Alan Dawson – London
The Yorkshire v Lancashire rivalry is a hot one in English sport. Despite a gulf in class, Leeds United and Manchester United retain a severe grudge when they are pitted against the other, the Roses match between Yorkshire CCC and Lancashire CCC is a must-see in cricket and this also transcends other games like rugby and even between university students. Now, on March 17, at the Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield, Kell Brook and Matthew Hatton will combat a War of the Roses in boxing as the welterweight duo aim to decide whom can lay claim to be the best in Britain.
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Head to head: Undefeated Brook and defensive fighter Hatton are number one and two in UK
“This fight has been a long time coming but I am just so pleased that we’re going to get it on,” said Brook (26-0-0, 18ko) when the fight was confirmed this week. “I want to prove that I’m the number one welterweight in Britain. Matthew is a proven fighter and as tough as they come and the Hatton’s have done so much for boxing.
“But this feels like my big night and it’s a dream come true to be headlining the Motorpoint Arena… I remember watching Johnny Nelson and Ryan Rhodes fighting in The Full Monty back in 1997, and now it’s my turn to be the big draw – I can’t wait.”
The Brook v Hatton bout has polarised boxing fans already. Under former promoter Frank Warren, Brook felt the wrath of detractors who stated that, because of how highly he was heralded, he was being matched too softly. The 25-year-old pugilist, dubbed Special K, signed for a new promotional agency last year – Matchroom Sports – and, under head of boxing Eddie Hearn, Brook has fought Lovemore N’Dou (won by way of decision), Rafal Jackiewicz (won by way of stoppage) and Luis Galarza (stoppage).
Hearn had made numerous declarations that, should Brook oversee Galarza in what was his debut on American soil, then he would secure his 147lb ward a world title shot or, failing that, a big-name fight at the start of 2012.
Hatton (42-5-2, 16ko) is a solid and durable European-level prizefighter who has a penchant for defensive blocks but a world title holder and/or a draw at the gate he is not. The achievements and pedigree of Ricky’s younger brother is not a step-up from the trident of fighters Brook has already boxed whilst campaigning under the Matchroom banner, however, the decision to fight Hatton now could be one that takes into account future planning.
Brook and Hearn want Britain’s most recent unified world title holder – Amir Khan, who lost his WBA/IBF super lightweight championship belts to Lamont Peterson last month, when Khan makes the inevitable trip up to welter in the coming months/year.
Khan and his handlers, though, are loathe to do business with Matchroom Sports and Hearn again following the Sky Sports Box Office/Primetime fallout from Khan and another of Hearn’s fighters, Paul McCloskey, last year (Khan prevailed by way of technical decision). Instead, there were rumours that Khan would seek out Hatton for a homecoming welterweight bash but should Brook resoundingly beat-up Magic Matthew then this option for Khan would carry no practical value. Brook would be the only real British option.
Hatton, though, does not plan on making the one hour trip to Sheffield just to make up the numbers and make Brook look good: “I always knew that Kell and I would fight,” he said, before adding: “I’ve got nothing but respect for Kell and there’s no doubt that he’s a real talent but I am peaking at the right time and we’ll see just how talented he is on fight night.”
His trainer, Bob Shannon, concurs with Hatton’s statements, but added that the gameplan set by the respective fighters’ cornermen will be what separates them when the winner’s arm is held aloft: “Matthew will be in great shape on March 17 and this is a fight that will be won by who gets their tactics right. I know Kell well and I will live and breathe Kell Brook from now until fight night. He is a proper talent but this is a real test how talented he is.”
Hearn commented: “This is the sort of fight that I love to be involved in – a classic British battle between two great fighters. I fully expect this to catch the imagination of fight fans and the general public and really be something very big when we get to fight night.”
Perhaps in an acknowledgment that there would be questions as to why Brook is boxing Hatton for two minor belts (WBA Intercontinental welterweight title and IBF International welterweight title) and not fighting for a full world championship, Hearn said: “We talked to world champions for Kell but nothing that was put on the table excited me as much as this fight.”
Special Magic: K and Matthew pose for the press outside of the ground they'll be engaging each other in
While a match-up between Brook and Hatton would be a thinking man’s fight between a precise puncher with good movement (Kell) and a comparatively light puncher who is resilient, accustomed to hearing the final bell and has mastered an assortment of defensive postures (Hatton), a barnstorming British belter could be underway as the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC) have ordered a rematch between heavy hitters George Groves (14-0-0, 11ko) and Kenny Anderson.
Groves passed a gut check in his first fight with Anderson (15-1-0, 11ko) as he rose from the canvas to knockout the tough Scot in November, 2010. Since, the 29-year-old has successfully maneuvered himself into a mandatory position in order to challenge Groves for the British championship at super middleweight: “Kenny Anderson has been made mandatory to face George Groves next,” BBBoC secretary Robert Smith has confirmed.
An elated Anderson, speaking via the Daily Record, said: “It’s good the Board have given me the chance. I was pushing for it so I am delighted with the news and now I can talk about what I am going to do. I have finished off my last two opponents and feel I’m improving in every one of my fights.
“I deserve this– I’m glad I’ve been given the chance to show people I’m here again.”
Groves’ representative, Frank Warren of Sports Network, won the purse bids earlier today, Wednesday and therefore holds the right to stage the fight – most likely in Groves’ resident city; London.
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