Ricky Hatton Should Retire

By John Wight - Ricky Hatton should retire from the sport of boxing. In the aftermath of his crushing defeat at the considerable hands of Manny Pacquiao the issue of whether or not this popular and charismatic fighter should or should not retire has divided the boxing community to a degree not seen in many a year. Commenators and pundits in the sports pages of newspapers, in boxing journals, and on blogs have offered well considered and well meaning analyses as to why he either should or shouldn’t call it a day..

The wonder for me is that there is any doubt or conjecture over the fact he should retire at all. Yes, undoubtedly, due to his extraordinary popularity with his devoted army of fans, a Hatton fight would still generate interest. And, yes, there’s also little doubt that if he retained the motivation to train and dedicate himself to the level required to compete at the level he needs to that he is still capable of beating most of the top ten welterweights who currently occupy the division. But let’s be honest – the word interest, in the context of the sport of professional boxing, is merely a euphemism for money, and beating lesser fighters in the division would be an anti-climactic end to the journey of excitement and drama that describes the career of a boxer who’s filled soccer stadiums and more column inches than most world leaders put together.

More importantly, however, is the undeniable fact that even if all the above were true - namely that Ricky Hatton was still hungry and able to return to the ring - nothing he could ever achieve hereafter as a fighter would suffice to expunge not only the defeat he suffered against Pacquiao, but far more crucially the manner of that defeat.

Unlike his only other defeat against Mayweather Jr, which came after ten rounds of boxing, what we witnessed against Pacquiao in just under two rounds was so absolute, so devastating, that it deserves the respect of the man on the end of it to be reflected in his graceful exit from the sport. Moreover, Hatton himself, warrior that he is, has always made clear that his goal in boxing was to test himself against the best in the world, and that his overriding motivation was in achieving the title of best pound for pound fighter in the world. It is why he never ducked anyone and one of the reasons he was so respected and lionised, a throwback to the days when there was a pride in the sport which transcended money. Such pride has long been a relic, which made Hatton such a stand out and which earned him the admiration of so many boxing fans around the world.

To go back on such lofty principles now would only serve to tarnish his legacy. He doesn’t need the money; the key question though is does he need the accolade and adulation? For make no mistake, the lure of the big stage for a Ricky Hatton or an Ali or a Sugar Ray Leonard, for men like them, is more than about money. It’s the glory they miss, the drug of performing in front of thousands of people, millions when you take into account television and the wider media.

It is this very drug which saw Oscar De La Hoya fight on past his prime and suffer a humiliating loss against the same man who brutally knocked out Ricky Hatton, the inimitable Manny Pacquiao. Interestingly, De La Hoya has been one of those advocating a Ricky Hatton comeback in the wake of his defeat. But one suspects that he does so as a promoter rather than an impartial commentator, observer, or ex professional.

Last Saturday the cruelty of the sport was there for all to see in the way that Hatton hit the canvas and lay there inert for so long, with the shrill scream of his fiancée at ringside reminding us that people can and do die in there. Freddie Roach, himself intimately acquainted with the dangers of boxing, has advised Hatton to retire, and Hatton would be a fool not to listen seriously to such wise counsel.

Boxing is without doubt the greatest sport in the world. For anyone involved in or who appreciates the sport, it exemplifies courage, art, beauty and, as mentioned already, cruelty in equal measure. It pits two men of roughly equal size and weight, and at its very best skill, against one another in what is rightly described as the noble art. Sadly, for far too long the nobility has been missing from the sport, lost in the same greed, venality, and dishonesty which dominates every other aspect of life in the 21st century. This is why to have a champion like Pacquiao, a man of such dignity and respect for everyone he comes into contact with, including his opponents, has given boxing such a shot in the arm.

Yes, we should be grateful to at last have a P4P champion who doesn’t talk trash to all and sundry, who doesn’t brag about the money he’s made, the cars he drives, who hasn’t subsumed the repulsive bling culture that has turned a sport of kings into a sport of men who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Ricky Hatton belongs in the same category as Pacquiao. He’s a man of relatively humble origins who’s never allowed his success and popularity to distort his worldview. Boxing needs such champions. However, it also needs champions who know when it is time to step aside. Such an acknowledgement on the part of Ricky Hatton will perhaps take more courage than it ever took to climb through the ropes throughout his magnificent career.

It is the former kind of courage, not the latter, which boxing needs him to demonstrate now.

Article posted on 07.05.2009

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