Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s first world title fight would be against Matthew Hatton, who tells Sky Sports about a painful masterclass from the Mexican star…
Hatton, like his older brother Ricky, was a fighter famed for seeking the highest challenges boxing had to offer.
Once an undercard loiterer desperate to obtain the titles and prestige that adorned his sibling, Matthew reached a stage in his unforgiving sport where he was universally respected following a run of victories over useful names such as former world title challengers, Ben Tackie and Gianluca Branco.
This series of wins eventually brought continental honours and with the lofty WBC ranking granted by holding the European strap, Hatton was catapulted into world belt contention when he took on Alvarez in the spring of 2011.
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Now recognised as the world’s premier middleweight ahead of his mouthwatering clash with Daniel Jacobs, live on Sky Sports, Alvarez required the scalp of Hatton to become world champion for the first time when they met eight years ago in California.
The Manchester fighter, a significant underdog, tried his hardest to force the upset, but reflecting on the fight now, Hatton knew what he was up against from the first exchange.
“It was a hard night where I had to tuck up and bite down quite a lot,” remembers Hatton, now retired and enjoying life in his home city where he runs his own gym. “I’d watched a lot of him before the fight and saw his wins over the likes of Carlos Baldomir and Lovemore N’dou and he was pretty much having his way with these guys.
Hatton said: “There’s only so much you can take from actual footage and there just comes a point when you want to get in the ring and see what he’s actually like. He caught me with a good shot in the first round and I knew straight away that it was going to be a long night.”
Hatton’s prophecy of a lengthy contest rang true as Alvarez raced to a 12-round decision win over the brave Brit to secure his maiden world title and his journey to superstardom was well underway.
Securing his legacy came in the shape of memorable victories over the likes of Miguel Cotto and Gennady Golovkin during memorable Las Vegas nights, but for Hatton, the loss to Alvarez was a sign the end was imminent.
Two more setbacks, against Kell Brook in 2012 and Chris van Heerden the following year, damaged Hatton’s ledger, but he possesses no doubts about who his best ever opponent was.
“Listen, Brook was a top fighter who I had to hang on against and tough it out a little, but although I thought Brook was special, it just seemed that Canelo was better and he had a lot more gears to go through.
“I think I got the best version of Kell Brook, but with Canelo there was probably another level or two that he could go to. His jab, the way he went to the body, the way he got into position.
“He was very economical with his shots and he didn’t waste a thing. I always knew watching him that he was a good fighter, but I left the ring that night believing that I’d been in with someone special who would go on to have a brilliant career.”
Hatton added: “I’m proud of everything I achieved in my career because there were moments during it when I believed one more loss might have been the end for me, but to get into contention to fight one of the best names in the sport must mean that I did okay.