By: Marc Livitz: Across the wide spectrum of professional sports the majority of athletes remain unsatisfied with simply going through the motions of their respective trade. The desire to gain notoriety, whether for famous or infamous reasons is present in all avenues of sport, or so it may seem. Perhaps one of the most noteworthy yet not so prevalent ambitions of some prize fighters is to have the utmost support from their community and country. There are boxers who have a following and then there’s Ricky Hatton. No one needs to be reminded that there’s only one. The former two division world champion from Manchester, UK left the sport in 2009 after a devastating second round knockout loss to Manny Pacquiao. In the time since, Hatton (45(32)-2(2)) has made the headlines in Great Britain and around the globe for all the wrong reasons. By his own admission, Ricky “The Hitman” has finally put his demons to rest and is now slated to make his return to the ring in front of over twenty thousand adoring fans in Manchester this Saturday (November 24th) night. His opponent is no slouch and by no means a pushover.
Some within the media and public are wondering why he chose former WBA welterweight titlist Vyacheslav Senchenko (32(21)-1(1)) of Ukraine to be his initial ring foe this weekend. Earlier this afternoon, what may have been intended to be just a simple Q&A session with the boxing press turned into a rather introspective and delightful chat with the Englishman. He can still take pride in the fact that his two losses were to the same individuals whom at the time (Floyd Mayweather, Jr. in 2007 and Manny Pacquiao in 2009) of the respective bouts were just as high atop the sport’s summit as they are today.
Ricky opened up from the moment he took to the phone. He graciously thanked the press for joining him on the call and his feelings and emotional side began to flow.
“I feel very humble. Three and a half years is a long time and I am grateful that twenty thousand tickets sold out in two days. I’ve always had a following in the UK and I’m proud to still have followers in the United States. I was always a very proud fighter and I have such desire and will. I was destroyed in two rounds (by Pacquiao) and it was very hard to get over that. I put it behind me as well as the Mayweather result. I’ve had some well documented problems in the tabloids. I’ve had setbacks and anxiety and I have not spoken to my parents in over two years. My life had turned to mush, as we say. I feel like a let a lot of people down and I want to put all of those feelings to rest. I chose to go straight back into it and challenge a former world champion. I hope to return to championship form and continue to please my fans. I thought it would take a few fights before the interest would pick up, so I’m so proud to get back with such a great interest.”
Hatton dispelled the rumors that he returned simply for financial gain or for any other reasons not directly related to the sport. He is also a promoter. He commented, “I suppose it started about five months ago. I started going back to the gym Monday through Friday. I am a father to a new baby girl as well. It wasn’t one particular thing that got the ball rolling. It wasn’t boxing that saved my life. I got back on the straight and narrow and then the desire returned. I’m a very proud man. I got the majority of my victories because of my determination. It has nothing to do with my promotional company at all.”
Vyacheslav Senchenko suffered the first loss of his career earlier this year to Brooklyn fighter Paul Malignaggi. Ricky Hatton defeated the American by TKO in November of 2008 as he was climbing the pugilistic ladder back up from his loss to Mayweather, Jr. Those around him felt that perhaps he should have selected a more suitable opponent for someone who had not been in the ring for over forty months. Ricky took his usual “all or nothing approach” and took time to compare the two aforementioned fighters.
“My team wanted me to take an easier one, but just fighting a journeyman wouldn’t teach me anything. I have to prove to myself what I have left. We’ll all know a bit more on November 25th. I don’t expect anyone to believe me, but I am okay with that. There would be no point to picking someone that couldn’t compete. I’m serious about my comeback. I have to convince everyone including myself. When I saw him fight (Paul) Malignaggi, I saw that he uses a very eastern European style. He’s mechanical and he stands up straight. I think my style is more suited for this matchup. He’s got the height and reach (Senchenko stands 5’10” and possess a 70” reach), so this will be a good fight. I wanted somebody in the top ten, so that’s the main reason that I picked him.”
Ricky Hatton has always been a self styled man of the people and one of the most interesting characteristics he often displayed was the tendency to gain a massive amount of weight between his professional outings, which gained him the nickname of “Ricky Fatton”. The Mancunian now wholeheartedly acknowledged that such behavior is a thing of the past when he said, “I was known for ballooning up. I look back and I realize that it was absolutely criminal to do that. It was bad at twenty four years of age so I know I can’t do it at thirty four. You’ll get the same Ricky Hatton, but I won’t go up thirty pounds between my fights anymore.”
Not long after his tenth round TKO loss to Floyd Mayweather, Jr. in December 2007, Ricky made the difficult choice to part ways with his longtime trainer, Billy “The Preacher” Graham. Many boxing fans in the United States got their first glimpse of Graham thanks to HBO’s popular “24/7” info-series as it chronicled the buildup to Hatton’s showdown with Floyd. The footage showed his former trainer’s need for painkilling injections to keep his ailing joints in working order after years of absorbing Hatton’s powerful punches in the gym. Hatton elaborated, “It (the firing of Graham) had nothing to do with the result. You remember on “24/7” that Billy was having trouble with his hands and his elbows. The heavy hitting days with the pads would affect him and made it hard for him to get through training sessions. It was more a matter of Father Time. If you have to use needles and medicine to help you get through the training sessions, then eventually it is going to catch up to you.”
Hatton subsequently switched to (oddly enough) the services of Floyd Mayweather, Sr. as he trained for his May 2009 bout with Manny Pacquiao. The British fighter spoke briefly of the evident signs that his fight with the “Pac Man” may be a tough evening.
“I look back at the training for Manny Pacquiao and there were sparring partners who were knocking me down. I wasn’t in the best state of mind. I don’t want to pick on Floyd Sr. because I learned so much from him. I have used much of what I learned on my guys in the gym. I don’t know if Floyd noticed when I needed time off.”