By Alexey Sukachev
Manchester Arena, Manchester, England - Former WBA welterweight champipn Vyacheslav Senchenko (33-1, 22KOs) appeared to be behind on the cards and then he landed a hard shot to the body, in the ninth round, which sent British mega-star Ricky Hatton (45-3, 32KOs) down for the full count. Hatton was returning after three and a half years away.
Hatton, 34 and seven and a half years removed from the biggest win of his career against Kostya Tszyu, was coming back after more than three years of retirement following his crushing defeat at the hands of Manny Pacquiao. There were many questions regarding Hatton's conditioning, his arguably faded punch resistance, the state of his offense and some others - which have been positively resolved, but the last question, asked by the 35-year old former Sydney Olympian for Ukraine, remained unanswered: had Ricky lost the core of his health due to the much publicized issues with alcohol and drugs.
Nevertheless, Hatton started really fast. He was looked like his former self in the first, drubbing Senchenko on the inside with his trademark bulldog's assaults. The Ukrainian was rusty and a bit unfocused, as he was also coming off a stoppage loss - a cut induced fiasco against Paulie Malignaggi in April. Senchenko was unable to establish his jab in order to keep the rushing Brit at bay. He was more successful in the second, when his jab repeatedly found the target in Ricky's face. However, Hatton was still the aggressor, mauling and pumelling the Ukrainian along the ropes. The much bigger Senchenko used his right hand to trouble Hatton a bit in the second and in the fourth stanzas but Hatton's activities were much more impressive, and his overall technique was better than that of the Ukrainian.
Round five proved to be the breaking point of the fight. Hatton was still on the attack but his rushes were rapidly losing their steam - mostly due to crisp left jabs by Senchenko. Ricky's punches were getting wider and wider, which didn't help much either. In the sixth, Senchenko started to counter Hatton on his way in with the hard straight right hand. Hatton was taking the punch well, but he ate too many of them not to win the round.
The situation got worse in the seventh, when Senchenko finally found his distance. He started to move laterally, avoiding clean bombs from Hatton and stinging him in return. Ricky experienced a slight comeback in the eighth after tagging the Ukrainian with a couple of left bombs. However, those punches, which were lethal in Hatton's prime, were either blocked or did no harm to the Ukrainian.
The action continued into the ninth. Ironically, Hatton landed a couple of body crackers early on and was winning the round, when, all of a sudden, Senchenko ducked to the left and landed a monstrous right hand to the liver. Hatton immediately crumbled down in pain and was still on his knees, when referee Victor Loughlin ended his ten count and signaled the fight was over. Official time of stoppage is 2:52. BoxingScene had it a draw 76-76 - after eight rounds of action. Hatton slips down to 45-4, with 32 KOs, and his immediate future is still foggy and unclear. Sehcnehko, meanwhile, improved his record to 33-1, with 22 KOs. He is now back into world title contention and rightfully so.