LAS VEGAS – Ricky Hatton peeled himself off the canvas at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, saluted his remarkable band of loyal fans, and headed down the tunnel to be confronted by an uncertain future.
Hatton’s crushing defeat at the hands of Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Saturday could have delivered as much damage to the brave Englishman’s earning capacity as the champion’s precise shots did to his face and body during his 10th round TKO defeat.
Britain’s favorite scrapper tried to dull the pain of his first career setback with several pints of his beloved Guinness, but thoughts of just where he goes from here would have been frankly sobering.
“I have fought three times this year so it is time for a bit of a break,” Hatton said. “You have not seen the last of me, don’t worry about that. I will be back.”
The problem is when, where and against whom. A showdown with Oscar De La Hoya – which would have been a virtual certainty if Hatton had won or even lost by a close decision – probably won't take place now.
De La Hoya had too much business sense to throw away leverage by ruling out a Hatton bout altogether when quizzed on Saturday night, but the Golden Boy will probably settle on a fight with Miguel Cotto on May 3.
However, De La Hoya has been prone to change his mind at immediate notice, and the possibility of a massive crowd of 90,000 at London’s Wembley Stadium might be tempting.
Yet given the result here, the Hatton camp appears to see their man’s future at super lightweight, after he weighed in at two pounds under the welterweight limit and was out-muscled and out-skilled by Mayweather.
“The thing with Oscar would be the physicalities,” said Hatton’s father Ray. “What weight could he get down to? And what weight could we get Richard up to?”
Hatton made a pledge to his family recently that he would not fight long past his 30th birthday next year. That, and his weight, which balloons as high as 180 pounds when he is out of training, could mean he enters the ring only two more times.
Down to earth as he is, money will of course play a big factor in Hatton’s decision. However, he is proud enough to want to leave the sport with something of a legacy in his homeland.
Losing his ‘0’ in his 44th fight was a painful experience, and Hatton would only be risking another pounding if he took on bigger men such as Cotto, De La Hoya or Sugar Shane Mosley.
An all-English fight with Junior Witter at 140 pounds would attract huge support in the United Kingdom, and HBO would not shy away from that match-up, despite Witter’s limited profile in North America.
Despite his loss, Hatton has spread his gospel successfully in the United States and has gained popularity among the American public thanks to his affable nature.
There is also the factor of his traveling army of supporters, who are not afraid to plough their pounds into the Nevada economy.
A future fight for Hatton in Las Vegas could involve a lightweight who is financially motivated to move up, such as the impressive Juan Diaz, although that would not offer a mega payday by Hatton’s standards.
As he returns home to a nation that still adores him, the Hitman has plenty to ponder.