Johannesburg has inspired all manner of nicknames but there was only one word for the welterweight rumpus it hosted Saturday night: ugly. In a hard-fought but bitty main-event, at the Sandton Convention Centre, local fighter Chris “The Heat” van Heerden weathered a badly gashed right eye to outscore Mancunian Matthew “Magic Man” Hatton over 12 scruffy rounds. Scores read 118-110, 117-112 and 116-112 (TQBR had it for the local man 117-111).
Van Heerden, Meyerton, Gauteng, SA, maximised height and reach advantages to outland Hatton from range, yet his best weapon was a niftily designed right uppercut that he whipped inside from his southpaw stance. The bald-headed Hatton was largely blind to its danger, due to his outstretched left arm and the poor positioning of his feet, and was stunned often as a result, most notably in rounds 2 and 3.
Despite the one-sided nature of the bout’s opening quarter, Hatton, 43-7-2 (17), 147, never ceased trying to grab a foothold – often illegally. As obstinate as they come, the visitor had to be warned repeatedly for clinching, mauling and hitting behind the head. Often overreaching to the point of swinging himself off-kilter, the Lancashire plodder gave it his all, and in doing so, made van Heerden, 19-1-1 (10), 146, who looked beaten up even before the opening bell, spill his guts also. It was some shift indeed then from third man Howard Foster of England, who had to graft harder than both in order to prise them apart.
Hatton looked as though he had caught a break just prior to the bout’s mid-point, after a clash of skulls cracked open the favourite’s right headlamp. With blood spurting down van Heerden’s cheek, he began showing out to the referee. With nothing doing there, the South African put his head down and let fly and the pair engaged in a wild and woolly 7th (the majority of which van Heerden had to fight sans mouthpiece after it escaped him in a clinch).
Foster lectured them on the subject of poor aesthetics going into the 9th but alas, he was wasting his puff. On they slogged, swinging like kids in the playground at a couple of flashpoints before reverting back to wrestling and roughhousing up until the final bell. It had been hard work, and not only for the two fighters.