By Kevin Francis, courtesy of The Daily Star
A HATTON will hit the boos in South Africa when one of Britain’s most popular fighters walks into the lion’s den tonight.
Matthew ‘The Magic Man’ Hatton, the younger brother of Ricky, challenges local hero Chris van Heerden for the IBO welterweight crown in Johannesburg.
And the likeable 31-year-old Mancunian knows that he will be the most disliked man around when he climbs into the ring.
He has been in Johannesburg for two weeks acclimatising for a fight in which he is aware that he will be a target for the boo-boys.
But he knows the jeers he gets from the crowd will not compare to the kind of hate he faced when losing bravely on points to Mexican star Saul Alvarez two years ago.
Hatton said: “In all honesty, it’s down to a person’s character.
“I’m quite a stubborn character, so it’s never really bothered me.
“I remember when I fought Alvarez in California and there must have been 15,000 Mexicans there, all baying for my blood.
“I won’t repeat what they were saying to me! But that kind of thing just pumps me up and allows me to get the best out of myself.
“I can handle whatever insults they throw at me.
“I am ready for this contest, so what the crowd do won’t affect me in any way.”
Hatton was outpointed by Kell Brook last March and must win tonight to keep alive his big-fight ambitions.
Van Heerden, 25, has won 18 contests, suffered one controversial defeat and drew another battle which he later avenged.
Hatton added: “He’s certainly a good fighter, but I don’t think he is half as good as he thinks he is.
“He seems to think he’s a legend in his own head. It’s a big ask for me, fighting somewhere that is a long way from Manchester, but I can rise to the challenge.
“If I win, there are a lot of big fighters that I am capable of winning against.
“There’s obviously Vyacheslav Senchenko, who beat Ricky. That wasn’t nice for me to see.
“I’d like to get revenge over him.”
VAN HEERDEN v Hatton will form one half of a doubleheader on BoxNation (Sky 437/ Virgin 546) from 7pm tonight. The second part of the action comes from America later in the night and features Richard Abril and Sharif Bogere challenging for the vacant WBA lightweight title.
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