The Pugilist

Ricky Hatton gets his warrior’s demise

Hatton's comeback ends in defeat

"When the dust has cleared

And victory denied

A summit too lofty

River a little too wide

If we keep our pride

Though paradise is lost

We will pay the price,

But we will not count the cost"

+++

The Pugilist made the four-hour jaunt up to the Manchester Arena for Ricky Hatton's return from a 42-month absence from boxing.

Throughout the journey, a pre-fight excursion to the DW to watch Wigan and Reading share five goals and a very enjoyable undercard, one image remained prominent in the mind.

It was this one:

Las Vegas - May 2, 2009

Harrowing. Unsettling. Even somewhat morbid. But more importantly, it was symbolic.

While, thankfully, Hatton would eventually get back up from Manny Pacquiao's brutal barrage, the sight of his motionless body would represent his career and, as we found out over the coming years, his very life's worth.

Ricky's downward spiral is well documented. The sporting imagery of meeting his maker even appeared likely to become reality. More and more people had him in their dead pools. He admitted suicide was at one point an option.

The role of proverbial life support was played by Hatton Promotions: founded by the man himself shortly before the Pac-Man fight, keeping his spirit inside the gym even though his body was no longer up for it.

Earlier this year, Hatton felt some blood pumping through his veins once more. He acted on that feeling of renewed life, and should be commended for it.

What was questionable, however, was his decision to fight Yvacheslav Senchenko. Tickets were already flying out of the box office within days of the Mancunian confirming his comeback despite no opponent having been revealed and no undercard set; so why didn't 'The Hitman' fight a softer opponent to ease himself back into the sport?

Senchenko is a former world champion who only lost the WBA belt — and his undefeated streak — to Paul Malignaggi due to his eye swelling shut, forcing a TKO. While not a Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather, the Ukrainian was not the easiest way to shake off nearly four years of rust.

That rust showed throughout almost nine rounds under the same roof as many of his fights as an undefeated warrior, before the adoring fans who had never given up on him.

Hatton had, on this writer's personal scorecard, won the first four rounds despite desperately lacking co-ordination and timing. Questions surrounding his ability to take a hit were silenced in those very rounds when he soaked up some good early shots from Senchenko while barely flinching.

From that point, however, Hatton tired and Senchenko, having spent half his time early on taunting and spoiling, unfurled his plan and began to pick apart the old lion.

With the bout tied at four rounds each and with other reporters nearby split between agreeing and having either man up by one, Senchenko unleashed a 'Hatton special' left to the kidney which doubled the Englishman up and ended his career, surely for good this time.

For the record, Hatton was up on all three judges' scorecards when the fight ended.

From picking such a capable opponent from his first fight back to going so gung-ho despite the time away, there was something distinctly Bushido about this return.

In 2009 he had been buried in the Las Vegas desert, barely alive a la the movie Casino. Three years later, Hatton dragged himself from the brink of demise and earned the right to end his career with honour: on home turf, with his extended family in attendance, vices buried and old fitness fallacies cast away, if only for one night.

Saturday night was almost Ricky Hatton's self-imposed hara-kiri.

Around the emptying venue were seas of sad faces. Even the unflappable Michael Buffer's eyes looked a touch watery before he made the official announcement.

As a longtime Hatton fan, The Pugilist did not feel sad, but at peace. Especially as Hatton made his feet shortly after some medical attention and gracefully congratulated his conqueror before walking away unaided to the post-card press conference where the samurai's death was formally pronounced.

Here's hoping he feels equally acquiescent. Saturday proved what we pretty much already knew: his time as a world class boxer has long expired. But this otherwise failed comeback attempt may give Ricky Hatton the man a real chance to win a more important battle against the personal demons that have threatened to ruin him.

Of course, it remains a possibility that Hatton may succumb to his old problems, but there isn't a single boxing fan on the planet with an ounce of decency in them not rooting for him to enjoy life after boxing the second time around.

Hopefully, as Hatton left the ring one final time as a competitor, he looked at the turnbuckles, hoardings and posters all bearing his name and the logo of his company, and at the family and friends all sharing his anguish, and he realised just how much he actually has going for him.

+++

With thanks to Neill Hamersley of Georgie H Photography for Hatton-Senchenko images and the team at iFILMLONDON for video content.