Matthew Hatton: ‘Van Heerden’s a Cocky, Arrogant, Trash Talker Who’s Far Too Full of Himself. I Really Don’t Like The Guy. Prepare for Fireworks!’

Posted on 01 March 2013 in Interviews
Hopefully the recent formal retirement of ring legend Ricky Hatton will finally allow his younger, meeker brother Matthew to emerge from the shadows and receive due props for his own considerable ring achievements.
The welterweight they call 'Magic' has been mastered in just six of his 51 pro gigs, bagging a European title en route and making a very credible world title challenge to formidable Mexican Saul Alvarez, up at light-middle.

And the 31 year old Mancunian is adamant that higher benediction still awaits. On Saturday evening, at The Sandton Convention Center in Johannesburg, Hatton challenges home hero Chris 'The Heat' Van Heerden for the IBO crown. And if the banter in the build up is any yardstick, it promises to be lively!

(BoxNation subscribers can catch the fight live and exclusive in the UK on BoxNation, (Sky Ch. 437, Virgin Ch. 546)).

Big plans have been laid for the defending champion, a cocksure 25 year old southpaw who lost just three of 94 amateur bouts and just one of 20 as a pro. However, Hatton minor appeared hell-bent on ruining the script when boxing writer Glynn Evans interviewed him this week.

What was the attraction of the Van Heerden fight to you? He's ranked higher and fighting on home turf so it's uphill all the way. Was it purely financial?

Absolutely not. I'm happy with the purse here but I've never taken a fight just for the money. When I first started out with the boxing I always said I'd fight anyone, any time, any place, any where. I think over the years my record shows that I've been true to that. I've travelled to all corners.

My loss to Kell Brook last year was a massive disappointment, a real bad night for me because, though I was underdog, I was extremely confident that I was going to win the fight. Unfortunately, I broke my nose in two places in the very first round which really affected me and it all went down hill from there.

I proved to myself that I still had plenty left when I came back with that really good win (a first round stoppage) over Michael Lomax who was a former Prizefighter winner. Then this opportunity came a bit out of the blue. Van Heerden is a well regarded, world rated opponent – some independent rankings have him as high as number six - so it's a really good opportunity to get myself right back up there.

What value do you place on the IBO belt?

It represents a perfect opportunity for me to win a world title. Ricky's fights against (Jose Luis) Castillio, (Paulie) Malignaggi and (Manny) Pacquiao were all for the IBO title down at light-welter and no one ever said they weren't for a bonafide world title.

The IBO is regarded far more highly in the US and Africa than it is in Europe. Van Heerden's a worthy champion, world ranked by everybody. Victory will put me right back up there, back in line for the big fights, with big names, for big money. I'd rate the IBO belt above my European title, definitely.

How has your preparation been going?

Fantastically. I've been preparing hard right over Christmas. I'm fully aware this could be my last opportunity to win a world title.

I don't like being away from my kids but, by fight night, I'll have been in South Africa for just short of two weeks to take account of the altitude factor. And as each day passes, I'm feeling better and better. You can feel the difference in the air but, win or lose, I don't think altitude is going to be a factor in this fight.

I'm a realist. I know I've been brought over here simply as a stepping stone for Chris Van Heerden whom they've got big plans for. I see him as my stepping stone back to the big boys.

Since I've been here, the promoter Damien Michael from Showpony Promotions has treated me excellently. I'm in a nice hotel, I've had some gruelling sessions – but no sparring – at the gyms of Cassius Baloyi and Nic Durandt and I've been able to do my roadwork in the evenings around the Wanderers Cricket Ground.

What can you tell us about the venue for Saturday's fight?

It seems a really good set-up. The venue, The Sandton Convention Center, is just five minutes walk from my hotel. It's really modern, holds up to 8,000 and I've been reliably informed that tickets are selling really well.

To what extend will your prior experiences of boxing away from home and overseas prepare you for the hostile reception that's likely to await on Saturday evening?

I'm expecting a hostile atmosphere but it'll be nothing I haven't seen before. I've been fortunate to have boxed all over the world on Ricky's undercards, remember. I fought before 15,000 Mexicans baying for my blood in California when I boxed Saul Alvarez for the world (WBC light-middle) title. I also fought In Monaco, in Dublin...

Chris is a huge star over here. He's featured on the local TV most nights and there's photos of him in almost every paper. The South Africans are very passionate about their boxing and I do get the feeling I'm a long way from home. It's great to have home advantage but you just play with the cards you're dealt with.

Anyway, there's a real stubborn streak in me and all the animosity and negativity will bring out the best in me. I'm mentally strong. The main problem is going to be getting out of the venue holding the belt, after I've beaten him!

