SAUL ALVAREZ vs. MATTHEW HATTON
When: Saturday, March 5
Where: Anaheim, Calif. (Honda Center)
TV: HBO Boxing After Dark, 10:30 pm. ET (live) / 10:30 p.m. PT (delayed)
Weight: Junior middleweight (150-pound catch weight)
Title(s) at stake: WBC
Also on the card: Daniel Ponce de Leon vs. Adrien Broner, 10 rounds, lightweights (TV bout); Seth Mitchell vs. Charles Davis, 10 rounds, heavyweights; James Kirkland vs. Ahsandi Gibbs, 8 rounds, super middleweights; Daniel Jacobs vs. Robert Kliewer, 8 rounds, middleweights.
Height / Reach: 5-9 (175cm) / 71 (180cm)
Hometown: Juanacatl├ín, Jalisco, Mexico
Turned pro: 2005
Record: 35-0-1 (26 knockouts)
Trainer: Eddie Reynoso
The Ring rating: None
Biggest victories: Carlos Baldomir, Sept. 18, 2010, KO 6; Lovemore N’Dou, Dec. 4, 2010, UD 12.
Draw: Jorge Juarez, June 17, 2006, PTS 4
Height / Reach: 5-8¾ (174cm) / n/a
Hometown: Manchester, England
Turned pro: 2000
Record: 41-4-2 (16 knockouts)
Trainers: Bob Shannon
The Ring rating: None
Biggest victories: Ben Tackie, Nov. 22, 2008, UD 10; Gianluca Branco, March 26, 2010, UD 12 (European title); Yuriy Nuzhnenko, July 16, 2010, UD 12, Roberto Belge, Nov. 26, 2010, KO 3.
Losses: Craig Watson, May 24, 2008, UD 12; Alan Bosworth, Oct. 20, 2006, DQ 10.
Skills: While Alvarez and Hatton seldom shy away from a rough inside fight, both men are primarily boxers who like to operate from a distance until they can score with significant punches. Both work off their jabs, put punches together well and are good counter-punchers. Alvarez is operates with more fluidity and athleticism but Hatton possess slightly tighter technique and is the busier and cagier of the two.
Power: Alvarez does not possess one-shot knockout power but his punches do considerably more damage than those of Hatton, who has only scored 16 stoppages in his 41 victories. Alvarez’s comparatively high KO percentage (72%) is due in part to the accurate placement of his punches and his acute sense of timing. He often hurts his opponents with well-timed counter punches and he knows when top jump on a wounded foe. In other words, “Canelo” possesses fierce finishing instincts.
Speed and athletic ability: Alvarez is not gifted with dynamic speed and reflexes but the young man is physically strong and he possesses an intuitive athleticism. Alvarez’s punches and ring maneuvers seem to flow from him, while Hatton often looks tight and appears to force his offense.
Defense: While neither fighter can be described as “elusive” both do a good job of blocking punches with their gloves. Both fighters also use their footwork to maneuver away from punches. Hatton uses lateral movement as defense better than Alvarez, but the younger man possesses superior upper-body movement.
Experience: Alvarez has an impressive amount of pro experience for a 20-year-old fighter. The popular youth has fought the 12-round distance three times and he’s completed five 10 rounders. He’s also been in with solid opposition, including current lightweight titleholder Miguel Vazquez (twice), former junior welterweight beltholder Lovemore Ndou, former title challenger Jose Cotto, and numerous fringe contenders. Hatton has also been in with Ndou, as well as former title challengers Gianluca Branco and Yuriy Nuzhnenko. The 29 year old has fought the 12-round distance 12 times and he’s completed four 10 rounders. Hatton edges Alvarez out in total rounds fought (299 to 213).
Chin: Alvarez has never been down but he was badly rocked by Cotto, a natural lightweight, in the first round of their fight last May. Hatton has been down (against Nuzhnenko in the first round of their bout last July) and he’s been taken out (by David Keir in the second round of their fight way back in 2003).
Conditioning: Both fighters have proven their ability to fight the championship distance and both have come on strong during the late rounds of hard bouts.
Wear and tear: Hatton has six more years in the pro game than Alvarez, along with 11 more fights and 86 more rounds.
Corner: Hatton is experiencing the best form of his career under the guidance of new trainer Bob Shannon, who joined the Manchester native early last year. Shannon is an experienced British trainer who has enhanced the careers of domestic standouts Prince Arron, a junior middleweight who won the popular Prizefighter TV tournament, and undefeated Commonwealth welterweight champ Denton Vassell. Hatton has probably benefited the most from Shannon. He would have been expected to lose to a formidable contender such as Nuzhnenko before he hooked up with the new trainer. Alvarez has been trained by Jose and Edison (“Eddy”) Reynoso since he turned pro. The father-and-son team have obviously done well with the youth. Eddy Reynoso also trains Koki Kameda, a three-division beltholder from Japan.
Outcome: The early rounds will be a hotly contested tactical battle of jabs, calculated power shots and well-timed counter punches. Hatton will have a slight edge in the scoring due to his busier work-rate, but Alvarez will be the first to score with a significant punch when he rocks Briton with a left hook in the fourth round. Hatton will cover up, hold and even engage in some roughhouse tactics in close in order to survive the rough spot and the round, but Alvarez will step up his aggression and punch output in the middle rounds. The Mexican phenom will punish Hatton with body shots, counter left hooks and lead right hands that pierce Hatton’s high guard, but the Manchester native will suck it up and fire back with quick three- and four-punch combinations that force Alvarez to back off in spots. However, Alvarez’s greater size, superior power and body attack will eventually takes its toll on a battered looking Hatton in the late rounds. Hatton’s older brother (and promoter) Ricky Hatton will signal Matthew’s trainer to wave it off while the fighter is on his stool between rounds.
Prediction: Alvarez by late stoppage.