Like heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, Matthew Hilton knows only one direction to move in the ring: forward. And he practices only one strategy while he's at it: attack, with both fists, to the body and the head.
Just an hour before Tyson mauled Tyrell Biggs in Atlantic City last month, Hilton defeated one Iron Man Jack Callahan, who had been 24-0 with 12 KOs. This was the 21-year-old Canadian's first defense of the International Boxing Federation's junior middleweight title that he won from Buster Drayton in a 15-round decision last June; the evening had the scent of anticlimax.
"After the first round, I knew I could pretty well do what I wanted to do with him, hey?" Hilton said.
Hey, for sure. Hilton threw a left hook in the closing minute of the second round that dropped Callahan for a count of six. Hilton resumed the attack, and another hook put Callahan down again. The bell saved the challenger, who regained his legs long enough to stagger back to his corner.
"He didn't belong in the ring with me, I don't think," Hilton said.
Referee Rudy Battle stopped the bout with Callahan sitting slumped on his stool, blood streaming from his right eye. Hilton left the ring with a record of 28-0, 22 by knockout.
The brief match offered a glimpse of why Hilton is the man of the moment among the junior middleweights and why, given time to develop, he may well be the fighter of the future in a middleweight division thrown into turmoil by the absence of Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
"Hilton has all the qualities that make Mike Tyson so exhilarating," says Jimmy Jacobs, Tyson's comanager. "That is, when the bell rings, you don't dare blink or you might miss it. He brings to the prize ring that very cherished ethic, which is that he goes out there and tries to knock your head off."
Most notably, what he brings to the ring is what his father, Davey, taught him—a style not only relentlessly aggressive but one that aims at hammering the body for the purpose of revealing the chin. This and a blocky physique that runs north from the hips through powerful shoulders and into the thick bolt of a neck as wide as his boyish, farm-boy face. So far, no one has heard a tinkle from his chin.
Young Hilton is the country's first native-born world champion in 44 years, and all across the provinces these days English-speaking Canadians are calling him the Maple Leaf Mauler and the Canadian Express. Not to be outdone, a French-Canadian journalist dubbed him le Rouleau Compresseur—in English, the Steamroller.