Manchester’s Matthew Hatton has an excellent opportunity to lift the European welterweight title this Friday when he meets Italian veteran Gianluca Branco at the Goresbrook Leisure Center in Dagenham, Essex.

The fight is the co feature on Sky TV´s Live Friday Fight night, along with Anthony Small´s British light-middleweight title defense against Sam Webb.
Hatton (38-4-2, 15 ko´s), baby brother of multi-world champion Ricky ”The Hitman” Hatton is currently in the best form of his ten year career. He is unbeaten in his last six bouts, highlighted by two standout performances against tough African fighters – Ben Tackie and Lovemore N´dou.
In November 2008 Hatton outpointed Bronx based Ghanaian Ben Tackie in Las Vegas on the undercard of his brother´s title defense against Paulie Malignaggi. Tackie, a tough customer who went the distance with big hitting Kosta Tyzu in a 2002 IBF title shot and also lasted the distance with a surging Ricky Hatton in 2003, is not the force he was a few years ago, but he is still a wily, vastly experienced campaigner.
In Matthew Hatton´s penultimate fight, he drew with former IBF light-welterweight champion, Australian based South African Lovemore N´dou. The only men to beat N´dou in the last five years are world class fighters Paulie Malignaggi and Kermit Cintron.
Hatton is currently ranked 13th by the WBA. The EBU has him at 7th, hence the European title shot at official challenger Branco.
In contrast to his aggressive, body-punching sibling, Matthew Hatton is a classic, standup boxer. Not flashy, he is nevertheless technically sound, with fast hands and a good left jab. He lacks the punching power of his illustrious brother, but he can dig a bit, and has 15 stoppages to his credit.
He was himself TKO´d once, way back in 2003. On the whole his chin is sound.
Hatton´s opponent on Friday, 39 year old Italian Gianluca Branco (43-2-1, 22 ko´s), is despite his advanced years, still a formidable opponent at European level.
He is the brother of former WBA light-heavyweight champion Silvio Branco, himself still a world ranked cruiserweight at age 43!
Like Italian footballers, Italian boxers seem to have found the key to sporting longevity.
A two time European light-welterweight champion, Branco has also twice challenged unsuccessfully for world titles. Branco took an impressive 32-0-1 record into his January 2004 challenge of the late great Arturo Gatti for the WBC light-welterweight tile, losing on a decision.
In March 2006, Branco pulled out of his challenge for Miguel Cotto´s WBO light-welterweight crown in the eighth round, claiming an injured shoulder.
The defeats against Gatti and Cotto remain Branco´s only losses in a fifteen year career.
Branco proved he still has plenty left in the tank when he climbed of the canvas in the second round to outpoint England’s Colin Lynes for his second reign as European light-welterweight champion in May 2008. Despite conceding seven years to Lynes, it was the 37 year old Italian who finished the fight the stronger.
Hatton will have to use his advantages in height and reach to keep the strong, stocky Branco at bay. This should be a highly intriguing, technical battle between two well balanced opponents. Branco has the greater experience and a tremendous record, but Hatton has also mixed in good company, and has eleven years on the Italian.
Hatton will have to up the ante in the second half of the fight and go for broke if he wants to lift the European title.
I think he will. Hatton by a close decision.
Big Fight Odds; Matthew Hatton 2/5, Gianluca Branco 7/4 bet365