by T.K. Stewart
When asked why he couldn't stay away from the sport of boxing, the oft un-retired 'Sugar' Ray Leonard said, "I missed the sound of the crowd. I missed that feeling of being the center of attention and I missed the rush of the competition."
And so it is for Ricky "The Hitman" Hatton.
There are those within the sport that hope he never walks up the steps and slinks through the ropes and into a boxing ring ever again. After devastating one punch knockout losses at the hands of Floyd Mayweather, Jr. in 2007 and Manny Pacquiao in 2009, there are those that feel it is time for Hatton to take a long walk off into the boxing sunset.
At 31-years-old, with millions of pounds stashed in the bank and with a loving family that supports him, Hatton could easily walk away from the sport. He held titles at 140 and 147 pounds and he routinely fought in front of sold out crowds at the M.E.N. Arena in his hometown of Manchester, England. He is one of the few fighters to enjoy high popularity in both Great Britain and the United States. He is generally regarded as one of the most adored athletes/celebrities in England and he is the most popular fighter to come along in that country in the past 40 years.
So this week, eight months after Manny Pacquiao left him lying on his back in the ring at Las Vegas' MGM Grand Garden Arena, Ricky Hatton said that he was making plans to once again lace up the gloves.
"I've decided to give it another go," he told various media outlets and in statements released earlier this week. "No date yet and no opponent has been confirmed, but I think it will be 'round about the summer."
In the months since the Pacquiao disaster, Hatton has been indecisive about his future as a participant in the squared circle. He opened a new, multi-million dollar boxing gym and began to ramp up his boxing promotional company. He spent more time with his family and went on the after-dinner speaking circuit while he told stories, cracked jokes, posed for pictures and signed autographs before sold out crowds. His popularity is such that he once even had his own reality show 'At Home with the Hattons' which followed he and his comical extended family around their homes in Manchester.
He also gained what looks to be at least 40 pounds. Hatton has always been a lover of Indian food, what he calls "Chinese take way" and Guinness beer. His binges on food and drink are well known, but it's all part of what gives Hatton the 'boy next door persona' that has made him who he is. For him to pare his body back down to 147 pounds will be a monumental task and many question why he even feels the need to punish himself further.
"I've listened to the people closest to me," he responds. "I've had a good rest. I've listened to what different people think I should do. Most people don't know what went on behind the scenes in training prior to the Pacquiao fight. There were times we should have taken our foot off the gas, but we didn't. A lesser fighter than Manny Pacquiao could have beaten me that night by the way the training camp went."
With a record of 45-2, 32 KOs and with all that he has accomplished in nearly 13 years as a prizefighter, Hatton still feels the need to go out on his own terms. Speaking of the two round knockout loss to Pacquiao, where he was left lying senseless after a taking brutal left to the chin, one can sense the pain the loss has left him with.
"Look, no fighter wants his last fight to be like that...I don't want my fans to remember me as, you know, that last fight," says Hatton without mentioning Pacquiao by name. "I want to fight a decent opponent when I return. I don't want my fans to say that I just came back for the payday or that I just had the one fight to finish on a win."
So for Hatton, his return is about setting the record straight and winning a title against a world class opponent so he can leave the game on a high note. Several names have been mentioned and Hatton himself even alluded to a few of them.
"I do want to finish at or near the top," he said. "There are fighters out there like Juan Urango, the IBF champion that I fought before. There's the WBA welterweight champion, the Russian [Vyacheslav Senchenko]. There's Juan Manuel Marquez, he's another option."
In boxing, where anything can happen, there is always the chance that Hatton could take another fight and end up going out on terms lower than what happened to him in the Pacquiao fight. But it is a gamble that Ricky Hatton is willing to take.
"I've made up my mind about fighting again," says a resolute Hatton. "It's nice that people are worried for my health. But I know what I'm capable of and I know what I've still got left in me. I feel like I have one more great fight left in me."
In the Corners
Don't ever let it be said that Richard Schaefer and Golden Boy Promotions can't put together the big fights. Need proof? Look no further than the ludicrous day late and dollar short rematch between 45-year-old Bernard Hopkins and 41-year-old Roy Jones, Jr. The pair faced each other 17 years ago but will now get it on in an April rematch. The Nevada State Athletic Commission should have a hard look at Jones, whose body seemed to react oddly when he was knocked down and eventually stopped last month by Danny Green in less than one round. Jones' legs appeared to fall out from underneath him and he appeared weak. Both fighters should be forced to undergo additional testing and meet the standards of every stringent medical measure available in order to step into the ring at their advanced ages...Bob Arum has once again demonstrated his visionary qualities by making the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey fight for Cowboys Stadium in Texas on March 13. As I've written previously, this is a very dangerous fight for Pacquiao who will have to be totally focused in order to turn back Clottey. For the record, I thought Clottey beat Miguel Cotto last year at Madison Square Garden - but he was robbed. From my ringside seat in press row, just behind the now departed literary legend, Budd Schulberg, I clearly saw Clottey beat Puerto Rico's favorite son by a 115-113 score. I say if he can beat Cotto - he can beat Pacquiao, too...Nice to see 36-year-old, Cornelius "K-9" Bundrage finally get his title shot in March versus IBF 154-pound boss Cory Spinks. Bundrage has been kicking around for 15 years and one way or the other he usually makes for an interesting fight. This could be his moment.