By Jack Sumner @Jack_Sumner_
Matthew Hatton will attempt to finally step out of brother Ricky’s shadow this weekend, when he competes for world honours for the third time in his career at the Sandton Convention Center in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The belt on the line may only be the lightly regarded IBO strap, but a win for Hatton would seal a long and hard ascent through the less trodden paths of the welterweight ranks.
His opponent isn’t regarded so lightly however. In the opposite corner on the night will be 25-year-old South African Chris ‘The Heat’ van Heerden (18-1-1 10 KOs), who in the rainbow nation at least is being marketed as a rising star and by some observers is touted for a bright future.
There’s no denying it’s a tough task for Matthew with a recipe for some home cooking perhaps if it goes the distance, but Hatton’s had it tough on the road many times before and won’t be phased by entering the lion’s den.
Hatton (43-6-2 17 KOs) has lost two of his last four fights albeit to Saul Alvarez and Kell Brook and has generally enjoyed something of an Indian summer to his career since capturing the European title in 2010. There are not many 31-year-olds you can describe as seasoned veterans of the sport but after a rollercoaster fifty-plus fights since turning pro at 19, Hattons certainly an old 31.
It does however mean he’ll be coming into the fight with a big edge in top level experience. Van Heerden’s best wins have been decisions over fellow countryman Kaizer Mabuza and fringe contender Sebastian Andres Lujan, whilst the one defeat on his slate came against Nikola Stevanovic. Hatton meanwhile challenged Alvarez for the WBC title at light middleweight and put in a gutsy effort to take Canelo the distance, as well as going the full twelve with Brook. It will also be the second time he’s challenged for the IBO world title, after a draw with Lovemore Ndou in 2009 where many saw Hatton winning the fight.
That experience of bad judging will hopefully be a motivating factor for Hatton in South Africa but equally he’ll need to stick to a gameplan and not lose his head. He’s not expecting any favours against the hometown favourite and has gone on record saying he’ll be looking to score the knockout. It could be his best chance of victory. The problem though is that he is not noted for his power and Van Heerden has shown a decent chin.
If Hatton is too gung ho the fight could play into the South African’s hands, though it’s worth pointing out though that this is probably Van Heerden’s toughest test to date. With his experience and aggressive fighting spirit let’s hope ‘Magic’ can make an early impression on Van Heerden. It may be that he needs to have a few rounds in the bank if he’s going to pull a rabbit, or rather a decision, out of the hat.