Iain Hepburn | August 23, 2012
It’s been more than three years since Ricky Hatton last entered a boxing ring in earnest.
Three years since that famous photograph of Stockport’s finest lying spark out on the canvas at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Three years since that defeat – just the second of a storied and impressive professional career – brought an end to the Hatton era.
Fast forward three years, and the Pride of Hyde is reportedly ready to step back into a boxing ring again.
I loved watching Ricky fight. I remember the atmosphere in the MEN Arena when he beat Kostya Tszyu. A mild June morning on the eve of a blistering summer, and despite the early hours more than 20,000 packed into the yellow seats.
It was the night Ricky went from being popular local fighter to a genuine global boxing figure. Yes, there might have been some dodgy tactics on display – Ricky’s low blow clearly did its damage, but came after a night of niggles, shoves and going south of the belt from the Australian.
But the recognition from the crowd as they realized Tszyu’s trainer had thrown in the towel, that Ricky – the northern lad who liked a pie or two, a pint of Guinness and a round of darts at his local – had overcome the odds was phenomenal.
Boxing was red hot around then. Amir Khan had not long turned pro. Calzaghe was a big draw on Saturday nights on ITV. Ricky was becoming a genuine superstar.
Times have changed. Boxing certainly isn’t as hot as it was back then. And Ricky, after three years out of the ring, does not need to step back into it.
The promoters and broadcasters will love the idea, of course. Even after his recent issues with drink, drugs and depression, Ricky’s a popular and likable guy. But there’s nothing sadder than a fighter past his prime either punching out tomato cans in desperation of a win – or worse, being beaten by fighters he has no business facing.
These days, Ricky’s a promoter himself, of course, with an emerging stable of young fighters. Some have suggested he sees a return to the ring as an ideal way to raise the profile of his roster. Others claim it’s a case of unfinished business by the Hitman, feeling that itch to return to the ring after leaving in such an ignominious fashion. Either way, he’ll know the value of another Hatton fight.
I’m sure it’ll make good business sense. But that’s the only sense it’ll make.
His agent Paul Speak said today there’s no substance to claims Hatton’s already looking at potential venues for his comeback fight – but notably didn’t close the door on him lacing up the boots again.
“People are speculating but Ricky is just keeping fit and has not made any decision on a comeback,” he said. “There’s no story.”
It’s understandable if Hatton did want to come out of retirement. Nobody likes to end with a defeat, especially not one as comprehensive as his hammering at the fists of Pacquiao. But defeat against the best in the world, at the top of the sport, while sore, is worth far more than a failed comeback that leaves you flat on your back against a journeyman.
I want to remember Ricky Hatton as a legend. A man on the top of the card, fighting the best in the world. I want to remember 22,000 people bellowing out Blue Moon and getting a shiver down my back. I don’t want to remember him slugging away, a fraction of his iconic self, tarnishing his reputation in pursuit of some last gasp lurch grasp at going out on a win.
Please Ricky. Don’t be that guy.