Ricky Hatton works with trainer Bob Shannon during a session Wednesday… (Andrew Yates / AFP / Getty…)
If you were there and heard it, the cheers of “There’s only one Ricky Hatton!” brought chills. Adoration toward the British boxer who routinely fought his heart out was a reminder of what the greatest sports heroes inspire.
That’s why it was unexpected to hear Hatton say this three years after his second-round knockout loss against Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas on May 2, 2009:
“I had a hysterical nervous breakdown, my girlfriend took a knife from my wrist three or four times,” Hatton said.
From that abyss, Hatton, 34, has rallied to fight again. A crowd of 20,000 is expected in Manchester, England, on Nov. 24 to watch Hatton (45-2, 32 knockouts) take on former welterweight world champion Vyacheslav Senchenko (32-1, 21 KOs) in a bout Showtime will televise.
“I’ve had a lot of wars, a lot of problems. I’m 34, had to lose a lot of weight again,” Hatton said. “The motivation is people saying, ‘No way can Ricky come back.’ But I’ve missed it like you wouldn’t believe. I have such massive anger about how life kicked my backside. I’ve channeled it for this fight.”
The good-spirited Hatton said he vanished into heavy beer drinking, excessive eating, depression and even cocaine use post-Pacquiao.
He said he wasn’t intending to retire after the defeat, but with a bank account fattened by paydays against Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. zapping "the fire in the belly you need for this hardest game in sport," he also found it “hard to come to terms with the manner I lost" after a bad training camp.
“It was humiliation. I tried to come back [after Pacquiao] to redeem myself, but it was easier to press snooze when the alarm clock rang, or start the diet next week. The desire, the will wasn’t there.”
At 210 pounds, a doctor checked his blood pressure and told him, “You’re a heart attack waiting to happen.” His former best friend and trainer, Billy Graham, sued him over training fees. He argued so fiercely with his parents that they went two years without talking.
“It went from bad to worse, I was ashamed of myself, I started having blackouts to the point I don’t even remember the drugs,” Hatton said. “I was in a dark place.”
Hatton said that, beyond previous lessons in rehab, he found inspiration from his girlfriend of seven years, Jennifer, and their daughter, Millie Meg, now 13 months old.
“I started training some of the lads in the training center I own, started losing some weight doing it and began looking at myself in the mirror, feeling good and healthy again,” Hatton said. “I started thinking, ‘Maybe I can end my career the way I meant to end it.’ ”
Hatton, maintaining the trait that endears him to his massive fan base, shrugged off suggestions to take an easy fight in his comeback bout.
“When they told me I should just dip my toe in first, I asked, ‘How long have you known me?’ ” he said. “I want to fight someone ranked, so people will take me seriously. I feel good, and the manner of my performance will decide if I have one, two, three fights, or a world title in my future.”
Hatton’s drawing power has led the promoter for World Boxing Assn. welterweight champion Paulie Malignaggi to clear a date in March for a possible bout with Hatton. Hatton beat Malignaggi by 11th-round technical knockout in 2008.
“People ask, ‘Why come back?’ … I got Mayweather and Pacquiao already. I have my gym, a nice home, a holiday home, a nice car,” Hatton said. “To stir up this hunger and drive should show you how disappointed I am in myself.”
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