Life After Boxing: Ricky Hatton
It took three-and-a-half years for Ricky Hatton to return to a boxing ring after losing to Manny Pacquiao. The brutal second-round knockout in May 2009 popped what looked like being the final balloon in a career full of triumph, body shots, song and party atmospheres.
In November 2012 Hatton returned to his beloved Manchester Arena, home of his greatest victory against Kostya Tszyu for The Ring Magazine and IBF junior welterweight titles to have one last dance, this time against Ukrainian Vyacheslav Senchenko. It was Hatton’s 48th fight of a 15-year career. His iconic entrance song “Blue Moon” boomed inside the venue, and those recognizable chants of “There’s only one Ricky Hatton” were sang at top voice by his loyal supporters. But in the final seconds of the ninth round, thanks to a left hand to the body, the comeback and career of “The Hitman” was finally over.
The former two-weight titleholder needed to know what he had left that night against Senchenko. He didn’t want to retire after the Pacquiao loss, in his heart he wanted to continue to fight. In some ways, the loss to Senchenko has proven to be the best thing to ever happen to him.
Speaking to The Ring, Hatton said: “After the Senchenko fight I looked at it and thought, well if you can’t beat him Ricky you can go into retirement a proud man now. That’s how I felt, like a whole weight had been lifted off my shoulders.”
“The last seven-and-a-half years since Senchenko has probably been one of the best periods of my life,” he proudly stated.
“Nothing can replace winning world titles, beating Kostya Tszyu and having 40,000 fans sing, ‘There’s only on Ricky Hatton.’ That was fairytale, once-in-a-lifetime stuff, but since my boxing and I went through all my bad times; my suicide [attempts], my drink and my drugs and my depression, my real bad stage, to come out the other end… it was after Senchenko. The Senchenko fight was after all the things I mentioned, and everyone thought when I lost, oh no what’s going to happen to Ricky? He’s going to go back to where he was, and I wasn’t. I think I got my respect back a little bit. Everyone said well fair play to Ricky, he’s had his problems, like we all get, but he got through them. I was beat by Senchenko but it ended up being a massive success story because I got my life together, and I think even though the social problems, the social issues that I had, I think I got more respect than I ever did after coming back from those horrendous situations I found myself in. I think a lot of people looked at me and thought, we loved him beforehand but to come through all that crap, fair play to him. That was through the Senchenko fight, even though it ended up in defeat, it was a major success and I haven’t looked back since.”
Boxing now knows Ricky Hatton, 41, as a trainer. One of Manchester’s greatest sporting heroes can share the wealth of experience and knowledge that will not only help a fighter in the ring but outside of it too. Hatton’s coaching achievements include taking Zhanat Zhakiyanov to the WBA bantamweight title in 2017 and finding himself in Tyson Fury’s team as part of the current Ring Magazine heavyweight champion’s comeback in May 2018.
Like any retired pro, and as Hatton has eluded to, nothing will replace the adrenaline-fueled Saturday fight nights, but being in the corner, getting a fighter prepared for a fight gives him a taste of what life used to be like.
“A lot of people say when they retire, they miss the fighting. I don’t think I really do,” he admitted.
“I feel content with it now, but I know I haven’t got it now. I still get my little bit of what I got as a fighter through my training. It’ll never be quite the same, but when I have a fighter like Sergey Rabchenko or Zhakiyanov who were fighting for titles, we have our opponent, we have our game plan, we have a sit down and study the tapes. I have to get my fighter fit and get his weight right. He has to get his timing right. All the things I did as a fighter, I still get that little buzz, it’ll never be the same when you’re actually fighting yourself, but I find I still have that in a small area.”
Hatton says to begin training a fighter and help them on their way through the various stages of a career he must feel a bond with them.
“When you train fighters and spend every day of your working life with them you do get a closeness to them. In many ways, it will never be the same as when you were fighting but it is very close. I can’t train a fighter unless I feel something for them personally, so in many respects you’re preparing yourself, you’re throwing every punch for these lads.”
The ex-champion has come a long way since his last fight. He has risen from the depths of despair and defeated tougher opponents away from the sport and is now a content man. For someone who lived and breathed boxing, as well as the lifestyle, you always wonder how a fairytale career is going to end, such is boxing’s dark track record. To be content and happy, regardless of how much is in your bank account, is sometimes all you can ask for and need, particularly when the drug of boxing is no more.
Hatton echoes the thoughts from the boxing community that something should be in place for fighters once their career is finished. Sometimes boxing is all a fighter knows, and if they have not earned well or they don’t have a suitable Plan B, the outside world can become a daunting place. Hatton had this advice for those who are nearing retirement or contemplating the idea:
“I would say to any boxer, if you think to yourself, I’m not quite performing like I should do, if you think you’re coming down the final straight, probably put something in place so you start looking for something earlier rather than later outside of boxing. If you think you’re six months off retiring, then start looking for a job.
“In [soccer] you’ve got the Professional Football Association; you have a football club who is there to do a testimonial for you. Boxers finish their career and it’s all the best Ricky, all the best Joe, and it’s on to the next flavour of the month. Boxers don’t come from Cambridge or Oxford, or from money, and I think there should be something like a professional boxer’s association in place to help advise boxers.”
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