RICKY Hatton is hopeful his tale of personal redemption has unified fans and critics alike ahead of his boxing return tonight.
Hatton last stepped through the ropes three-and-a-half years ago, when a two-round demolition inflicted by pound-for-pound superstar Manny Pacquiao left him brutally knocked out and mentally shattered. A well-documented struggle with drink, drugs and weight gain followed and, as his once-close family ties broke down amid the strain, the 34-year-old’s thoughts turned towards suicide. But, since feeling the itch to embark upon a ring return, Hatton has painstakingly shed almost four and a half stone while based at his own Hyde gym under the watchful eye of the veteran Manchester trainer, Bob Shannon.
As with the excess poundage, the psychological demons have seemingly melted away and the former two-weight world champion is eyeing another memorable triumph against once-beaten Ukrainian welterweight Vyacheslav Senchenko before an adoring public at the Manchester Arena – a prospect that seemed improbable mere months ago.
“I’m excited, nervous, angry – all those things,” he said. “I’m back to redeem myself, to make people proud of me again.
“I feel there’s so many people I let down over a three-year period. If you’d have seen me hobbling around Manchester around the 15-stone mark, drunk at every opportunity, and you see me now – physically and mentally in condition – I think even a Ricky Hatton critic would say ‘it’s nice to see he’s come back as he has and fair play to him’.”