COMMENTARY | Fighter's fight. Basically, that's what you can take away from the story of almost any boxer who has dedicated his life to the brutally glamorous and emotionally taxing world of professional prizefighting. Sadly, though, the fights often don't end when the fighter stops getting in the ring.
"I had a hysterical nervous breakdown, my girlfriend took a knife from my wrist three or four times," Ricky Hatton told Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times.
In the years following his retirement from the sport, Hatton had slipped into an alcohol and drug-fueled depression that drove him to suicide attempts and a series of tragically poor life decisions.
It was boxing that brought him back to sanity-- first as a gym owner, then as a promoter, and now as a once again active combatant, making his ring return this coming Saturday, November 24, against former WBA welterweight champ, Vyacheslav Senchenko.
For Hatton, returning to the ring is like returning home to reclaim the piece of his soul lost when Manny Pacquiao left him unconscious in the middle of the ring in their 2009 bout.
"That's not how I envisaged my career ending and that's not how I wanted my kids to remember me," Hatton told the UK's Daily Telegraph.
In reality, the Pacquiao loss was just the culmination of a deadly decline for the UK battler, who had already spent the better part of four years battling addiction, weight gain, and the pressures of being a huge fish in a relatively small pond.
A working class hero if ever there was one, Hatton took the hard road to fame and glory, but eventually found himself in the rarefied air reserved for only boxing's true superstars as, possibly, the biggest mainstream star to ever emerge from the UK's rich fight history. Along the way, he never stopped being the affable hero of Manchester and a true ambassador of the sport.
In 2005, Hatton became the first British boxer ever to win Ring Magazine's Fighter of the Year honors, capping off a ring year that saw him beat Kostya Tszyu and Carlos Maussa to earn consensus status as the best junior welterweight in the world.
Always entertaining, both inside and outside the ring, Hatton continued moving upward and onward, capturing the WBA welterweight title in a real struggle with Luis Collazo before settling back for two more bouts in his more comfortable 140 lb. weight limit.
In December of 2007, welterweight kingpin, Floyd Mayweather came into the picture and promptly ended Hatton's status as an undefeated fighter with an exciting tenth round technical knockout in the bright lights of Las Vegas.
In 2009, after rebuilding wins over Juan Lazcano and Paulie Malignaggi, Hatton got another call from one of the sport's elites. This time it was Manny Pacquiao, who, like Mayweather, had risen to super-stardom following a win over Oscar De la Hoya. But, unlike Mayweather, Pacquiao would tear right through Hatton, leaving behind a broken, unconscious lump of flesh in mid-ring at the end of two rounds.
Just five months shy of his thirty-first birthday, Hatton was shoved into retirement. He had been completely eviscerated by the sport's two biggest stars and there was really nowhere else to go. Logically, it seemed as though the end of the line had come, even if his chronological age was telling him otherwise. Hatton had already fought a lifetime's worth of fights, had gone to the very top of his profession, and had lived like few others had lived. It was time for quieter days.
But it's hard to tend one's garden and sip tea quietly in front of the TV news when you've been a warrior, cheered on by 20,000 rabid fans and adored by millions more. Hatton, like many fighters, fell into adrenaline withdrawal and found other, more self-destructive ways to put that rush back into his life.
By all accounts, Hatton doesn't need the money. His promotional business seems to be going fairly well and he's still so massively popular that endorsement deals will always be a phone call away should he need some quick, easy cash. His return to the ring is about more than a payday.
The truth of the matter is that Ricky Hatton is a warrior at heart and, at 34, it's still realistically conceivable that he can go back for a successful run as a full-time fighter. It may be a temporary fix to a long-term problem, but few true warriors, for better or worse, don't come back when they know they can.
The Ukraine's Senchenko is a tough opponent for someone coming back from more than three years off. Despite his status as former world title holder, he's hardly a world-beater-- as evidenced by his one-sided TKO 9 loss to feather-fisted Paulie Malignaggi. However, he's not typical comeback-fodder, either.
But Ricky Hatton was never one to tread on safe ground. As a matter of fact, plans are already under way for him to face former TKO victim, Malignaggi for a crack at the WBA welterweight title in March.
Once again, the Manchester hero's life and well-being seem to be tied into his boxing career. Whether that's a healthy place to be remains to be seen, but for now, the demons and self-destructive tendencies are once again under control.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing.
Lance Pugmire, Ricky Hatton is back in the ring after Manny Pacquiao loss, depression, Los Angeles Times
Paul Hayward, Ricky Hatton ready to put 'ghosts and demons' to bed as he relaunches his career against Vyacheslav Senchenko, The Telegraph