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Hilton knows no other style. "It's the way I am, the way I fight, the way I've always been," he says. "I know I'm strong, and I like to overpower people. I attack the body because it does not move. It's more devastating than hitting the head. I never take a step back. It's the way my father developed my style."
That is how Hilton learned to box, not so much rolling with the punches as rolling through them. Matthew was six years old the first time his father turned him loose, and he still prizes a photograph showing him sitting on a stool in the corner of the ring, his feet dangling above the floor. He recalls fighting a lad named Tony Marino. "I went jab, jab, jab, and he went down," Matthew says. "The kid was crying and they stopped it. I never did get the right hand off."
Eventually Matthew Hilton and his four brothers—Davey Jr., Alex, Stewart and Jimmy—came to be known in Canada as the Fighting Hiltons. Mother Jeannie figures that all her boys merely learned in the gym what was programmed in their genes. "Their father fought," she says, "and his father and grandfathers fought, on both sides of the family. They go back to the bare-knuckle days."
The boys all hit like mules, left hooks especially, and all of them dug into the body, just as their father had taught them. Sometimes they trained in gyms, sometimes in their mobile home outside Montreal after moving the furniture to make room for a ring.
"We didn't have a bag, so we hit a medicine ball that Dad held," Matthew says. "We took turns." And they went after each other as only brothers can. "It would be impossible to count how many times we boxed each other," Matthew says. "Every day, all the time. Dad refereed. We enjoyed it. I could never remember a time when I wasn't fighting."
When they weren't training, Davey and his boys traveled to fights as a family team. At first they entered tournaments in nearby Montreal, but they soon ran out of opponents. "Hardly anybody would fight us in Montreal," Matthew says. "We kept winning. We had a reputation. We'd enter a tournament and guys would change weights."
So they hit the road. "My father would take us in an old, beat-up car, and he would drive us all the way to Toronto," Matthew recalls. "To Cabbage Town and places like that. Four hundred, five hundred miles. We'd go three or four times a month."
On the road their father would teach. First: "Always keep the hands high. Protect yourself." And: "When you're in close, drop both hands and go to the body." Then: "Start everything with the jab."
And never, never stop fighting. They slept in one room at cheap motels, sharing blankets. "Five of us used to be in one bed," Matthew says, "heads one way, legs the other, Dad in the middle."
The boys knew well the force of their father's discipline. "A strict teacher," Matthew says. "Either you do it, or you don't. There were times when he would be giving us a boxing lesson and we wouldn't do something the way he told us, and he'd say, 'Take off your gloves and go get dressed.' Dad insisted on the dedication."