3rd March 2013

By Dan Waters

‘Magic’ Matthew Hatton’s latest bid for world honours ended in defeat on Saturday, as he lost a 12 round decision to South Africa’s Chris Van Heerden. Hatton, fighting for a world title for the first time since his loss to Saul Alvarez last year, travelled to Van Heerden’s hometown of Johannesburg for the bout for the IBO Welterweight Title.

Whilst the IBO is a fringe world title, different versions of the belt have been held by such boxing luminaries as Bernard Hopkins, Nonito Donaire and Wladimir Klitschko, and this was a belt that Hatton was desperate to win. Four years ago ‘Magic’ fought to a draw with another South African Lovemore N’Dou for the same title, which many deemed a shocking decision and Hatton was desperate to set the record straight.

In the build-up to the fight, clearly no love was lost between champion and challenger. At both the weigh-in and press conference the two fighters nearly came to blows, with the normally placid Hatton refusing to shake Van Heerden’s hand, much to the champion’s ire.

On fight night after a cagey opening round in which Van Heerden was warned over the use of his elbow, the South African began to take charge, often occupying centre-ring and backing Hatton on to the ropes. In the second round, Hatton caught a clean right-uppercut which seemed to shake him up a little, but was able to fight his way off of the ropes as the fight turned scrappy.

The fight could have taken an about turn in the third round as Hatton cut Van Heerden badly above his right eye, but the challenger was unable to take control, with the awkward southpaw never allowing Hatton to get a foothold in the fight. The South African’s eye was bleeding profusely throughout the remainder of the fight, but his work continued to be neat and tidy. Hatton was still in the fight, and was never outclassed, but was clearly outworked by his younger opponent.

By the conclusion of the fight Van Heerden’s eye was a real mess, but nevertheless the South African retained his title with 118-110, 117-112, 116-112 scores from the judges. Hatton’s latest world title tilt ended in failure, and at 31 years old, and with 52 fights behind him it may well be his last chance.
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