Former junior welterweight champ Ricky Hatton has lost two of his past four fights by brutal knockouts in the 10th and second rounds to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao in December of 2007 and May of 2009, respectively.
But as Hatton enters the ring on Saturday night for the first time since falling to Pacquiao opposite ex-WBA welterweight Vyacheslav Senchenko on Showtime, it will be the 34-year-old Englishman’s ongoing battle to overcome depression, drug addiction and suicidal thoughts that will be his main focus.
“The toughest fight has already been won,” said Hatton (45-2, 32 knockouts) during a Monday national conference call touting the bout with the Ukrainian Senchenko (32-1, 21 KOs).
“From where I’ve come from to now — my family, my girlfriend, my kids, seeing me with a smile on my face and a spring in my step — the Ricky Hatton that everyone used to love is back. So it’s a win, win, win all the way, and I haven’t even thrown a punch yet.”
Hatton-Senchenko will happen at the already sold-out Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.
“One of the main questions is why did you come back? I was always a very, very proud fighter. I was always able to beat fighters who were technically better than me because I had such a big heart, and such a big desire and will. I was able to beat fighters that were better than me. So when I got destroyed in two rounds by Manny Pacquiao, that was very, very hard for a man who has so much pride, even though it was against a man such as Manny Pacquiao,” said Hatton, whose fight sold 18,000 tickets even before an opponent was announced.
“So when Manny Pacquiao beat me, and Floyd Mayweather beat me, I had a battle on my hands with depression. Not just depression, but that led to problems that have been well-documented in the tabloids with suicide attempts, and nervous breakdowns and panic attacks, and not speaking to my parents for two years, which, at present day, I’m still not speaking to my parents. I fell out with my longtime trainer and friend, Billy Graham. My life in the past three years has really turned to mush as we say.”
In Senchenko, Hatton faces a man whose last fight was April’s ninth-round knockout loss to current WBA welterweight titleholder Paulie Malignaggi, whom Hatton stopped in the 11th-round in November of 2008 — one fight prior to facing Pacquiao.
“I’m coming back to finish my boxing career in a positive manner…I feel that I’ve let a lot of people down during that period when I have been retired, and I’m here to put a lot of ghosts and demons to rest. I imagine that I have to pay a little respect to the fighter that I’ve picked,” said Hatton.
“I’ve gone straight into facing a world-ranked opponent, and former world champion in Senchenko. It’s been a long time since you’ve seen me, but nothing’s changed. I still like to fight anyone they put in front of me, and I’m hoping and looking forward to returning to form. I want to impress boxing fans again with my exciting style, which has always been a fan favorite. It’s great to be back on Showtime for my first fight back.”
Hatton-Sencheko will happen on a special afternoon edition of Showtime Championship Boxing at 5:00 p.m. ET/PT, marking Hatton’s first time fighting on the American network since he won THE RING, WBA and IBF junior welterweight belts by 11th-round knockout over recent Hall-of-Fame inductee Kostya Tszyu in June of 2005. An evening replay of the fight will air on Showtime Extreme Saturday.
Hatton, whose name appeared on the International Boxing Hall of Fame ballot, said he first thought about returning to the ring “about five, six, seven months ago,” shortly after the birth of his daughter, Millie Meg
“I started to become a trainer, going to the gym and getting healthier and healthier, then I started doing my own bit of training, and then I became a father again, and I’ve got a 13-month old little baby girl now, and that’s made feel very, very proud,” said Hatton, who also has an 11-year-old son, Campbell.
“I just thought, I don’t want the last thing that she remembers is that, you know, her dad, Ricky Hatton, he got beat by Manny Pacquiao. I want her to read good things about her dad, and that’s where the comeback really came from. It wasn’t one particular thing that got the ball rolling, it was an accumulation of things which ultimately made it.”
“My team begged me to take an easier one, but I said, ‘listen, I’ve been involved in so many big fights, and I’ve achieved so much, I don’t want to come back and do four and six-rounders. I want to come back and compete in world title fights,'” said Hatton.
“If I want to compete in world title fights, beating a journeyman type of opponent is not going to teach me anything, to be honest with you. Not only do I have to prove it to my critics, but I have to prove it to myself. There’s no point in me talking about Malignaggi, or Amir Khan, or Kell Brook or Timothy Bradley or anyone else if I go out and beat somebody that I’m expected to beat. So I’ve got to out and make a statement.”
If he is able to beat Senchenko, 35, Hatton would love a rematch with Malignaggi.
“It’s the easiest one to make, because of the history that Malignaggi and I both have with Golden Boy,” said Hatton. “The main thing is that I’m going straight back in against somebody at world level. Beating somebody at world level, like Senchenko, that could open a lot of doors for me.”
If Hatton were to lose on Saturday, he said he would still be able to hold his head up.
“If it all goes wrong on Saturday, needless to say, I’ll be absolutely heartbroken and devastated, but you know, even if I was to get beat in two rounds, again, like I did against Manny Pacquiao, I know I can look at myself in the mirror,” said Hatton.
“I can say, ‘well, Ricky you got in shape, you come through all of that, and you should be really, really proud of yourself.’ I could go into retirement a happy man. I think that I’ve already won and I haven’t even thrown a punch. But if I can take my performances in the gym into that ring on Saturday night, I’ll have another world title in me.”
Photo by Paul Thomas, Getty Images
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com