Bobby once held the WBC Continental Americas super-featherweight title but called it a day in 2008.
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