By Terence Dooley
Eddie Hearn has created a few headlines this week, Matchroom’s Group Managing Director unveiled Kell Brook versus Matthew Hatton on Wednesday and has secured Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena for the ‘War Of The Roses’ showdown. Hearn inked Kell’s signature last April, a lot of energy has been poured into developing the Sheffield starlet, with the fight against Hatton the litmus test for Kell’s world level aspirations.
“I’m over the moon,” said Hearn when speaking to BoxingScene about Kell’s March 17th engagement. “It took us a little of time to make the fight but you only had to see how packed the press conference was to see that people are excited about it. It will capture the public’s imagination.
“Matthew’s already fought for a world title at light-middleweight. They’re both in the same position, both looking for a world title shot, so we feel that this can get Matthew out of the way and clear a path for Kell to move towards the world titles.
“Sometimes you have to roll the dice and we’ve done that with this venue but the undercard fighters have already taken four thousand tickets. We sold over a thousand tickets within the first hour so we’re already up to five thousand and have got over ten weeks until the fight. The venue can hold twelve thousand if we want to do that. It has caught on. I think it is because tickets start at thirty pounds, which is a good price for a show like this. It is a great arena and Kell is happy with it.”
Brook holds a perfect 26-0 (18) slate. Matthew, though, has fought at the highest level; he lost a wide decision to Saul Alvarez back in March yet acquitted himself well before a big crowd in Los Angeles in a bout that was carried by HBO. Hearn believes that the fight against Hatton, 42-5-2 (16), will provide Kell with the perfect platform for his undoubted talents. However he was quick to point out that the 25-year-old needs to be on top of his game.
“We talk about the fights with Kell,” revealed Hearn. “Every one of them has to have significance. Lovemore N’dou is a former world champion and was a test for Kell, Rafal Jackiewicz was ranked with the governing bodies, Luis Galarza was fairly weak but we feel Matthew is the final test.
“Matthew went twelve rounds with Alvarez for the WBC light-middleweight title. Although he took a beating he gave as good as he got as well. If Kell is as special as we think he is then he’ll deal with Matthew and do it spectacularly. If he doesn’t prepare properly or is overcome by the occasion then he’s in trouble. I’ve told him to train harder and want it more than any other fight or he’ll slip up. Matthew won’t be overawed by the occasion so it is a tough fight.
“I think you’ll see the best Matthew Hatton you’ve ever seen, he’ll be pumped up and have plenty of desire – he’ll be determined to beat Kell Brook. Matthew’s got a decent ranking anyway, Kell’s just a bit above him in the ratings, but Matthew can achieve something in his own right, he’s been in Ricky’s shadows at times, and prove he’s the number one in the country. This is the number one against the number two.”
Brook has settled into his role as one of Britain’s premier contenders. Matthew, however, has mixed it with a higher class of fighter; he won the EBU welterweight title in 2010 and showed plenty of desire to rebound after dropping a decision to Craig Watson for the Commonwealth belt in 2008. This certainly isn’t a one-horse race.
“Ricky is very, very popular and you will always get the trickle down from that support but people have got respect for Matthew in his own right because of what he did against Alvarev,” said Hearn. “He went toe-to-toe and took some amazing shots. If Kell breaks him down then it will be something very special.”
Brook was heavily criticized in some quarters when beating Galarza by fifth round TKO in Atlantic City on the undercard of Carl Froch versus Andre Ward. For Hearn and Brook the fight against the 17-2 boxer represented an opportunity to allow Kell to impress US fans.
“One thing I never do is con the public,” stated Hearn. “Galarza is what he is – a banger, a tough kid who is limited. It was never about the opponent. It was about going over there for the big occasion: the press conferences, the weigh in, preparing Kell and showing him to the American fans. It was about ticking that box in case we need to take Kell over there for a world title shot.
“We also had conversations with Top Rank about Mike Jones. We’re not quite there yet but we want it because that’s an inevitable fight for the future. But if you look at the two options from the British perspective then the one with the profile and prestige is Matthew Hatton because these big, all-British fights only come around once so often.
“It is six months since Kell’s first fight with us. That is four fights with us by the time Matthew comes around, which is brilliant preparation. Kell’s showed commitment, we’ve kept him busy, he’s only out of the gym for a family holiday after the fights and he’s always ready, always has a plan in there and is buzzing about his life. Kell’s confidence was at an all-time low when we got him, now he’s going into a big fight in a big arena and he is on a high.”
Darren Barker had his dream fight in October, a world middleweight title challenge to consensus king Sergio Martinez. Barker succumbed to a right hook in the eleventh round after a spirited performance, his educated left drawing blood from Martinez’s nose and frustrating the defending champion.
“The things Darren did in that fight are the things we always knew he could do, he performed so well. Darren has put himself right in the frame for another big world title shot and another life changing experience. You’re in the game for money and titles, he had been at European level for a bit, did all he had to do at that level and it was all about where he went next.
“After eight rounds we felt he could do it but Martinez showed his class. Darren perforated his eardrum. Then he came in with his guard high so took too many around the ears and the last one knocked his balance and took his legs away.”
A fight against WBC holder Julio Cesar Chavez Junior is on the table should Barker net a win when he takes his place on the undercard of Brook-Hatton. “We got offered the Chavez fight for February the 4th but the offer came in December after Darren had been enjoying his break and was over the weight,” said Hearn.
“We are now looking at it for the end of May so the March 17th fight is just about getting him out, putting in a performance, keeping his name out there and keeping things bubbling over so we can make the Chavez fight for late May.”
What else is on the table for Barker? “We’ve also talked about [IBF holder] Daniel Geale coming over to London, [WBO titlist Dmitry] Pirog is interested in a fight so there’s options out there,” answered Hearn.
“[Matthew] Macklin and [Martin] Murray have done it as well at the world level (against Felix Sturm) to keep themselves in the mix and with the chance of making big fights. Darren, Macklin and Murray have had good paydays in their last fights but let’s see how it goes. Richard Poxon [Hatton Promotion’s matchmaker] came on (Twitter) the other day and asked if I wanted Murray versus Barker. We’d take that in a heartbeat but they haven’t got the money to make it happen. You need big TV money to do it. One of them needs a world title.
“Macklin has moved on again now so if he wins that world title we can start a round robin in a really good division. You’ve also got John Ryder [8-0], Billy Joe Saunders [12-0], it is a really good division and in a few years it will be red hot.”
Saunders and Ryder were linked earlier this week prompting Hearn and Frank Warren, who promotes Billy Joe, to discuss the possibility of the fight live on Twitter. Offers were made. Hearn insists that the showdown should be showcased live on Sky Sports.
Saying, “Billy said he wanted John so we said ‘OK, fair enough’ but a big fight like that should be on Sky Sports in front of a big audience, not on BoxNation. We made our offer, Frank made his offer, they were similar to be honest, although his was a bit sneaky because it involved ticket money, but he wanted it on his show, we wanted it on ours. It will grow over time and become a big domestic fight when it comes around.
“Every fighter living the dream as a professional boxer wants to fight in front of the biggest possible audience. When you compare the numbers between Sky and BoxNation it isn’t even close. I don’t see why a fighter would want to fight in front of a smaller audience. Sky build the fights, they give them promos and build excitement so if you want to be in big fights then you fight on Sky Sports. We’re delighted to be able to offer that to our fighters.”
Hopefully the two middleweight contenders will improve at such a rate that they become mandatory challengers for the domestic belts. The future of the fight, plus many others, will then rest on the BBBoC’s purse bids system, which could become crucial in the current TV landscape as Sky and BoxNation vie for the best domestic contests.
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