Matthew Hatton and Kell Brook face-off in possibly the biggest domestic matchup of 2012.
Brook v Hatton is already the biggest domestic welterweight showdown since John H Stracey faced Dave ”Boy” Green in 1977, when they contest the WBA Intercontinental and IBF International welterweight titles at the Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield on Saturday. Brook is ranked in the world’s top six by all four major governing bodies, including a number two spot with the WBO. Hatton is ranked in the top 10 by the WBA and IBF, and 11th by the WBC. For all intents and purposes, the winner of this fight is pretty much guaranteed a crack at a world title.

Sheffield’s 25-year-old Brook (26-0, 18 KOs) has been the golden boy of British boxing ever since his first round destruction of Scotland’s Kevin McIntyre in a British welterweight title fight back in November 2008. He may no longer hold the British welterweight title, but Brook is clearly the best fighter in Britain yet to win a world title. World-class displays in 2011 against Lovemore Ndou, Rafal Jackiewicz and Luis Garlarza proved beyond doubt that he is ready to fight for a world crown.

Manchester’s 30-year-old Matthew Hatton (42-5-2, 16 KOs) represents the toughest test yet for Brook. For years he boxed under the shadow of his illustrious older brother Ricky, a three-time world champion and modern British boxing great, but the younger Hatton has come on leaps and bounds since being outpointed by Craig Watson in a Commonwealth welterweight title fight in 2008.

He won the European title in March 2010 with a unanimous decision over the vastly experienced Italian Gianluca Branco, and proved he was world-class when climbing off the canvas in the first round to defeat Ukrainian ironman Yuriy Nuzhenko four months later.

An out-of-the-blue chance to fight for a world title – even though it was at light middleweight and against the fearsome Mexican sensation Saul ”Canelo” Alvarez – was met with typical Matthew Hatton candor.  He may have had the Mexican-American crowd against him in the Honda Center in California last March, as well as a physically far bigger opponent, but Hatton put on an excellent display and despite losing a one-sided decision, was never in trouble against a fighter who has been demolishing rivals before and since.

Both men stand 5’9″, with Hatton having a slight edge in reach. Brook is the more powerfully built of the two, and that is reflected in his far superior knockout percentage (69% compared to 32%.) Both men are big at the weight – Brook is a career welterweight while Hatton frequently boxed at light middle and above in his early years.

In terms of pure talent, Brook has the edge. Hailing from the same Sheffield gym that produced such sublimely skilled boxers as Herol Graham and Prince Naseem Hamed, Brook may be less flamboyant than either of those two past greats, but he is a more classically honed fighter, who can box like a dream when he needs to and hit like a jackhammer when the opportunity is there.

By comparison, Hatton is the stereotypical blue-collar fighter, with a classic left jab, stinging right cross, tight defense and solid chin. Hatton has proved his mettle in tough fights, a feat Brook has not yet needed to display. Will Saturday’s fight be just such a test for the local boy?

While Hatton truly believes he will be victorious on Saturday, it is difficult to see just how he can defeat Brook, barring an injury. He does not posses genuine KO power, and while he is undoubtedly a good boxer, his skills are not on a par with those of his rival. What Hatton undoubtedly has is supreme fitness and courage, and that will ensure that this fight remains competitive throughout. It will be a similar fight to Hatton v Alvarez, with Brook trying to land the big shots and Hatton content to box. In between going for the KO, Brook will throw enough punches to win a competitive but one sided twelve round decision.