In the enormous shadow of Saturday's Cotto-Pacquiao mega fight, it would be hard for the boxing world to pay much attention to any other fight this weekend. But on Friday from England on Sky Sports, a promising scrap will take place.
In Stoke, it will be Lovemore N'dou (holder of the semi-recognized IBO welterweight title) taking on Matthew Hatton, younger brother of the world-famous Ricky, in a fight that won't lack any for heart or determination, even if it doesn't pit the talent or fame of the Vegas main event the next night.
N'dou (47-11-1, 31 KO) is a 38-year old South African who lives in and fights out of Australia these days. He is likely best known to American fans as a former 140-pound contender and titleholder. In 2004, he lost a fairly competitive decision to a then-unbeaten Miguel Cotto, and had two televised fights in 2007 and 2008 against Paulie Malignaggi. Malignaggi routed N'dou the first time, but as the incoming titlist exercised his rematch clause. You probably recall that the second fight was infamous for Malignaggi's ill-advised hair extensions and a far more competitive bout than the first go-'round, paired with Ricky Hatton's comeback in Manchester against Juan Lazcano. That fight led to Hatton-Malignaggi, of course.
N'dou is fighting with the hope of landing Matthew's brother (a longshot) or his countryman, welterweight titleholder Isaac Hlatshwayo. He also had strong words for his Friday opponent:
"I don't think he's anything special. I'm going to expose him next Friday and make him realise he's still a donkey and he doesn't belong in the ring with me," Ndou said.
The younger Hatton (37-4-1, 14 KO) is simply not his brother. Never has been, never will be. At 28, he's certainly improved over the years, but those improvements have made "Magic" a C+ fighter at best.
Still, there's no denying his heart, courage or passion. He was set to take on the far more talented Zab Judah on two dates this year, but Judah for one reason or another pulled out. Hatton then looked to N'dou for a chance at a trinket and a potential bigger fight on down the line.
Last November, N'dou moved up to 147 pounds to take on the returning Kermit Cintron in Tennessee. The fight was off television on the Jermain Taylor-Jeff Lacy undercard, and from all live reports, was a truly ugly affair. But N'dou was one of but four men who have lost to Cintron yet gone the scheduled distance with him as well, proving his chin at the higher weight. In July of this year, Lovemore fought Phillip N'dou (no relation), beating his fellow South African on the cards.
Hatton's best work has been in his last few fights. With wins over veterans Ben Tackie, Ernesto Zepda and Ted Bami, he's made his case as ready to take that next step up. N'dou represents that. It's now or never for Matthew. He has also felt better training with Lee Beard than he did for years with Billy Graham:
“When you look at my record I’ve had four defeats,” he says, “but I only feel I’ve been legitimately beaten once and that was against Craig Watson last year. I don’t blame anyone but myself for that but I wasted a lot of years training with Ricky at Billy Graham’s gym. I enjoyed training with Ricky but Billy was doing nothing with me. I was almost training myself.
“So after the Watson defeat I thought, ‘I’m going nowhere here. I’ve got to do something for myself now’ and I left the gym and joined Lee Beard. I’ve had four good wins since the move and feel my career is just starting.”
Neither man is quite world class, but neither can afford the loss, either. Expect spirited action, a potentially fitting lead-in for the main course on Saturday. Bad Left Hook will bring live coverage of N'dou-Hatton starting at 5pm ET on Friday afternoon.