Lately you've made a few changes to your back up team. Dave Coldwell has been installed as manager and, after a profitable period with coach Bob Shannon, you've returned to Lee Beard. Why?

I was actually self-managed and pretty much organised this fight myself but it proved difficult so I've brought Dave on board as a manager to sort out that end. I can still feature on any promotions.

I was working with Lee before – in fact, we've never lost when we've worked together. But he started spending more and more time in the States with the Mayweathers and others and, as I'd just had my son Jack, I couldn't commit to going over there. Our initial split was very amicable, simply a case of location. I felt great working with Lee again throughout camp for the Lomax fight and clearly that showed in the level of my performance on the night.

Bob Shannon did a fantastic job with me and we had a great run together but, after the defeat to Kell, I just felt I needed fresh ideas.

In what areas do you feel you're still developing and improving as a fighter?

For a start I'm more motivated for this fight than I've ever been. I'm really enjoying my boxing again. I honestly believe I'm improving in most technical aspects. While Bob really brought me on, I felt I was starting to take a few too many when I didn't really need to. I've a good boxing brain yet didn't think I was using my skill enough. I see myself in this game for some time yet and genuinely believe my best years are still to come.

Brother Ricky is one of the best fighters, and certainly best loved fighters, that these isles have produced. Do you feel that his recent retirement will allow you to finally emerge from his shadow and receive recognition as a fighter in your own right?

It's not something I concern myself with. It's unlikely that Ricky's popularity will ever be rivalled so I've never tried to compete.

The only time I've ever felt down, regarding my career, is when I feel I've not performed to the best of my ability. But I've already had a good career in my own right. I've won the European belt, challenged for a genuine world title and I retain an inner belief that I'm still going to become world champion.

When I first turned professional with nominal amateur pedigree, there were plenty spouting that I'd never even make it to British title level but I learnt in the gym, learnt from my defeats and I think everybody would agree that I've got much better with age.

You're already ranked 14th by the IBF going into Saturday's fight. If you're triumphant what do you still hope to achieve from the game?

A world title belt with one of the big four organisations. I probably gave 'Canelo' his hardest fight, even though I was conceding natural size. It was competitive even though he was much the bigger man.

Kell Brook is a quality fighter who'll go on to do great things but that wasn't me in there and I still managed to see the 12 rounds out.  If I thought that was the best I could do I'd retire but I know that, without the injury, it'd have been different.

I'm always honest with myself and, realistically, if things don't go as I plan on Saturday, I know it's unlikely I'll realise my goals at world level.

What have you seen of Van Heerden as a fighter? What do you assess to be his strengths and shortcomings?

I've seen tapes of quite a few of his fights over the years. I've kept an eye on him because I was offered the fight before when I was European champion but I opted to pursue other avenues instead.

I watched his last fight against Sebastian Lujan from Argentina, who's a good fighter, yet Van Heerden won every round. His win over Kaiser Mabuza was another excellent result.

He's a good solid fighter, a tall southpaw who's in fantastic shape. I'd say his conditioning and his fitness are definitely his best attributes. But they're areas I'm strong in myself so it's not like I put his DVDs on at night, then can't sleep.

Who's he fought? Who's he beaten? He's definitely no Saul Alvarez. I'm definitely more experienced.

In fact, home advantage is probably Van Heerden's only advantage. You'd have to say that if the fight was in the UK, or even on neutral turf, most would be backing me.

You had to be separated by security guards after matters got a little bit too spicy between the pair of you at the press conference earlier in the week! Give us your version of exactly what happened.

Van Heerden has had plenty to say about what he was going to do to me on Twitter and he's a cocky, arrogant, trash talker who's far too full of himself.

At the presser, he took it up another level. We'd had a few words back and forth then, when the time came to do the face to face photo shoot, he put his head against mine and attempted to push me back, tried it on.

Being antagonistic to the opposition has never been my style – I always try to be respectful – but I'm certainly not having anybody putting it on me. Consequently, there was a lot of pushing and shoving. Thankfully, the security got in pretty quick which was a good thing cos I was losing my temper. I really don't like the guy. Prepare for fireworks!

What type of fight do you envisage on Saturday evening and why are you confident that you win?

It's definitely going to be entertaining for the fans. Chris appears quite a good boxer but he's got this fighter's mentality; plenty of balls and guts. He'll end up having a fight and that's what I want. Don't expect anything too technical.

I win simply because I'm the better fighter. Though he's the champion, I've boxed at a much higher level. A lot of IBO titles seem to be given to African fighters on a plate. There's no standout names on his card.

I'm coming off a good win against a southpaw and I've had a great camp. I just think the time is right for me. It's a golden opportunity and I have to make the most of it.
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