Remember when? ... Canelo fought Hatton
Ahead of the eagerly anticipated showdown between Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez and Gennady 'GGG' Golovkin, Jack Laidler re-examines when the Mexican won his first world title against Manchester's Matthew Hatton back in March 2011...
On Saturday Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez will fight middleweight king Gennady Golovkin in a bout that will likely be the defining night in the Mexican fighter’s already glittering career.
For both men a win will legitimise their contrasting claims to being the best fighter in the middleweight division, as well as pushing them toward the summit of the much debated pound-for-pound lists.
If Canelo loses it will be not only be his second defeat as a professional, but also the second time he will have come up short against a mega star of the sport, the first of course being his points defeat to Floyd Mayweather Jr back in 2013.
At 27 years of age Alvarez has already collected more world titles and experienced more success than most fighters could ever dream of.
His win over the previously unbeaten Austin Trout in April 2013 made Canelo the WBA and WBC super welterweight champion of the world, while he can also claim victories over boxing royalty in the form of Shane Mosley and Miguel Cotto, as well as stoppage victories against former world titlists Kermit Cintron, Amir Khan and Liam Smith.
Canelo's showdown with GGG will be his 12th world title fight in all and he has come a long way since challenging for his maiden world title against Matthew Hatton, the younger brother of the former two-weight world champion and British boxing superstar Ricky.
Hatton’s career had started in a similar way to many prospects. Turning professional in 2000, he won his first thirteen contests without much fuss against largely limited opposition. However in his 14th pro outing Hatton astonishingly managed to lose a points decision to David Kirk, a journeyman with a record at the time of 9 wins, 43 losses, 3 draws. Kirk had not tasted victory in his previous nineteen bouts but edged the six-rounder on points at the MEN Arena on the undercard of Ricky Hatton's super lightweight victory against Stephen Smith.
Only two fights later Hatton would lose again, this time by fourth-round TKO at the hands of David Keir - a six-fight novice who would never claim another victory in a professional ring.
Hatton's boxing apprenticeship had not gone to plan.
Over the next three years, though, 'Magic' Matthew managed to revitalise his career and avoid a single defeat during a 15-bout hot streak, with his only blemish being a draw against the unbeaten novice Francis Jones.
Hatton’s record now stood at a respectable 28-2-1. A disqualification loss followed against Alan Bosworth before a quintet of wins yielded the IBF’s International and Inter-Continental trinkets.
A defeat to the Commonwealth welterweight champion Craig Watson in 2008 suggested that conquering domestic level was going to be a tall order, never mind challenging for world honours.
Surprisingly, though, Hatton pushed on and claimed four victories over domestic and European level opposition before drawing with the former IBF super lightweight world title holder, Lovemore Ndou.
Both Hatton’s performances and his level of opposition kept improving and in 2010 he faced the Italian Gianluca Branco for the vacant European welterweight title. Branco was 43-2-1 - he had already held the European title and had unsuccessfully challenged both Arturo Gatti and Miguel Cotto for world titles.
At the Goresbrook Leisure Centre in Dagenham, Hatton wrested the title with all three judges giving him the decision.
He defended his new title in another unanimous win against Yuriy Nuzhnenko before knocking out previously unbeaten Roberto Belge in one round.
Hatton was now 41-4-2 and on the best run of victories in his career. It was now that he was then given the opportunity to move up to super welterweight and fight the much talked about and unbeaten Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez for the vacant WBC title.
Canelo had turned professional aged just 15 years old and had fought on a regular basis ever since. Going into the Hatton fight he had already claimed 35 victories in just over six years as a pro. He did have one draw but this had come in just his fifth contest.
His career thus far had been a stellar one. He had picked up the NABF welterweight title in January 2009 and had also aligned with the WBC by winning and defending their youth version of the title.
By the summer of 2010 Canelo's extended apprenticeship was over and his assault on the world scene was to begin.
He defeated Luciano Leonel Cuello in six rounds to take the vacant WBC Silver light middleweight title. Cuello had only been beaten once in 27 contests and that was on points to future world champion, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Canelo then claimed another sixth-round stoppage in his first defence against former world champion Carlos Baldomir. A unanimous decision against Lovemore Ndou followed before he finally was given a shot at the WBC super welterweight title against Hatton.
The fight itself played out almost exactly how many imagined it would, save for the fact Hatton was able to make it to the final bell - a feat fellow Brits Ryan Rhodes, Amir Khan and Liam Smith would later fail to match against the heavy-handed Mexican.
Hatton had moved up to super welter for only the second time in his career whilst Canelo was fined for missing the agreed catchweight of 150lbs - not the first time he would be embroiled in a controversy surrounding a catchweight clause.
From the opening bell, Canelo bullied his opponent around the ring, making full use of his speed and weight advantages. Hatton seemed to have no answer for the powerhouse that faced him and from the outset it was clear that reaching the final bell would be his only success.
Canelo won every round of what turned out to be a total mismatch with all three judges scoring the bout 119-108, and Hatton tasting the canvas twice.
Those cynics amongst us may suggest the young Mexican was gifted the WBC title in fighting for a vacant strap against a fringe world level opponent, others may argue the contest opened the door for a future hall of fame fighter to step up to fight the best in the world.
Either way, Canelo Alvarez is now boxing royalty and on the verge of becoming a legend - if he can topple GGG.