By Jake Donovan
Kell Brook enjoyed a spectacular homecoming in his first fight of 2012, pitching a near-shutout over former title challenger Matthew Hatton in their 12-round main event Saturday evening at the Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield, England.
Scores were 119-107, 119-108 and 118-109 in favor of Brook, who scored a ninth round knockdown and never stopped pursuing a knockout.
A raucous capacity crowd of roughly 10,000 strong was vocal in its support from the ringwalks, raising the decibel level to a fever pitch once the opening bell sounded. Brook was measured in his attack early on, working his jab and keeping an onrushing Hatton off balance.
Brook began scoring consistently with his right hand in the second, while Hatton still struggled to untrack his own offensive attack. None of the shots were particularly potent, but enough to keep Hatton at bay and at times on the run.
Hatton managed to close the gap in the third and fourth rounds, but enjoying only singular moments of success in each frame. Brook controlled the action, save for a Hatton shoeshine consisting of a right hand at the end of both rounds.
The fifth round was the first to truly deviate from the script. Hatton began strong, scoring with chopping right hands. Brook quickly adjusted, landing his right hand with conviction for the first titme in the fight as he busted up Hatton’s already bloodied nose. The crowd came to its feet as Brook landed in combination, snapping back Hatton’s head in the process.
Momentum carried over for the hometown favorite in the sixth, perhaps Brook’s best round of the fight. The referee gave a long, hard look at Hatton, who repeatedly ate combinations throughout the round and showed no signs of turning things around.
Perhaps motivating words from his corner helped Hatton wake up in the seventh, targeting the body with mild success. Brook remained unfazed, though, continuing to pump his jab and straight right hands to Hatton’s grill.
A punishing eighth round raised the question of how much more punishment Hatton was willing o endure. Brook sought an answer to that inquiry, flooring his countryman with a counter left hook in the opening seconds of the ninth round. Hatton beat the count, but spent the rest of the round in a defensive shell, save for the moments when he clinched after getting tagged with sharp right hands.
Once again, Hatton escaped disaster and jumped out to a strong start in the following round. Separate left hooks caught Brook flush early in the 10th, causing the unbeaten Sheffield product to switch to southpaw in efforts to disrupt Hatton’s momentum. The strategy worked, though made for an ugly round as action slowed to a crawl.
Brook atoned for the temporary lack of thrills with a dominant 11th round. Hatton was once again in trouble, resorting to excessive clinching in his best efforts to survive. Brook took whatever openings were offered, though perhaps a bit too overzealous as he was warned for pushing down on the back of Hatton’s head in efforts to break free from a clinch.
Insult was added to injury for Hatton in the final round, as he was issued a final warning for holding. Another point deduction wasn’t going to make a difference as Hatton was miles behind on the scorecards, fighting accordingly as he missed with a wild leaping left hook once action resumed. Brook did his best to give his hometown fans a thrill, though was forced to settle for a shutout as Hatton mauled his way to the finish line.
Scoring was academic in the end, as Brook advances to (27-0,18KO) with the win. In terms of comparison performances, Brook was far more dominant against Hatton (now 42-6-2, 16KO) than was Saul Alvarez a year ago, in a fight that took place at each fighter’s natural weight class.
The win comes on the heels of Brook’s stateside debut, where he dominated Luis Galarza in five rounds last December in Atlantic City.
Hatton has now lost twice in his past three fights, with a win over previously unbeaten Andrei Abremenka last October sandwiched between lopsided defeats to Brook and Alvarez.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to JakeNDaBox@gmail.com.