Mathew Hatton challenges Lovemore N’Dou for the IBO welterweight title, at the Fenton Manor Sports Complex in Stoke tonight and admits the South African is the best fighter he has faced to date, but insists he is in great shape and is focused on this fight as well as his own career.
Mathew says there has never been a rivalry between the two, he just believes now is his time, and he aims to take it.
Having been in the corner for so many of Ricky’s fights including the victories against Kostya Tszyu and Jose Luis Castillo, he now wants a taste of it for himself which is why he believes victory against N’dou, will be the springboard to the kind of fights that made the Hitman one of the biggest names in Boxing.
Hatton is chomping at the bit to fulfil a career, that looked to be going knowhere after his defeat to fellow Mancunian Craig Watson and as a training partner and side kick for Ricky.
Mathew, now 28 believes their close brotherly bond kept them together under the guidance of Billy Graham for too long, and cost him earlier breaks when Ricky and Dad Ray had fall outs with various promoters over the years.
“No brothers are closer than me and Ricky, and we are each others biggest fans,” said Mathew. “But I should have been more selfish and done what was right for me.
“I stayed on at Billy’s gym because Ricky and I enjoyed training with each other. But Billy was putting all his efforts into Ricky and even before my embarrassing defeat to Craig Watson 18 months ago I knew I had to leave.
“As awful as it sounds, I had to forget Ricky and leave him on his own. I don’t blame him. It was nobody’s fault but mine.
“I’m enjoying training again and feel that at last i can achieve what I;m capable of. In the past as well I’ve lost opportunities because Ricky and my Dad fell out with promoters. I’ve been left in no man’s land. I felt I’d been used as a tool.”
“But now Ricky’s paying me back in a sense. Him and my Dad. They made Lovemore an offer he couldn’t refuse to fight me over here.
“I want to repay them by winning the title. I’ve got home advantage and will never have a better chance to become world champion. I’ll have to be at my best to win but I’m confident I can.”
“It’s been a frustrating time over the last few months with one fight or another falling through, but it’s finally sorted and to say I’m looking forward to it is an understatement.” said Hatton.
In winning the less recognised IBO belt, Hatton hopes it will lead to mega bouts against boxing’s biggest names and maybe even Ricky’s old foes, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. even Amir Khan who is the WBA welterweight champion was mentioned.
“I’m a firm believer that even though you don’t look past anyone or any fight, you have to set yourself goals,” he said. “If I get past Lovemore N’dou it sets up some huge fights against some of the biggest fighters out there.
“So this is the biggest fight of my career. A massive fight, but a fight I am very confident of winning.
“There are some massive names in the welterweight division and Lovemore has pushed all of them.
“The incentive is not only to be world champion, but set up some big fights and make some good money.
“There are a lot of big names, a lot of world champions. To draw one of those massive names would be fantastic.”
Victory against N’dou would announce Hatton on the world stage after seeing his reputation enhanced by impressive wins against Ted Bami and Ben Tackie.
But victory against N’Dou is certainly no foregone conclusion, a very capable performer, the South African twice took Paulie Malignaggi the distance, losing in controversial circumstances at the City of Manchester Stadium last year, on the same bill as Ricky’s home coming, after the Mayweather loss.
N’Dou moved up to welterweight, and he promptly became IBO champion and will make his first defence against Hatton.
While N’Dou has been found wanting in the biggest tests of his career – losing to Miguel Cotto and Junior Witter – he still represents a massive step up in class for Hatton.
But he is convinced he can follow in Ricky’s footsteps.
“I’ve been so proud of Ricky and what he’s achieved in his career,” he said. “He’s been a world champion at multiple weights, but I’ve never been jealous in any way.
“The only time I’ve been disappointed about my boxing is when I’ve not performed to the best of my ability.
“It’s not a case of trying to emulate Ricky. I want to show people what I can do. I want to show them what a good fighter I am.
“`Matthew Hatton world champion’ sounds good. I think this is my time to make a name for myself.”
Hatton certainly has looked more accomplished in his last few fights since the Watson loss, and his career as certainly progressed more than Watsons, in fact Craig must feel a little wonder why he isn’t the one challenging for major honours, although he as since lost defining fights.
Mathew must try to dictate the fight from the first bell and outwork N’Dou every round. Hatton has a good jab, and can, as shown in previous fights, he can put good punches together.
I believe Hatton will win a clear unanimous decision, and finally step from the shadows of the Hitman, to cement his own boxing legacy.