by Johnny Walker
When British boxing superstar Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton enters the ring tomorrow night in his hometown of Manchester, England, he’ll be fighting not only the opponent across the ring–Ukrainian welterweight Vyacheslav Senchenko–but also the ghosts that have haunted him since he retired from boxing following a destructive knockout at the hands of Manny Pacquiao in 2009.
From his former glorious heights, Hatton soon saw his life spiral out of control, as a groupie supplied pictures of him snorting fat lines of cocaine to the always nasty tabloid press in Britain. Bloated, bleary and depressed, even suicidal, Ricky Hatton was now leading a life that seemed epitomized by the old classic rock song by Blind Faith: “Lord, I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home.”
Indeed, Hatton was lost.
From what looked like another cautionary tale in a sport never lacking in them, however, The Hitman has seemingly turned his life around in five short months, and he turned up at the weigh-in for the bout today looking ripped and ready for action. Given where he was not long ago, this could qualify as a miracle:
As for Senchenko, he pulled a no-show earlier this week at the final presser for the fight, and who could blame him if he’s a bit shaken by the prospect of going up against the popular Brit legend in his own backyard on such a momentous occasion? The Ukrainian ex-champion will have not only to contend with the recharged Hatton, but with an entire nation which will be pulling for the everyman figure to fashion a storybook ending to his comeback. A daunting task for sure.
But even if he doesn’t win against Senchenko, Hatton figures he’s still come out ahead in this story.
“Depression is something I’ll always have. But I honestly feel I’ve won already,” says the Hitman.
“Of course I want to win, but if I lose I can get up on Sunday morning, look in that mirror and say, ‘Rick, you did the best you can, you don’t have it any more, go off and be the best promoter and trainer you can.’
“Who is this for? I wanted to kill myself three years ago. It’s for me.”
Those who sneer from behind keyboards on Internet boxing forums about wanting Hatton to fail, mocking him for his personal foibles, must have led such perfect lives that they can’t identify with someone who has fallen from grace and is trying to start over again.
What Hatton is currently living out in full public view is the same thing most people worth a lick have gone through at one time or another in their own lives.
Which means that when Hatton enters the ring tomorrow in Manchester, this writer will throw any pretense to journalistic objectivity out of the window and become a fan. A Ricky Hatton fan.
As the song says, “there’s only one Ricky Hatton.”
But there’s a little Ricky Hatton in all of us.