The cross roads: Where does Ricky Hatton go from here?

By Bill Patrice Jones: Recently I wrote an article in which I defended Ricky Hatton’s trainer Floyd Mayweather sr, professing my belief that Ricky’s spectacular downfall was due to his reckless and naïve approach to the fight. I left that article with an ominous situation whereby Hatton was left with two options both containing potential danger.. Does Ricky Hatton now walk away as so many of us have been calling for: the logic behind this argument is certainly clear as one must never forget the cruel nature of this sport. However what of the counter argument and the charge that Hatton may yet feel he has something to prove in the sport and that walking away after a defeat in this manner would be unfitting for one of Britain’s proudest pugilists in history. One needs to explore the potential in either decision Ricky chooses.

Retire now

I found it interesting when watching Ricky Hatton fall to the mat losing consciousness along the way, how quickly the British commentators announced that ‘Ricky Hatton’s career is over.’ One must concede that this outpouring of calls for Ricky’s retirement before the dust had even settled over the MGM grand was perhaps a reflection of certain commentator’s anger at Ricky having performed so badly. Having waited and listened and promoted for what seemed like an eternity, it would seem only too natural that those watching would declare Ricky ‘finished’. Hatton himself gave no post fight interview as can be understood. He was helped to his dressing room still finding it difficult to walk, with his entourage trying to cover the camera lenses. He has resurfaced for the Media since then only to tell us that he is undecided over his future. A clearly subdued and contemplative Ricky, his eyes hidden by darkened glasses told Sky reporters that ‘never in a million years would I have though that would happen.’ Perhaps this is telling of Hatton’s own naïve self belief before the fight that he would be able to walk through his shots. We don’t know for sure as Hatton spoke very little on the nature of his performance in the ring. We know boxing is the hardest game of them all and that the real driving force behind the careers of those who pursue it is money. So few fighters ever make enough money to enjoy retirement and the list of once proud fighters now forcing themselves back into gyms and rings around the world to pay bills grows longer every year. Essentially it can be argued that however good you are, if you go one too long it will inevitably end in tears. As one insightful commentator once remarked watching Larry Holmes go down to a prime Mike Tyson ‘Those are the type of punches that make you walk funny for the rest of your life’. What Ricky Hatton has achieved should never be taken for granted. He has beaten two legends both by knockout, enthralled audiences around the world, developed a fan base like no other and perhaps most impressively: Won his respect in America becoming one of the premium stars in an era of exceptional talent in the light welterweight- welterweight divisions.

Ricky failed twice, and both failures came against the very best the sport has to offer this century. So what more is there to prove? Hatton is capable of beating all comers except the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. So why risk good health by fighting on in wars against other great fighters in his division? I imagine that the vast majority of British fight fans will feel this way about their hero, and certainly the casual fans will agree.

Fight on

The counter argument on this matter is much harder to make. What could motivate Ricky Hatton to once again climb through the ropes and fight another day? This writer is certainly of the mind that if Hatton does fight on it will concern only: Pride and legacy. The former is a harder concept to us to understand, only Ricky Hatton himself knows what the defeat to Manny Pacquiao has done to him emotionally. It could be all too possible that right now Hatton is questioning himself, questioning his resolve and his ability. Refusing to leave a defeat of that manner as the lasting impression on his worldwide audience. Telling himself that he cannot be remembered for suffering one of the most brutal knockouts in recent memory. Ricky Hatton is a proud man, he has much to be proud of, yet on this issue perhaps Ricky’s intelligence will see him through. For all his recklessness and bravery inside the ring, outside what has emerged is an intelligent man aware very early of the dangers in fighting on too long. He has spoken numerous times of a desire to retire with his money and health secured and his close knit circle of advisors and loved ones will help immensely in this difficult time. The latter though is what concerns this writer. Does Ricky Hatton feel as though his legacy is secure? Furthermore does he feel that a successful and glory ridden comeback into big-time boxing will add sufficiently to the legacy he will leave behind for boxing historians? Oscar De La Hoya thinks he should continue, yet although I feel no animosity toward the Golden boy at all the public response to his sentiments seemed to be very unfavourable. This writer feels that Ricky Hatton would be scared only of the possibility that the status he held previously over commentators and analysts in the U.S will now be in jeopardy. It must have been exhilarating to hear: Emmanuel Steward, Bernard Hopkins, Oscar De La Hoya and others speak so enthusiastically about Hatton’s chances, revealing a true respect for his ability as a fighter. If Ricky Hatton walks away now will that respect and admiration have eroded somewhat. If they now feel they were wrong to some extent about his ability they may begin to question his former achievements and revise their position on his standing in boxing history.

Ultimately Ricky Hatton now faces one of the most difficult decisions of his entire life. It is a moment all fighters must one day come to. Ricky would never have dreamed of deciding to retire after such a devastating loss but it may be that he has no choice. It is often the case that when a fighter immediately retires some question the decision but in hindsight it emerges as a wise choice. Right now Joe Calzaghe’s comfortable retirement seems like the only choice worth making and few could see the logic in Lennox Lewis deciding to continue. It almost always ends in tears. Ricky Hatton does not have the luxury the aforementioned fighters do of going out on a win. Yet although visions of the Hitman rising from the ashes like Roberto Duran did to some extent following his similar knockout loss to Tommy Hearn’s should be ignored. Sports writer James Lawton recently published an article in which he concluded Ricky Hatton fell short of greatness. In this troubling time post Pacquiao many may feel inclined to think this way, however we must never forget the magnitude of Ricky Hatton’s achievements in the ring, most importantly in an era of exceptional talent. Ricky Hatton did achieve greatness he just failed to achieve the status as the world best fighter. Logistically there may be few options available to Hatton to reinvent himself again: Floyd Mayweather sr may well have ended his relationship with him and Freddie Roach has already said he would not be enthusiastic about training the vanquished champ. This writer will respect Ricky Hatton whatever decision he makes, and is sure that the warriors countrymen will do the same.

Only time will tell.

Article posted on 07.05.2009

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