It seemed somewhat improbable 3 years ago, as he lay trying to unscramble his faculties on a Las Vegas canvas.
It seemed downright impossible when revelations surfaced of his drug use and the suicidal depression that had swallowed him somewhere along the line.
But some fans kept candles burning, questions were always asked, “when are you coming back Ricky’. There was never a straight answer. That only served to keep the rumours going.
And so somewhere early in the summer this year, a photo surfaced of Ricky in the gym, training one of his fighters. And there was a difference. A big difference. Ricky didn’t look big anymore. Having been seen walking around at 14-15 stone for much of 2011, all of a sudden Ricky looked, well, lean.
And the rumour mill went into overdrive.
And finally the announcement came. Ricky Hatton was coming back.
His motives were questioned. He lost a promotional deal with Sky TV and had a stable of fighters to keep going. Promoting is an expensive business and without TV support it’s nigh on impossible at anything other than a local/regional level. Ricky’s fighters were national names with international ambitions and that needed funding.
But Ricky says its about the redemption, about exorcising the demons. The ghost of the Pacquiao defeat, the shadows of the depression and the addiction needed this final turn under the arena lights to banish them for all time.
And so it comes to pass this Saturday night when Britain’s favourite fighter of the last decade and arguably of decades previous walks out at Manchester’s MEN Arena, his home venue, to his beloved football team’s famous song ‘Blue Moon’ to see if he can still brawl and punch his way to another shot at glory.
He is 34 now. What remains in the tank is a big question. What remains of his chin is another. His 47 fights (45-2, 32 KOs) have included some attritional epics and his lifestyle choices invariably added miles to his clock that mean he cannot have a protracted return in mind.
He has also opted to come in at Welterweight rather than boil down to his once preferred 140lb class. Its a sensible move considering his age and the 5 stone he has had to lose to get to welter. He’s won a world title there before, but it was never easy going. However, 140 would be an assignment too far.
And he has not picked a stooge as his next target. This is no patsy, being set up to be taken out in 1 shot.
Vyacheslav Senchenko from the Ukraine (32-1 21 KOs) is 1 fight removed from having held the WBA portion of the Welterweight title. He is a typically tough, methodical Eastern European fighter and having lost his belt to a former Hatton victim, Paulie Malignaggi, he will be keen to reestablish his relevance at world level.
But everything here seems stacked in Hatton’s favour. He has hometown advantage, Senchenko has only ventured this side of the former iron curtain once before, six years ago and he will not have experienced the atmosphere that 19,000 feverish fans all chanting your opponents name can bring.
Hatton has incentives. A win could easily set up a rematch with Malignaggi who has jumped the puddle to come take a look first hand at what Hatton is capable of (and whether he can trump his own 9th round stoppage of the Ukranian), he is also headlining a bill of his own fighters and will surely want to set up further dates for the likes of Scott Quigg and Martin Murray and potentially find a viable TV arrangement going forward.
Everything points to a Hatton win. Senchenko’s facial skin yielded to Malignaggi’s quick hands. Now we’ll see whether his chin or body will yield to Hatton’s power.
The Hitman is back. The target is in sight. Now lets see if he can still pull the trigger.