Home Columns The Return of Ricky Hatton from Retirment Can Only End in Heartbreak

The Return of Ricky Hatton from Retirment Can Only End in Heartbreak

With a Return from Retirement for Ricky Hatton imminent, it’s time to ask, has he gone a round too far?

No one who has any partial interest in professional boxing will soon forget the most brutal knockout of 2009 and perhaps the most brutal knockout the previous decade. Because on May 2nd, 2009 in the second round of the Hatton vs. Pacquiao super fight, I momentarily feared for the Brits life as the pound for pound number one delivered a left hook so fast, so hard and so accurate to Hatton’s jaw that he was out cold before he had even touched the canvas.

I vividly recall the several disturbing minutes that followed the devastating punch where Hatton lay still exactly where he had fallen completely rigid and lifeless. As Hatton is very much one of the good guys in boxing, it was a nervous few minutes for every fan when the flamboyant character lay completely motionless in the ring and it came as an utter relief when his eyes  flickered open and eventually stopped rolling around aimlessly in their sockets. If anything should spell the end of a great career for a fighter, it should be receiving a knockout like that; everyone who witnessed it knows that. Well unfortunately, everyone except Hatton.

As a true warrior, it is hard for a fighter like Hatton to retire from the sport flat on his back and seeing stars. In a magnificent career, he has beaten the best and only fallen short against the very best. A record of 45 (32) – 2 is hugely respectable particularly when your only loses have come to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Pacquiao. And considering that Hatton is a two-weight world champion boasting victories over legends like Jose Luis Castillo and Kostya Tszyu (even though both fighters were well past their peaks when they fought Hatton) the Brit can rightly be considered one of the best in his era and a future Hall of Famer. So with nothing left to prove to anyone except to perhaps himself, Hatton fights on with tragedy being the only logical possibility.

The sport of boxing is unfortunately plagued with great fighters fighting on past their sell-by dates and only succeeding in damaging their reputations and more importantly, their health. One only needs to look at the sports greatest exponent Muhammad Ali to see the tragic effect that one too many punches can have. And in more recent times, it is with great sadness that boxing fans remember the great Evander Holyfield and see him now struggle with mediocre fighters he would have dismantled in his peak. With more sadness, we realize what might happen to Evander’s health if he carries on and the same goes for the once great Roy Jones along with many others in this sport who have fought on for too long.

Hatton now appears to be heading down this terrible path and the most unnerving part about it is that Hatton is not one to avoid punches. On the contrary, Hatton is a fighter who often takes a punch in order to give one and that is one of the reasons why he has perhaps the biggest and most loyal fan base in the sport. Once upon a time though, Hatton was not so aggressive in his style and he once used his tremendous and underrated jab to wear down and beat opponents.

However, in his first world title fight in 2004 against a declining Tszyu, Hatton realized he could not outbox the Australian and simply charged at his opponent for 11 rounds of brutality in which he forced Tszyu into submission. It was the perfect tactic against an aging Tszyu but for some reason Hatton adopted this tactic for all of his future fights and it is fair to say that ever since the Tszyu fight, Hatton has been on the down slide.

Following 2004, Hatton looked sluggish in beating average fighters like Carlos Maussa, Juan Urango and Juan Lazcano. Hatton escaped by the skin of his teeth in his welterweight fight with Luis Collazo and despite a plucky performance against the great Floyd Mayweather, Hatton was no match for the American and consequently was knocked out badly in the tenth round. And if this didn’t show us that Hatton was just short of boxing credentials when it came to the reaching pinnacle of the sport, the Pacquiao knock out certainly did.

The 31 year old Hatton also doesn’t help himself. Outside of the ring, the Brits’ lifestyle is not the textbook one an elite fighter should pursue. Hatton usually puts on anywhere between 25 and 55 pounds in between fights with a diet consisting largely of fast-food and alcohol, in fact lots of alcohol! And you don’t have to be a dietician to realise that such a lifestyle takes its toll on the body.

Compared with the likes of Bernard Hopkins and Shane Mosley who have always looked after themselves by ‘clean living’ (which is the main reason why they are both still at the top of the game besides being well past their youthful days) Hatton has treated his body like the proverbial ashtray which has doubtlessly been a heavily contributing factor in his demise since 2004. So with an abused body (in more ways than one after his beating at the fists of Mayweather and Pacquiao) and with a style that invites opponents to hit him, the future looks bleak for Hatton regardless of who he fights next. But what are his options?

Hatton says he is only looking for a big fight (and it is perhaps best that he loses it so he doesn’t build confidence and attempt to fight on for more than one fight which he has suggested he may do). That leaves Juan Manuel Marquez as Hatton’s most likely opponent. Marquez recently turned down a fight with Amir Khan and like Hatton, is coming off a one-sided loss to one of the top pound for pound fighters. Also like Hatton, Marquez has said he wants to fight a big name opponent so the match seems like an obvious one to be made. But although the Mexican isn’t a natural light welterweight (where any fight is likely to take place) he has the counterpunching style to pick off an onrushing Hatton and I would have to fancy the 2010 version of Marquez to beat the 2010 version of Hatton based on that.

Amir Khan is another potential showdown for Hatton as any fight between the two would be a huge blockbuster event in Britain. But Khan, under the tutelage of Freddie Roach, would have a similar game plan to Pacquiao’s which is to expose Hatton’s lack of defence through speed. Khan would pick off Hatton in much the same way as his Filipino stable mate did (though perhaps not as quickly or emphatically) and is a bad matchup for a worn and torn Hatton.

Current light welterweight top dog Timothy Bradley is another awful match for Hatton as the American’s speed and work rate would prove his downfall and there are no real high profile welterweight options for Hatton as he is not strong enough at the weight (as he proved against Collazo and Mayweather). Therefore, the likes of Cotto and a soon to return Margarito are a no-go. Hatton could still muster the power to see off more low profile opponents such as Joel Casamayor and Urango (again) but if he is looking for a high profile match like he says he is, there are none currently out there to be made in which he should be considered favorite at this stage of his career. Particularly when he is ring rusty, currently without a trainer and would have to lose dozens of pounds to make even the welterweight limit.

So the best thing for Hatton to do is retire, appreciate that he has a fantastic legacy in boxing and concentrate on running his successful boxing promotional company: Punch Promotions. But instead, it is likely that we will see the popular fighter back in a ring against a fighter who could unfortunately cause more long term damage to Hatton than Pacquiao’s left hook did. As a fellow Brit, it will be sad for me to see a warrior like Hatton go down to a fighter he could have bullied in his prime as the Brit has made a career of beating better boxers with his come forward style. He needs to hang up his gloves and call it a day. But there are no fairy tales in boxing and Hatton will not be the first or the last in this sport to go a fight or more too far.