By John Ward, courtesy of The Daily Star
BOXING hero Ricky Hatton came close to killing himself as he battled depression
But he reassured his army of fans: “I’ve KO’d my demons.”
The Hitman pulled no punches as he talked about plunging into the depths of despair while fighting mental illness.
But he insisted he had won what he called “the toughest fight of my life” and beamed and talked about marrying his pregnant fiancée.
Ricky, 32, told for the first time how he:
● Left lover Jennifer Dooley terrified as he talked about committing suicide.
● Lost days at a time from black-outs caused by epic binges.
● Constantly broke down in tears as he battled with the reality of not fighting again.
● Hit rock bottom after Jennifer finally walked out on him.
But thanks to the support of Jennifer, 31, his family and fans, Ricky said: “I’m back.”
Now Jennifer is eight months pregnant with a baby girl they want to call Millie and they are setting a wedding date.
And he has big plans as a boxing promoter, trainer and TV star. Speaking from the games room of his mansion in Hyde, Cheshire, Ricky revealed the depression struck after his defeat to Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas in 2009.
He told the Daily Star Sunday: “I was all over the place after losing to Pacquaio in two rounds. I’ve always been a proud fighter. And to lose in the manner that I did was embarrassing. It knocked me for six.
“I took a bit of a break and then I thought I’d make a comeback. But I went to the gym and it was so difficult. Things that used to come so easy were now so hard. Getting up and going for a run or dieting was too much.
“I have just retired but I should have done it 12 months ago. I was really depressed. And the worst thing you can do when you are depressed is to have a drink. I’ve always loved a drink. I have never hid that fact but the spiral of depression led me to drink more and more.
“I had to admit my lifestyle was becoming a problem. As a sportsman, even taking drugs just the once was a problem.
“At the time I was taking drugs, I was so depressed and fuelled with drink I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.
“But at the time I didn’t think the drugs were a problem. I just thought I was in control and it was just one of those things, that I was just going through a bad period.
“But I was being a dick and hurting everyone close to me. I was spending days of my life, weeks of my life, when I didn’t know where I was.
“I was having black-outs for days on end. Even if I hadn’t had a drink. Because it was all I was thinking about I couldn’t remember anything.
“Nothing I had, my money, my friends, my past success, none of it mattered to me. I suppose you’ve got to have depression to understand.
“I was out of control. When I got drunk I didn’t care. I would get smashed and then not remember a thing the next day.
“I’d break down in tears all the time. I’d come in drunk and cry and tell Jennifer I wanted to end it all.
“I’d wake up in the morning and not remember but she would say I was worrying her because I came in and said I wanted to kill myself. I must have meant it at the time, that is how low a stage in my life I had reached.
“I’d wake up and pull myself together but by the evening I’d be back down the pub and it would happen again.
“It was a vicious circle. The turning point was when Jennifer left and had a couple of days at her mum’s. She had been supportive of me through everything in my life but she could only take so much.
“And I thought, ‘Jesus Rick, she’s not coming back. She’s leaving me’. And the penny finally dropped. I’m going to lose it all here. So I had to sort myself out.”
In the midst of a drink and drug spiral, pictures of him emerged sniffing cocaine in a hotel room.
He booked into The Priory and was treated for depression.
Not only had he hurt his close friends and family but he had let down his legions of fans. Around 40,000 travelled to Las Vegas to watch The Hitman take on Floyd Mayweather in the MGM Grand casino in 2008.
Ricky, a former world light-welter-weight and welter-weight champion, now looks healthy and full of life.
But he said: “I’d tarnished all the good I had done in my career. I had done so much to make the country feel proud and then I had ruined it all.
“But everyone stuck by me. And my fans have always been there for me and that has been a great help.”
The Manchester City fan, who has a son Campbell from a previous relationship, reckons he is loving life again after deciding to retire.
With a huge, cheeky grin, Ricky said: “I’ve got a little girl on the way, I have a beautiful girlfriend, I’ve got a great son who I get to see much more often now I’m retired.
“There’s nothing to be depressed about anymore. It’s like a massive weight has been lifted off my shoulders. And now I’m ready to take Jennifer down the aisle. She deserves it after all I’ve put her through.”
The wise-cracking, 5ft 6in fighter has big plans and hopes to get his trainer’s licence. Ricky, who promotes boxers with his company Hatton Promotions, said: “Boxing has been good for me, my family and my future family and it has given me a great life.
“I want to help give that life to young boxers. I want to bring the next Hatton through, or next Joe Calzaghe.”
Ricky, who runs a health and fitness gym in Hyde and has a clothing line, also hopes to make a big impact on television as a comedian.
He said: “I’m in talks with a channel about doing a show where I learn from top comics how to be a good stand-up and then finish the series off with an hour show at a huge venue.”
Ricky, a patron of the breast cancer charity Genesis, wants to continue to help out charities and do some work to help people with depression.
He said: “I’ve been lucky in life and I want to give something back.
“I know how serious depression is and how it ruins lives and families and I want to get out there and do something to help raise awareness and help those who suffer from it.”
The boxer glowed as he showed off his pictures with the likes of pals Wayne Rooney, Robbie Williams, and Noel and Liam Gallagher.
He added: “I had some amazing times inside and outside of the ring and I hope fans will remember the good times rather than the bad through boxing. The fanbase I had was amazing. I won’t be remembered as the greatest British boxing champ but maybe I’ll be remembered as the most popular.
“I would be in the changing room and I’d have the likes of Denzel Washington, Brad Pitt and Sylvester Stallone in there watching me warm up.
“For someone from a council estate to have Hollywood stars coming to see me is just unbelievable. F**king Rocky came to see Ricky. I have had it pretty good.”