Ricky Hatton: Closure, Peace & Happiness
It felt like old times, the familiar setting, the Manchester Arena. ‘There’s only one Ricky Hatton’ blasted out from the Hatton faithful, but many things were missing.
The usual blend of familiar celebrities were seated at ringside, but sadly the parents were not. A bitter family feud, now thankfully a thing of the past, was in 2012 a regrettable part of the present. Despite some of the words said, the pain of that split was evident, maybe the root of the majority of the problems that came after.
Hatton needed closure or a new beginning to get his life going in the direction it needed to. Hatton had regrets, his career had not finished in the manner that he wanted.
There was nothing to apologise for, but Hatton felt he had to. Reminiscent of when Gerry Cooney lost to Larry Holmes, Hatton felt he had let people down, the apologies kept coming.
The two defeats he had suffered were to perhaps the two best fighters of the century. Floyd Mayweather and then later, Manny Pacquiao, had taken plenty from Hatton.
Hatton and his army of fans went to Las Vegas with real hope of defeating Mayweather, for Hatton, that was the problem. Just reaching that stage of his career wasn’t enough. Unbeaten in 43 fights, beating Kostya Tszyu wasn’t the end goal. That should have been enough for most fighters, Hatton was different. The ambition hadn’t yet peaked.
Mayweather took away the unbeaten record of Hatton, but it was far from easy. Hatton more than made him work for the victory, after six rounds he was still in the fight. Mayweather gradually took over before stopping a brave Hatton in ten rounds. The downward spiral soon began.
The first defeat as a professional hit Hatton hard. In the dressing room after the fight, he said he cried his eyes out and has admitted he was never the same man again. Hatton drank to hide the pain of defeat, and in his mind, the embarrassment of it. Without a drink in his hand Hatton felt depressed, the excess alcohol couldn’t completely mask what he felt inside.
Still fighting from within, Hatton launched his return, he struggled to impress against Juan Lazcano. Whispers of retirement grew louder.
A bitter split from Billy Graham followed. It wasn’t pretty, in boxing, it rarely is. Graham’s body was slowly falling to bits. Their relationship more rapidly. Graham was more than a trainer to Hatton, close long-time friends, the decision to sack someone so close was incredibly hard, but the fighter felt he needed to change. Graham could no longer give him what he needed.
Mayweather senior was hired to fill the void left by the departure of Graham. Initially, everything seemed to click and gel. It was a new start, the shattered confidence was beginning to repair itself.
With the Gallagher brothers by his side in Las Vegas, he walked to the ring desperately seeking the form of old. Paulie Malignaggi waited for him. The signs were initially good, against Malignaggi, he looked reborn. Hatton described it as his best performance since Tszyu. It was a false dawn.
A camp from hell, unhappy and fatigued in the final few weeks, dropped in sparring, Hatton was over the top. The physical peak lost in the gym. Pacquiao clinically knocked him out. It was brutal, it was worrying, the sight of his then partner in floods of tears and visibly shaking, was a thoroughly distressing watch. Those whispers of retirement were now too loud to be ignored. Hatton took his time before he made the decision that looked the sensible and only call.
“I’ve known it was the right thing to do for 18 months, to be honest. It’s a bit of a relief to finally do it.” Hatton appeared to be happy, he was anything but.
But without boxing, Hatton’s life was empty, he missed the buzz of the sport. The depression deepened, the paranoia increased, the drinking went deeper, he turned to drugs. Unsavoury headlines in the News of the World, Hatton was on the brink. Thoughts turned to ending his life. Hatton said:
“Having everything is nothing when depression takes a hold of you.” He is right.
Hatton fell out with his parents, solicitors got involved, the fall out with Graham ended up in the courts. Hatton was down but returned to training to try and ease the mind, and the rumours of a comeback were never far away. In September 2012, Hatton confirmed that he would return to the ring at the age of 34.
Vyacheslav Senchenko a recent world champion, was the first challenge, it looked a tough ask, but Hatton needed to know if he still had it at the top level. There were easier routes to take, that wasn’t the Hatton way.
Hatton thought he had become a laughing stock, he wanted redemption. There were big fights on the horizon. Malignaggi, a world champion once more after beating Senchenko, was mentioned, as were Amir Khan and Kell Brook. But the fight with Senchenko was about much more. The demons were what needed to be defeated. The comeback was part of that fight.
Hatton under the guidance of Bob Shannon, felt good in training, feeling sharp and back to his old self. The four stone plus he had gained in retirement was removed, but the family heartache was still lingering in the background. In many ways, there was uncertainty in the air, had the time away from the ring left Hatton with too much to do. The abuse and excess he put on his body would always tell one day. Would this be that day? A career that had been long and hard, the miles had been clocked, was there any more to give.
The old Arena was packed, the fans had welcomed back their hero. If Hatton wanted validation he was still the People’s Champion, he had it. But did the fighter himself, still have it. Senchenko would soon tell us.
Considering the three years plus ring absence and the strength and quality of his opponent, Hatton started well. But this wasn’t vintage Hatton. He was winning, but in the later rounds, it became a struggle to stay in the fight. Everything was off, it just wasn’t there. It just wasn’t the same. Hatton knew better than anybody.
A sickening fight-ending body punch in the 9th round, was the final nail in the boxing career of Ricky Hatton. The inevitable announcement would come soon after. Hatton knew he didn’t belong in the ring anymore. In defeat, he had found peace.
Hatton at one time looked to be on his way to becoming another sad statistic. A fighter who would succumb to a life without boxing. But Hatton has won the biggest fight of his life.
The family wounds have healed, the family split which was a major part of his problems he needed them back in his life. The family are together again, the feud with Graham is over. The old trainer had his own demons to battle, depression was a fight he was also able to win. The two reunited a few years ago. The sport as a whole was happy.
Hatton seems content now, training his own stable of fighters and guiding his son Campbell at the start of his professional career. The former world champion can now look back without anger or too many regrets and appreciate what he achieved. As always we should remember the prime and not the decline. Boxing doesn’t always give us a happy ending, against all odds, Hatton is one such story.
Photo Credit: Scott Heavey/Getty Images