MANCHESTER, United Kingdom—Ricky Hatton is set for a night of tears, win or lose, when the former world champion returns to the ring on Saturday after a three-and-a-half year retirement.
During that time the 34-year-old Englishman has battled alcohol and drug problems, depression and suicidal thoughts.
But he sought refuge from his trouble by embarking upon a comeback in front of his Manchester home crowd.
Britain’s most popular boxer of the modern era, whom it was reported attracted a crowd of 18,000 travelling fans to Las Vegas for his points defeat to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2007, faces Ukrainian Vyacheslav Senchenko in a welterweight contest at the Manchester Arena that he claims is all about “redemption”.
Hatton’s problems started when he was knocked out by Filipino Manny Pacquiao in two rounds in May 2009.
The Manchester boxer was left haunted by the savage defeat — one of only two professional losses — and his personal life descended into chaos.
A former world champion at light-welterweight and welterweight, Hatton piled on the pounds as he drank excessively but during a training session at his gym in Hyde, on the outskirts of Manchester, this week he appeared to be in good physical and mental shape.
“I’ve come back to win a world title and end my career the way I should have ended it,” Hatton told AFP.
“I have more hunger now than when I fought Kostya Tszyu (in 2005). No one thought I could beat him. Getting flattened by Pacquiao, the personal problems and the rest of it — put that together and that’s what Senchenko has got coming to him.
“Just because you’re the world champion, and everybody thinks the sun shines out of you’re arse, doesn’t mean you’re any different to the next man.
“I’ve got this lovely gym and a nice house and boxing has been very, very good to me. But that couldn’t do anything for me when I wanted to kill myself.”
There has been talk of future fights against fellow Britons Amir Khan and Kell Brook but Hatton knows the length of his comeback will hinge on how he fares against Senchenko, who earlier this year was the World Boxing Association welterweight champion.
“It all depends on the manner of the performance on November 24 as to whether it happens or doesn’t happen,” he said. “If I stink the place out I could retire and say I gave it my best shot.
“I want my family, fans and community to be proud of me and not remember me for the Pacquiao loss and all the bad stuff that has happened to me in the last three years.”
Hatton is sure to be roared on by thousands of loyal fans from the moment he makes his way to the ring on Saturday.
However, he stressed the need to make sure he kept on top of his emotions — at least until the contest was over.
“I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to hold it together after the fight but before it, it’s what I’ve got to do — that’s what a champion has to do.
“But let’s not have another Manny Pacquiao revisited where I’m like a chicken with no head.”