NEW YORK – Former WBA welterweight world champion Vyacheslav Senchenko isn’t intimidated by the prospect of fighting in front of 18,000-plus hostile Ricky Hatton fans. The once-beaten Ukrainian views his fight against the two-time world champ and British superstar at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England, as an opportunity to prove that he’s one of the elite fighters in the deep welterweight division.
Senchenko will take on the offensive-minded Hatton in a scheduled 10-round welterweight fight in a special, afternoon edition of SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING, this Saturday, Nov. 24, live on SHOWTIME® at 5 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast).
Senchenko (32-1, 21 KOs) went undefeated in 31 bouts before losing the WBA belt to Paulie Malignaggi in his most recent outing last April 29. The match in Hatton’s hometown will be only the third time in his pro career that Senchenko has fought outside his native Ukraine. The 35-year-old will face what he expects to be one of the toughest tests of his career in the 34-year-old Hatton (45-2, 32 KOs), who is coming back after a 3½ year self-imposed exile following a loss to Manny Pacquiao in 2009.
While he’s focused on defeating a “prime” Ricky Hatton, Senchenko admitted that he would like to face another British superstar if he can get by Hatton – Amir Khan.
“I’m not looking that far yet, because when I win this fight I will be in contention for some of the biggest fights out there,” Senchenko said. “I could fight Amir Khan if I win, but right now I’m concentrating on this fight. I’ll have to see what to do next.”
SHOWTIME asked Senchenko Six Questions as he prepares for the Manchester Arena showdown.
Hatton is coming off a 3½ year layoff. Do you think you're catching him at the right time?
“When I made the decision to fight Ricky I did it expecting the best Ricky Hatton. We know Ricky wouldn’t have come back if he wasn’t at his best – that’s just how boxing is. Ricky wouldn’t have taken the risk if he didn’t think he was 100 percent. So we’re expecting a very hard fight. We’re expecting the best Ricky Hatton, a prime Ricky Hatton.
This is just your third fight outside your native Ukraine. How do you prepare for a fight in front of 18,000 hostile fans?
“I’m very excited that I’m going to Manchester to fight in front of a huge crowd. I had a great camp and prepared the way I always do. It’s an opportunity to shine and show the British my skills. Sure, there will 18,000 Ricky Hatton fans, but once I’m in the ring it’s just me and Ricky. The fans aren’t in there with him.”
Hatton beat Malignaggi, and Malignaggi defeated you. Why will you upset Hatton?
“When I fought Paulie everything went well in the beginning and then I got injured and I couldn’t apply the plan we had scheduled in training. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. It was a one-time thing because of the injury. I had a good training camp and was able to prepare well, but I got injured. Those things happen in boxing. I thought I fought well but I just couldn’t see anything because the eye was completely closed. Of course, Paul was an odd boxer to fight. Ricky’s fighting style suits me better. I believe it will be a better fight for me. I’ve had a great camp and I’m ready to get back into the limelight with a win.”
What were the main reasons you accepted the fight against Hatton in England?
“This is the way to come back in the limelight – to beat one of the most popular boxers in the world. It would bring me back in the top position, worldwide. If I beat Ricky then I can get another shot at a title.
Once you’re in the ring it’s just you and the opponent. The challenge is to show the 18,000 that I’m the best boxer in the ring. And the fact that the fight is televised in the U.S. on SHOWTIME makes it even better. The stakes are higher now.”
Can you tell us the keys to victory?
“We need a good jab, a good jab when the opponent comes in -- and good legs and sharp punching. I’m an old-school, classical boxer so I need to be able to control the fight. I like boxers that come in rather than run away. If I can dictate the pace and not allow Ricky to get into a rhythm, I should be able to execute my strategy and do what I prepared for in camp.”
Do you think you’ll need to knock him out to win a decision in England?
“I’ve got to fight my own game plan. I’m not looking for a knockout; I’m looking for a good, technical fight. A good, distance fight. If I can stop the fight early on that would be good, but I’ll take the points. As long as I don’t get injured I should be fine. There’s no problem with the eye, it was a one-time thing with Paulie. I’ve never had another problem since.”