When Saul Alvarez and Matthew Hatton meet Saturday they will pursue two objectives. The first is victory and its subsequent rewards. Second, the winner will take a step toward establishing a unique identity.
Ever since Matthew turned pro in September 2000 he has toiled in the shadow of older brother Ricky, who captured two divisional titles and enjoyed worldwide stardom. While sporting a larger frame and, at times, demonstrating technical prowess, he couldn't match his sibling's star power. Still, he plugged away and in March 2010 he captured the European welterweight title and notched two defenses to earn the Alvarez fight.
For Alvarez, his meteoric rise was fueled by comparisons to Julio Cesar Chavez - and not without cause. First, at age 20 years 8 months Chavez was 35-0 (30 KO) while Alvarez is 35-0-1 (26 KO). Second, the styles and methodologies are similar: Heavy hands, pinpoint accuracy, excellent body-punching and endless reserves of patience. Finally, they radiate unmistakable charisma. Chavez's translated his gifts into a legend but can "Canelo" create his own legacy and break away from Chavez's aura?
Who will win and why? The CompuBox numbers offers these clues:
The Lovemore Factor: Their lone common opponent was the veteran Lovemore N'Dou and on paper Alvarez (W 12, December 2010) edges Hatton (D 12, November 2009). Alvarez also wins in CompuBox stats, for he out-landed the South African 286-175 (overall) and 191-80 (power) while Hatton was slightly out-performed by the then-38-year-old who at 147 was competing nearer his prime weight class of 140 (137-145 overall, 107-107 power).
Alvarez was busier (65.7 punches per round to Hatton's 47.2), landed a higher percentage of power shots (42.4 to 28.5) and tasted fewer of N'Dou's power shots in terms of raw numbers (107-80). Hatton's overall defense against N'Dou was better as he fielded 28.8 percent (overall) and 30.8 percent (power) while Alvarez absorbed 31.6 percent (overall) and 33.5 percent (power) of N'Dou's punches.
Is Heavier Better: Alvarez has campaigned at 154 in his last five fights and the added weight has enhanced his performance. In two welterweight fights against Lanardo Tyner and Jefferson Goncalo Alvarez landed 24.1 percent of his 74.6 punches per round, landed 8.5 percent of his jabs and 39.3 percent of his power shots. He enjoyed a plus-4.3 in overall connect percentage (24.1-19.7) and a plus-10.4 in power connect percentage (39.3-28.9).
At 154, "Canelo" is more selective yet more efficient on offense and defense. Against a higher level of competition, Alvarez's output dropped to 59.8 but his accuracy is up - 36.5 percent overall (from 24.1), 23.7 percent of his jabs (from 8.5) and 46.8 percent of his power shots (from 39.3). His plus-minus percentages against his opponents are up too - plus-13.0 in overall connects (36.5-23.5), plus-4.1 in jabs (23.7-19.6) and plus-18.5 in power connects (46.8-28.3).
Conversely, Hatton has fought above 150 only once since October 2006 (KO 5 Mikheil Khutsishvili, February 2010). Can he effectively handle the higher weight?
A Late Bloomer: Many experts had thought Hatton would never ascend to world level but at 29 he's in top form. Hatton fought the best technical fight of his career in decisioning Gianluca Branco for the vacant European title. He fought at long range, threw sharp flurries and limited the grappling inside. Numerically, he was busy (72.6 punches per round, above the 58.2 welterweight average) and successful (out-throwing Branco 871-533, out-landing him 172-127 overall, 65-34 in jabs and 107-93 in power shots).
Against Yuriy Nuzhnenko four months later, Hatton arose from a first-round knockdown to build a solid lead on the cards and the punch-numbers (739-557 in total punches, 178-149 in total connects, 30-16 in jab connects and 148-133 in power connects). He withstood a late Nuzhnenko charge in the 10th and 11th and summoned a final burst in the 12th to win a commanding decision.
His most recent effort saw Hatton struggle with Roberto Belge's messy inside fighting. Although Belge was nearly even statistically (30-30 in total connects, trailing 10-9 in jab connects and led 21-20 in power connects), each of Hatton's connects were harder. A double hook to head and body polished off Belge in the third.
Prediction: They match up well physically but the stars are aligned for Alvarez. The location is in Alvarez-friendly turf and Hatton is nine years older, competing in a higher weight class than usual and he's not the "A-side." Hatton's grit will match his brother's but it won't be enough. Alvarez by decision.