Ricky Hatton wiped tears from his swollen eyes and insisted his failed comeback attempt against Vyacheslav Senchenko on Saturday night had given him all the incentive he needs to emerge as a winner in his hardest fight to come.
There was a painful irony about the fact that it was a deep left hook to the body which left Hatton down and out on the MEN Arena canvas in front of thousands of his stunned hometown supporters. It was precisely the punch with which Hatton had felled so many world-class opponents in his prime, and it was just gone midnight in Manchester when Hatton admitted with brutal candour it was the last he will ever take.
Hatton said: “A fighter knows when it’s not there any more and it’s not there. I’m not going to put myself through that torture again and I’m not going to put my family through it. If I don’t draw a line in the sand now and call time on my boxing career, I’m never going to do it. I was heartbroken and I’ll probably cry tonight – but I’m happy that I went in there and found it out.”
As of now, all Hatton’s energy will be directed towards his young family as he seeks to swat away the demons which drove him to his comeback and make a success of other aspects of his personal and boxing lives.
In an extraordinarily moving speech to the assembled press, Hatton said: “Now I can go and be the best father to my kids and I can go to the gym on Monday and try to be the best promoter in the world. It was hard for me to retire the first time. I knew it was gone but I kept at it and I eventually landed myself in so much trouble but it’s not going to be like that this time. I can go into retirement as a happy man. Nobody wants to be knocked out in their last two fights but I had to put the ghosts to bed and find out what I wanted to find out.
“I’ll get up in the morning and be very content. I am leaving with a healthy state of mind. I’m a happy man now. I don’t feel like putting a knife to my wrists. I have got the answers I needed.”
Hatton had chosen a difficult assignment for what turned out to be his final test, the tough and gangly Senchenko had won all but one of his professional bouts and held a version of the world title until April this year. It was a bout clearly designed to set Hatton up with a world title rematch against Paulie Malignaggi, who watched from ringside, and with whom plans had already been made for a second showdown in New York early next year.
Hatton blazed out against his retreating opponent in the opening round but his work lacked accuracy and snap and he was repeatedly tagged by Senchenko’s well-timed hooks. Hatton landed a number of hooks of his own in the third but Senchenko responded with a sharp straight right, and, for all the crowd’s roaring, there was a distinctly uneasy feeling about what was happening in front of them.
Hatton soaked up two more rights in the sixth but Senchenko started to land more freely and claw back his scorecard deficit. When the end came in round nine it was dramatic, Senchenko digging a superb left to the ribs which dumped Hatton on all fours.