The true and fire tested man of the people became the exact opposite of that as he retreated into the heart of darkness. He used cocaine and was even filmed doing so. He also contemplated and attempted suicide. The fact that much of the sports media took this information and displayed it with such repulsive self delight and gratification didn’t help matters very much.
It goes without saying that oftentimes the happiest of the bunch is also the one who is doing his best to shove the closet full of skeletons shut and keep us in the dark about the sad facts. The money, fame and admiration for which so many athletes strive for came naturally to the “Hitman”.
In a way, the hard work and sacrifice that he put forth in the gym, and subsequently in the ring, allowed him to worry less about the bills and gave him the chance to stay grounded in his community…and at times, face down in the local pub. His legions of fans related to the working man persona which Hatton displayed. The Manchester legend played darts and was known to drink a pint or ten with just about anyone. Some would give just about anything to meet their sporting hero. All it took to do so in Ricky’s case was just to extend your hand.
The circumstances through which Hatton (45(32)-2(2)) decided to make his return to the ring are unique in some ways. He will face former welterweight champion Vyacheslav Senchenko (32(21)-1(1)) this Saturday evening in his hometown of Manchester. By his own admission, he misses the action and hot lights which time within the ring grants its participants. Who can really and truly blame him? Not only was Hatton once a world champion, he was also awarded the Order of the British Empire (MBE) five years ago. He was on top of the world.
Then came the night of December 8, 2007.
One didn’t have to be in attendance at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas as this writer so luckily was to quickly learn and perhaps even long to forget the chanting of the thousands of British fans who had made the trip across the pond (and also across the deep south, the southwest and parts of the desert) to witness the bout in person. Not even the fighters on the undercard were safe from the electrifying barrage of singing from the Grand Garden Arena floor all the way up to the ceiling panels. “There’s only one Ricky Hatton. One Ricky Hatton. Walking along, singing a song, walking in a Hatton wonderland”, was the war cry of the oceans of powder blue (in honor of Manchester City Football Club) faithful in attendance. Either they loved their man or they were incensed at having to drink Budweiser.
Manny Pacquiao had not quite made his way into the “pound for pound” discussion in late 2007. So, without any confusion, Ricky was going for the pugilistic gold when he faced Floyd Mayweather, Jr. that winter evening. Despite the occasional punch landed, Ricky fell short. Regardless of whether or not many of his legions in the stands had a “Thumper on a bumper” look across their faces, they never stopped cheering. He got behind early on the cards and referee Joe Cortez should have taken the night off.
Hatton took the fight to Floyd, but had the turnbuckle of the ring brought to him in the tenth round. The defensive mastery of Mayweather, Jr. got the best of him. Even so, Floyd praised his opponent. “He’s still a champion in my eyes”, said the man we now know as “Money”.
No one wanted to see him go and he had no plans to do so after he was dealt his first professional loss. He took a five month sojourn before he made his first comeback of sorts versus Juan “The Hispanic Causing Panic” Lazcano at the City of Manchester stadium. He cruised to victory and then he gave Brooklyn native Paulie “Magic Man” Malignaggi his first loss by knockout in November of 2008. His quest to return once again to pugilistic prominence was pushed into reality once again. After all, Floyd, Jr. had “retired” for some reason. The next bout for Hatton was an easy one to make. It was a straight putt to none other than Manny Pacquiao.
The scene of his initial loss was visited once again, only this time whoever paid through the nose for their seat didn’t leave the arena with the feeling of bang for their respective buck. The accoutrements which the Mayweather bout had somewhat granted was essentially a loaded cigar for the Pacquiao fight.
Ricky was literally crushed. He didn’t make it past two rounds and our hearts ached when he was sent to bed on the canvas sans a blanket and a comfy pillow. The defeat left him devastated. However, his past episodes of self abuse have left him with a need to realign the pieces of his puzzle of life. This wasn’t in any way how he had envisioned his career. He elaborated in a recent discussion with the media.
“It doesn’t matter how many people pat me on the back. If I don’t think the same, then I don’t believe it at all. Many said to me that I had nothing to prove. I feel like I let my fans, my community, my hometown, British boxing and the sport in general down. I’m sorry but that’s just the way I feel. I had panic attacks. I had to explain to people how I tried to kill myself several times and how my girlfriend had to take a knife away from me when I tried to slit my wrists. It’s not the proudest moment for a former world champion to speak of how I acted. I had to ask my girlfriend to hold me. Hopefully, people now understand why I have to do this.”
We should all watch this Saturday to see what he has left in the tank. Gone are his “Ricky Fatton” tendencies of the past.
“I was known for ballooning up. I look back and I realize that it was absolutely criminal to do that. It was bad at twenty four years of age so I know I can’t do it at thirty four. You’ll get the same Ricky Hatton, but I won’t go up thirty pounds between my fights anymore”.
We love the fighter who is also the everyman. The simplest qualities are often the ones that mean the most. Ricky Hatton deserves the chance, even if it’s of the “one and done” variety. It’s premature and perhaps even disrespectful to call him a bum, as so many have done. Try fighting. Try running. Try dedication to the gym.
It’s not easy. It’s neither for everyone nor almost anyone. Judge slowly, especially when “there’s only one”.