Boxing
Alvarez-Hatton: Vacant title has significant shadow
Lyle Fitzsimmons

By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Talk about your tough acts to follow.

Though one has legitimate claim to phenom status and the other carries nothing less than heavyweight name recognition, neither Saul Alvarez nor Matthew Hatton figure to equal the feats of their most-recent 154-pound predecessor anytime soon.

The 20-year-old Mexican -- who leapt from suspect to prospect in 2010 -- faces the markedly less-celebrated kin of British heartthrob Ricky Hatton on Saturday night in California, to determine who'll pick up the WBC super welterweight belt last worn by Manny Pacquiao.

The bout will be broadcast on HBO's "Boxing After Dark" at 10:30 p.m. ET.

The multi-division Filipino had a 12-round layover in the weight class last November while thrashing Antonio Margarito, but was subsequently stripped by Jose Sulaiman & Co. for not immediately disclosing whether he'd keep the WBC strap, or the WBO welterweight crown he already owned.


Saul Alvarez scored four KOs in five wins last year.
WBC rules mandate that an incumbent champion winning a title in a different class must announce within 15 days what trinket he intends to defend.

Upon stripping Pacquiao, the WBC dubiously sanctioned Alvarez-Hatton for the vacant championship, though neither fighter has campaigned full-time in the division.

Pacquiao will defend his 147-pound title against Shane Mosley on May 7.

Alvarez, now 35-0-1 with 26 knockouts, scored four KOs in five wins last year, though he never weighed more than 150 1/2 for any fight. Hatton, meanwhile, has tipped-in at 150 or more just once since 2006 -- for a fifth-round TKO of Mikheil Khutsishvili last February.

He is 41-4-2 with 16 KOs and fought to a 12-round draw against then-champion Lovemore N'dou in an IBO welterweight title bout in 2009. Alvarez won a wide unanimous decision over N'dou in his last fight -- a non-title match-- in Veracruz, Mexico on Dec. 4.

"I come prepared, always," Alvarez said. "It's going to be a tough fight but I'm going to demonstrate my abilities in the ring. Hatton's a great warrior but the title is going home with me to Mexico after Saturday night."

The 29-year-old Hatton has won four straight fights -- all in 2010-- since the draw with N'dou, including a third-round stoppage of previously unbeaten Roberto Belge on Nov. 26.

He's not lost since dropping a 12-round verdict to countryman Craig Watson for the Commonwealth welterweight crown in 2008.

"Opportunities mean nothing if you don't take them," he said. "I've prepared well, trained harder than ever and I'm well capable of winning. As the fight approaches, I am more and more confident every day. I'm going to beat him. I have no doubt in my mind. It's going to be a great fight and 100 percent I am going to be the winner."

Also scheduled for the HBO broadcast is a 10-round junior lightweight bout between former 122-pound champion Daniel Ponce de Leon and unbeaten American slugger Adrien Broner.

Ponce de Leon has won seven straight fights since losing his WBO junior featherweight title by first-round TKO to Juan Manuel Lopez in 2008. He was a career-high 127 pounds for his last fight, a seventh-round stoppage of Sergio Manuel Medina on Dec. 4.

Broner, a native of Cincinnati, has 16 KOs in 19 wins and has gone beyond six rounds just once.

He's won 10 straight by stoppage and fought just 15 rounds over six fights in 2010.

"It's fight time," Broner said. "You gotta respect a guy like de Leon, but on Saturday night I am going to disrespect him in the ring. People say this is a step up for me but I say it is a step over.

"People say the biggest difference between the two of us is his power, but people just haven't seen me yet to know my power. Besides the power, though, I am a lot prettier."

* * * * * * * * * *

FRIDAY Azteca America -- Deportivo Trabajadores del Metro, Iztacalco, Mexico Rafael Guzman (27-2) vs. Jorge Ibarra (10-5-1) -- 10, featherweights Juan Montiel (4-3-2) vs. Felipe Gonzalez (0-10-0) -- 10, lightweights

ESPN2--Wide World of Sports Complex, Kissimmee, Fla. Ismayl Syllakh (14-0) vs. Yordanis Despaigne (8-0) -- 10, light heavyweights Ray Narh (24-1) vs. Freddie Norwood (43-3-1) -- 10, junior welterweights

TeleFutura--Fantasy Springs Casino, Indio, Calif. Vicente Escobedo (22-3) vs. Walter Estrada (38-13-1) -- 10, lightweights

SATURDAY HBO--Honda Center, Anaheim, Calif. Saul Alvarez (35-0-1) vs. Matthew Hatton (41-4-2) -- WBC super welterweight title Adrien Broner (19-0) vs. Daniel Ponce de Leon (41-2) -- 10, junior lightweights Seth Mitchell (20-0-1) vs. Charles Davis (19-21-3) -- 10, heavyweights

Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/fitzbitz.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.

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