On a clear evening Saturday November 24, at the Manchester Arena, Ricky Hatton bid farewell to his adoring fans after tasting defeat for only the 3rd time in his illustrious career. Hatton rose from the streets of Stockport Manchester and humble beginnings to experience the bright lights of the MGM Grand and Thomas and Mack Centre fighting the world’s best, and becoming Britain’s most popular fighter of the millennium.
After a short amateur career, an 18 year old Hatton turned pro defeating Colin McAuley in the Kingsway Leisure Centre in Sept 97. He went on to become the British Boxing Writers Club Young Fighter of the Year in 99.
By the turn of the millennium Hatton’s popularity had reached fever pitch in the UK, his fondness for a ‘pie and a pint’ as he put it, and his affinity with the man on the street, endeared him to the British public in a way that few other fighters could. With his popularity however where coming accolades, winning consistently before toppling WBU Light welterweight champion Tony Pep.
In June 05 Ricky entered a packed out MEN Arena to face legendary Australian based Russian Kostya Tszyu, the IBF Junior Welterweight Champion, and one of the top pound for pound fighters in the world.
Ricky, a huge underdog, pressured Tszyu relentlessly, until finally he failed to answer the call for the 12th round. Hatton collapsed to his knees in sheer delight, with 22,000 of his devoted followers chanting ‘there’s only one Ricky Hatton’.
Hatton hysteria was born, and there seemed to be no stopping The Hitman, as he defeated Carlos Maussa for the WBA title and was announced as Ring Magazines 2005 Fighter of the Year.
His move up to Welterweight in 2006 brought further success, defeating Luis Collazo for the WBA crown.
In June 07,Hatton was in fantastic form one again defeating Jose Louis Castillo at the Thomas And Mack Centre in Nevada, with what at the time was described as the perfect punch; a devastating body shot, which stopped Castillo in Round 4,the first stoppage of his career. Ricky’s aggressive style pressure fighting had now gained him a following in the UK akin to the likes of what Frank Bruno and Henry Cooper enjoyed. By now it seemed as if you didn’t have to be a boxing fan to be a Hatton fan, and the ‘Hatton Fans’ were travelling wherever their hero went, in their tens of thousands.
In Dec 07,Rickys moment had truly arrived, as he entered the MGM Grand as one half of ‘Undefeated’, the promotional name for a fight which would feature Manchester’s favorite against the top pound for pound fighter in the world, Floyd Mayweather. After 10 rounds of frenzied action, it would be The Hitman who would lose his ‘0’ as referee Joe Cortez stopped the contest after Ricky was floored by Floyds ‘check hook’ Hatton managed to rise, but was saved from further punishment from a rampaging Mayweather.
Hatton and his fans were devastated. But his loyal following would witness a return to winning ways just 5 months later, as Ricky would defeat Juan Lazcano on points in front of a frenzied 55,000 capacity crowd at the City Of Manchester Stadium (a record post war crowd for a boxing match). Paulie Malignaggi would also taste defeat to Hatton’s ferocious pressure punching, before a return to The Grand beckoned in May 2009.
Ricky would fight Manny Pacquiao (reckoned to be the best pound for pound fighter in the world at that time). Hatton was this time the victim of a brutal 2nd round KO, a heartbroken Hatton soon announced his retirement.
More than 3yrs later, last Saturday night, Ricky ended his hiatus entering the MEN arena to his famous entrance theme of ‘Blue Moon’ once more. This time his opponent was former WBA Welterweight Champion Vyacheslav Senchenko. Hatton flew out of the blocks, but some of the old habits were still apparent as Senchenko was landing shots with frequency, and, punches that a 30 year old Hatton would have absorbed with ease were starting to take their toll. Finally in the 8th round, almost 20,000 hearts were broken as Ricky was floored with a body shot, severe enough to render him unable to answer the count.
Maybe it was too much to ask of Hatton to return after 3years and defeat a seasoned top level opponent, but as he frequently stated, at his peak he fought at the top level, and wanted his comeback to be of the same ilk.
A tearful Hatton afterwards said ‘I found out tonight it isn’t there no more’ and later that night retired.
Whatever Hatton’s failings as a fighter at elite level were (he did have his critics), there’s no denying the Hitman, with his aggressive, unique style became an iconic figure in the British boxing public’s eye. Hatton will now concentrate on promoting, with his own promotional company Hatton Promotions, which includes the likes of Scott Quigg and Martin Murray. But for now let’s listen to Blue Moon and drink a Blue Moon as we remember Hatton’s great career.