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Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Saul Alvarez will face Matthew Hatton

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com

Junior middleweight Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, the 20-year-old rising Mexican star, drew thousands of fans to the Staples Center in Los Angeles for an undercard fight in September, when he scored a massive one-punch knockout of former welterweight champ Carlos Baldomir.

Now, Alvarez will have the spotlight to himself as he takes the next step up toward a world title when he headlines HBO's "Boxing After Dark."

Alvarez, the 2010 ESPN.com prospect of the year, will face England's Matthew Hatton, the European welterweight champion and the younger brother of former junior welterweight champ Ricky Hatton, on March 5 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.

Saul Alvarez
Saul Alvarez, right, will face England's Matthew Hatton, the European welterweight champion, on March 5 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.

Golden Boy Promotions will formally announce the bout at a news conference Friday afternoon in Los Angeles.

"I think it's an exciting fight. It's exciting to have Canelo fighting a name," Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer told ESPN.com. "So far, Canelo has dominated the name opponents he has faced, but he is well advised not to take Matthew Hatton lightly. Just remember -- there's only one Matthew Hatton."

Alvarez (35-0-1, 26 KOs), who turned pro at 15 with no amateur experience, steadily increased the level of his competition during a 2010 campaign in which he won all five of his bouts, including four by knockout.

He was in some early trouble, but bounced back to score a ninth-round knockout of Jose Cotto in May on the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Shane Mosley undercard. After a sixth-round knockout of Luciano Cuello in Mexico in July, Alvarez returned to the United States for the booming knockout of Baldomir.

Alvarez finished his year with a near-shutout decision against former junior welterweight titlist Lovemore N'Dou in Veracruz, Mexico, on Dec. 4.

Assuming all goes well, Golden Boy plans for Alvarez to fight four times, including three times in the United States, in 2011.

Golden Boy first tried to get Alvarez a welterweight title bout with Vyacheslav Senchenko of Ukraine, but they could not come to terms on the money. But Hatton (41-4-2, 16 KOs) was on the short list all along.

Hatton, 29, has spent most of his career in the shadow of his more famous brother, but he has been on a strong run the past couple of years. Hatton is 8-0-1 in his last nine bouts and has not lost since dropping a decision to Craig Watson for the Commonwealth title in May 2008. He fought to a draw with N'Dou in November 2009.

In March, Hatton outpointed former world title challenger Gianluca Branco to win the vacant European title and has made two defenses.

"Matthew Hatton is not coming just to pick up a check," Schaefer said. "He is coming to Los Angeles to pick up a win. He is ready to show the young boy what a man can do. I think that Matthew Hatton has sort of stepped out of his brother's shadow since Ricky retired. Matthew has come into his own and has become a different and better fighter."

The HBO co-feature has not been signed yet, but Schaefer said he is working to finalize a junior lightweight fight for top prospect Adrien "The Problem" Broner (19-0, 16 KOs), 21, of Cincinnati.

The two opponents in the running to face Broner, according to Schaefer, are Mexico's Daniel Ponce De Leon, 30, a former junior featherweight titlist and top featherweight contender, and 27-year-old Jason Litzau.

Ponce De Leon (41-2, 34 KOs), who is with Golden Boy, would move up in weight for the bout. Litzau (28-2, 21 KOs), who is promoted by Roy Jones' Square Ring, is coming off a decision win on Nov. 27 against Celestino Caballero in one of the biggest upsets of 2010.

"I'd like to get Broner's fight done in the next couple of days," Schaefer said. "On this show, we'll have some young guys going against some very experienced fighters in big step-up fights. I think that's exactly what 'Boxing After Dark' is all about."

Originally, Schaefer hoped to match lightweights Robert Guerrero and Michael Katsidis in the co-feature. However, Katsidis said he would not be ready for the fight due to him the heavy flooding taking place near his home in Australia.

Guerrero-Katsidis could instead take place either on Golden Boy's April 9 pay-per-view card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas or on a May "Boxing After Dark," Schaefer said.

Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.