By Jake Donovan
The most endearing part of Ricky Hatton’s run as a world class fighter during his prime years was his ability to remain in touch with the working class public. That part hasn’t left him, though it remains to be seen how much the former two-division champ has left as a fighter.
Hatton returns to the ring later tonight following a 3½-year absence that including drug and alcohol abuse and admitted suicide attempts. Awaiting him at the Manchester Arena this Saturday will be another former titlist in Vyachaslev Senchenko.
The bout will air live on Showtime (5PM ET/10PM local time) and re-air on Showtime Extreme later in the evening via tape delay.
“I was always a very, very proud fighter,” Hatton explained to the media while discussing his long hiatus from the ring. “I was always able to beat fighters who were technically better than me because I had such a big heart, and such a big desire and will. I was able to beat fighters that were better than me. So when I got destroyed in two rounds by Manny Pacquiao, it was very, very hard for a man who has so much pride, even though it was against a man such as Manny Pacquiao.
“So when Manny Pacquiao beat me, and Floyd Mayweather beat me, I had a battle on my hands with depression,” Hatton continued. Not just depression, but that led to problems that have been well-documented in the tabloids with suicide attempts, and nervous breakdowns and panic attacks, and not speaking to my parents for two years, which, at present day, I'm still not speaking to my parents.”
The aforementioned May ’09 bout is widely viewed as perhaps Pacquiao’s finest hour as a prizefighter. The highlight reel second round knockout to win the 140 lb. crown was the fourth lineal world championship for the Filipino legend, as well as his sixth overall divisional crown. Both were world records at the time. Pacquiao has since added titles at welterweight and super welterweight.
Hatton only added additional body flesh and drama to his life during that same period, even while serving as a successful promoter in the U.K. The success on that side of the ropes hardly atoned for the world crumbling around him.
“My life in the past three years has really turned to mush as we say.”
The best remedy he could come up with once fully rehabbed from his past addictions was to resume his role as a prize fighter. The itch never fully abandoned the wildly popular Brit, nor has his fan base suffered in the least bit. The Manchester Arena, formerly the M.E.N. Arena, where Hatton won his first major title, was sold out even before his opponent was announced.
While on the hunt for an opponent, Hatton insisted it be someone who – with a win – could help him immediately re-enter the title picture. Taking the slow road back to the top was never in the cards for Hatton. Every fight, as far as he is concerned, is sink or swim if he’s to prove to himself that all of this is for real.
Senchenko could potentially provide that test. The Ukrainian is one fight removed from a run as an unbeaten titlist. That came to a crashing halt when Paulie Malignaggi traveled to the Ukraine in April to snatch his crown with a ninth round stoppage.
Hatton’s last win – four years ago almost to the day come fight night – came against Malignaggi, halting the motor-mouthed Brooklynite after 11 largely one-sided rounds in Las Vegas. A rematch was never thought of at the time, but now makes sense considering Malignaggi’s status as a welterweight titlist and Hatton’s desire to regain a belt or two.
Winning a championship is just part of the story behind his comeback, though. Hatton feels there is a debt to be paid to those who’ve faithfully supported – and contiunue to support - his career for more than a decade. Coming back against a credible welterweight after having not fought in 3½ goes a long way towards providing a cure.
"I'm coming back to finish my boxing career in a positive manner,” Hatton explains. “I feel that I've let a lot of people down during that period when I have been retired, and I'm here to put a lot of ghosts and demons to rest. I imagine that I have to pay a little respect to the fighter that I've picked.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox