Ricky Hatton, a former two-division world champion whose courage in the ring and whose everyman lifestyle outside of it contributed so much to his global appeal, is to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. In a recent conversation with BoxingScene, Hatton reflected on his career and journey from a childhood in Manchester, England, to multiple world championships and a place in the Hall – including his fond memories of his pivotal fight with Kostya Tszyu and the pride he has in his son, Campbell, building his own boxing career.

BoxingScene: Why do you think you connected with American fight fans? 

Ricky Hatton: I don’t know. I think I had a fan-favorite style. I was attacking, I was a body puncher. I didn't care. I would fight anybody, to be honest with you. Frank Warren, my promoter at the time, I don’t think he wanted me to fight Kostya Tszyu. And I said, “No, no, I want to fight him. He is the best.” Then I moved up to welterweight to fight for the welterweight world title, against Luis Collazo, and [my trainer] Billy Graham didn't want me to move up to welterweight; he said I wasn't big enough. I ignored Billy. I said, “No, I want to be a two-weight world champion. I fought Floyd [Mayweather] and Manny [Pacquiao], and I think it was my style and the fearless approach.

But also I think the fans could relate to me. They could see me as one of their own a little bit – whether you're an American fight fan or whether you're a British fight fan. I still live only 10 minutes down the road from where I was born. My friends are the same friends that I’ve always been with. I’ll go to a pub, I’ll have a beer. I'll play darts for my local pub team. Even though life changed through boxing for me so much, I don't think I changed too much, and I think the public could see that.

BS: From your perspective, are you the most popular British fighter to fight in America?

Hatton: I think maybe. I know Barry McGuigan came over years ago, and being from Ireland, there's a bit of a big Irish following in the United States. So I think you could put Barry up there. You could put myself there as well, because of the numbers. Our fans coming over were outrageous. Frank Bruno, I think he’d be one of them. He was very loved by the Brits, and when he went over there and he fought Mike Tyson – I remember I went over to watch Frank when he boxed Tyson and 10,000 of us went over. I think when I went over for the [Juan] Urango fight, I think there was about 5,000. And then for the [Jose Luis] Castillo fight, next, it was about 15,000. For the Mayweather fight, there was just shy of 40,000, and then for the [Paulie] Malignaggi fight, that was another 12,000. And then for the Pacquiao fight, that was over 20,000. People will make their own minds up about how popular I was as far as a British fighter goes.

I think those numbers are pretty off the scale and they're pretty good for a Brit to come to the United States, and I always gave value for money. It’s always entertaining. If it wasn't for my ring walk or the band in the crowd or the number of fans that I brought, I think even if you're from the United States and you're a fight fan, I think you will probably always enjoy a Ricky Hatton fight night. Everyone will have their own favorite. Just as long as I'm one of them, I don't mind.

BS: When you fought Floyd Mayweather in 2007, the MGM Grand Garden Arena famously ran out of alcohol. Do you remember the crowd or a moment from that night?

Hatton: My mates, I was speaking to them and they said, “Oh, yesterday was a nightmare. They ran out of beer at the MGM Grand.” I was going through the casino, going out to the gym, or here or there, and in the casino they’d sneak down the back corridors and through the kitchens just to get to the car and stuff like that. Every time I got out of the lift and went around the back, all I could hear is, “There is only one Ricky Hatton!” I want to walk through the scene all the time. It was crazy.

When we had the grand arrival for me and Floyd, the entrance of the MGM was just packed with Brits everywhere. Then the weigh-in: 10,000 people. Weigh-ins are a big thing these days, but I think I was probably one of the first to do it, at the Floyd fight, where the public could come into the weigh-in as well – which I think is a good thing, because it whet the appetite for the fight the next day. It was unreal, and I've not spoke to Floyd about it, obviously. I'd like to think Floyd would probably agree with me. It was unreal to see.

BS: When you look back on your boxing journey, what did you get out of the sport besides the accolades, money and respect?

Hatton: I don’t know … a lifestyle for my family and my kids? I worked so hard and I think I deserved, it in a way, because, like I said, Frank Warren didn't want me to fight Kostya Tszyu. But he was No. 1, and I wanted to fight him. Billy Graham, my trainer, didn't want me to move up to welterweight because he said I wasn't big enough. But I overruled Billy because I wanted to be a two-weight world champion.

And even then, when I moved back down to light welterweight to box Urango and Castillo, I still had no fear of moving back to welterweight and fighting Floyd. So I think I’ve never shied away from anyone. At the top of my list was always to give entertainment to the crowd and the fans, whether they were from the United States or whether they were from England. Every fight that I had was a party atmosphere, and I always thanked my friends. The induction into the Hall of Fame, there’s too many to thank. They helped me along the way, you know. From Frank Warren, Golden Boy Promotions and Banner Promotions, who helped me along the way, Billy Graham – there’s far too many. But I accept this award on behalf of my fans, because my fans dragged me through so many struggles, so many tough fights. They followed me everywhere. I accept it on behalf of all of them. I had a lot of help along the way.

BS: How much does the Hall of Fame mean to you in terms of cementing your career and legacy?

Hatton: We never dreamt of being a world champion, did we? And I did that several times over and never dreamt that I would fight under the lights in Vegas and stuff like that. I thought my day had been and gone. My days of having an award in boxing, I thought them days are gone. As a little kid from the Council of State in Manchester, when I first placed those boxing gloves on as a 10-year-old on Hattersley estate, just outside of Manchester, and watching Muhammad Ali, Roberto Duran, Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, Larry Holmes, Thomas Hearns and the list just goes on. To think that my name will go alongside them, from that kid who was lacing his gloves outside Manchester, to be invited and inducted into the Hall of Fame and having my name in the same Hall as those people – I still have to strap myself to wake yourself up or scratch my head a little bit, ponderous. You know, it's an absolute dream. There's not many British fighters [in the Hall]; there have been many good world champions with that, but only so many that have gone into the Hall of Fame. For me to be one of them, I feel very humbled.

BS: You’ve brought up Kostya Tszyu and that 2005 fight more than once. Why did you want that fight so badly?

Hatton: He had not been many rounds, because he was knocking people out. [I thought] if I can get past the first four and drag him into the trenches a little bit and stay close to him and smother his work, keep the tempo high – because he's a few years older than me, he's not done many rounds recently – so I thought if I could work him early and get past the first four rounds and then put my foot down, I probably had a good chance. And because he had such formidable power – he knocked out Zab Judah – Judah was a southpaw who would pull away from him, Sharmba Mitchell would always come away from his power – but on the opposite, I stayed on his chest and tried to smother him. That’s probably a dangerous tactic against Kostya Tszyu, but we believed it could work and that's exactly what I did.

Nobody expected me to beat him. He was No. 2 pound-for-pound and was universally recognized as No. 1 in the division, and that win opened my opportunities in the United States – I think you'll agree – because of what he did in the amateurs and professionals. He was a global boxing name, and I think there was people even in the United States who thought, “Kostya Tszyu was made to quit on his stool by this little fat Englishman. Who is he?” That’s what opened them wonderful fights, wonderful trips and wonderful occasions to America. I think it's because I beat someone of a stature like Kostya Tszyu in the manner I did. I think that's what opened the door for me to go into the United States. It was a great win to beat someone like Kostya Tszyu, but what it led to I could have never dreamt of.

BS: Tszyu was so feared at the time.

Hatton: When I boxed him on the night, it was in my hometown of Manchester. There was a nervous tension in the crowd. Even though they were all behind me that night, I think there was a nervousness in the air – and even I could feel it. But, you know, I started off good in the fight. The crowd got behind me, and then Kostya Tszyu set into like a little bit of a rhythm in Rounds 3, 4, 5 and 6. When he was picking me off and nailing me with some big shots, you could hear the crowd just dim a little bit. Then, about [Round] 7 or 8, when I put my foot down – and you could see – it was the best atmosphere. But also one of the strangest, because it was ups and downs, if you get me: “Oh, we've got a chance here. Oh no, oh no, here we go! Oh, no, he's gonna do it now!” It was weird. I could feel everyone's attention. I knew what they were thinking.

BS: How did you strike a balance in life, where you might eat some chicken wings or go out with your friends but also then make weight?

Hatton: When I was doing my four-rounders and six-rounders and I was coming up, I never used to put on more than six or seven pounds. But then when I got to world-title level, 12-round fights, and maybe two or three fights a year – something like that – the gaps were bigger in between. I used to balloon up, you know, 52 pounds in between fights. I always used to give myself 12-13 weeks in order to do it, so I could do it correctly. That's why I always remained strong and I had the gas and the engine that I did, because I did it right. I didn't struggle at the weight; it was just the weight I was coming down from which was the problem. My nutritionist said to me, “Listen, Ricky.” He said, “You're gonna hit a brick wall one day. Your body's just gonna say, ‘You've been doing this for too long now, I can't do it no morel’ I think that happened in many, many ways. I think I did take a couple of years off my career because of the ballooning up and down in weight and having a good time in between fights and stuff like that.

Would I have ever changed it? I don't think I would. I mean, if the lads that train now wanted to do what I did, they would get thrown out of the gym. They’d get thrown through the door. But I think that's what helped with my fan base, because people thought “Oh, Ricky's one of the lads, got a picture for everyone and always have a photo, and stop and talk to you. Another time, we see him in the pub. We see him at the football game.” They could relate to me that I was like one of their own. So I think that helped my fan base – not just my fighting; I think it was how I was outside the ring that helped my popularity, as well as what I did in the ring. I was exciting in the ring, but I think what was outside of that ring made people say, “We will go watch Ricky.” It was a little bit hard to explain. Yeah, I think it took a couple of years off my career and it did make the job harder. I wish I could find a little bit of a happy medium, but I couldn’t. Would I change it? No, I think that's why people loved me. We have a saying in England: “He was one of the boys,” and I think that's what I did. They thought they were cheering on their mate, rather than just a bit of boxer. That's what it felt like.

BS: What is it like being a father and a Hall of Fame boxer, and watching your son, Campbell, fight – and you can't fight for him? What's that experience been like?

Hatton: Very difficult, to be honest. I didn't really want him to start boxing. But if he wanted to, let’s do it right. We all want to be world champions, but I think if you have a bit of a go in boxing – whether you just go in the gym, do a bit of training, sparring, or you got one fight or 101 fights – I think what you get from boxing, you know, you're channeling any aggression inside you. While learning respect. All the things that come with boxing, how many lives has boxing turned around? People going down the wrong road, in the wrong track, then all of a sudden they get into boxing and they turn into different people, don't they?

So when [Campbell] wanted to give boxing a go, he come to me and he was a late starter – he was 14 years of age. He comes to the gym and said, “Dad, can I give the boxing a try?” Oh, here we go. Here we go. Now, the minute you start, he says he's not going to stop. I didn't want him to go professional, but he has done it – fair play. There's a lot of pressure on his shoulders. He's got a lot to live up to, but he has 12 wins, one defeat. He lost his last fight for an area title, but he is back in the gym, back training, looking to put things right, and I couldn't be any prouder, to be honest with you. It is probably the hardest game of all with a dad that achieved a lot. Where people say, you know, “He's only getting where he is because of his dad,” this and that, and all the rest of it. Well, I think he deserves a pat on the back. Really. A lot of pressure on his shoulders, and he's coping with it best he can. His first defeat hasn't put him off. He's back in the gym and he will be fighting again in a couple of months. We just have to watch the space, but I'm very, very proud of him.

BS: Has it strengthened your relationship with him?

Hatton: We couldn't strengthen it – we’ve always been strong. I couldn't be any prouder. He comes out to “Blue Moon,” [my ring-walk song]. He wears the same colors as me. There's no way I could deny him. He absolutely looks like me, talks like me, walks like me. Tells all my s*** jokes. He's got a fighting style like me. I'll tell you what, when he walks to the ring and that “Blue Moon” comes on, I shed a tear every time. It's absolutely horrific. But the nerves are terrible. I shed a tear – it makes me feel terrified and proud at the same time. He didn't need to go professional or do anything for me to be proud of him. I was proud of him the day he was born. He's not sitting there with his hand out wanting dad to pay for everything. He's trying to make his own way in the world, and that's what you want from your kids, no matter who you are, whether you're Ricky Hatton or whoever. You want your kids to go out there and give everything.