By Jonny Stapleton
Manny Pacquiao’s incredible boxing career has brought joy to millions of fans around the world and pride to his home nation the Philippines, but of late his ring antics have even brought much needed happiness and peace to one of his former ring victims.
The Politian, actor, singer, semi pro basketball player and potential all time great boxer is many things to many people, but Pacquiao has amazingly become an anti depressant former foe Ricky ‘The Hitman’ Hatton loves to take.
One of Brittan’s finest, Hatton suffered the kind of one sided defeat at the super fast hands of ‘The Pac Man’ that left a lot more emotional than physical scars. Ironically however the pain that inflicted the pain is now healing it and Hatton has become Pac man’s number one fan.
On May 2 2009 Pacquiao quashed Hatton’s dreams of becoming the greatest boxer on the planet, finishing their IBO light welterweight world title fight and effectively Ricky Hatton’s distinguished career in two clinically destructive rounds. Slight reddening and swelling sported by Hatton after the fight was further proof he had suffered a beating, but the pain in his eyes showed his emotional hurt outweighed any physical torment.
The manner of the defeat and the fact it played out in front of a packed MGM Grand and a world wide TV audience cut the former World champion deep. The swelling went down as time passed but the emotional pain continued. The inner demons became more lethal than any opponent Hatton faced throughout his distinguished career.
The extremely lively and jovial natured fighter spiraled into a dark depression. Indeed the former IBF, IBO and WBA light welterweight world champion and former WBA welterweight champion has previously admitted he hit depths so low that he contemplated suicide.
Hatton was in serious trouble and for a period became more famed for his antics out side the ring than his considerable achievements inside it.
However, anyone who has ever seen the man who brought over 20,000 British fans to Las Vegas for his shot at pound for pound glory, in ring action knows he has courage and bravery in abundance.
Hatton had to draw on those qualities in one of the biggest fights of his life and used them to eventually TKO one of his hardest ever opponents, depression. The cure? A number of things but he openly admits Pacquiao’s subsequent world dominating feats have aided his recovery.
Since stopping Hatton on May 2 2009 Pac Man has gone on to defeat household names such as Miguel Cotto, Joshua Clottey, Antonio Margaito, Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez.
In the process the fighter of the last decade became an eight weight world champ and a Hall of Fame certainty.
Whilst each win and record surpassed pleased and raised the profile of Pacquiao they also brought happiness to and raised the spirits of Hatton.
Every fighter struggles with the dreaded retirement decision and Hatton was no different. He mulled over it for two years. The brave English man didn’t want to go out on a knock out defeat, but seeing the brilliance of only the second fighter to defeat him over the last two years has made the manner of the defeat easier to take.
The humiliation felt by the proud prize fighter eased and Hatton can hang up the gloves knowing he has gone out at the very top. A ring comeback is out of the question, but ‘The Hit Man’ has bounced back from the brink and is enjoy life again.
“To be honest the defeat was very hard to take. I had trouble coming to terms with it for a good while after. I am starting to take more consolation in the fact I only got beat by the best, but it was hard for a while. It was very embarrassing loosing in just two rounds. I found it very very difficult after,” a very honest Hatton revealed.
“The manner of the defeat lead to depression and hard times for me personally. Seeing Manny win did and does ease the pain and helps I have to admit. I took a long time over it but I can finally hang up the gloves and I couldn’t be happier. I really did struggle with the defeat and whether I should retire on that type of loss. I didn’t want to retire. I was dwelling on it and I went into a depression, but Manny going on to do what he has done proves I only lost to the best. I can look back now at what I did with a little more pride. To fight for world titles and to beat the likes of Kostya Tszyu and José Luis Castillo and other top ten fighters was amazing. To fight for the right to become number 1 in the world twice is unreal. I am disappointed I lost but there is no shame in loosing to the best,” Hatton added.
The mode of the loss certainly hit Hatton’s ego and he admits feeling humiliated, but the bitter taste of defeat was made even more sour by the knowledge of what he could have achieved with victory. ‘The Manchester Mexican’ knew he could have cemented his legacy as an all time world great and not just British legend with victory.
The title of best Pound for Pound Prizefighter was on the line and it hurt Hatton he couldn’t quite grasp it. However as eluded to earlier he has come to terms with his last defeat and can reflect more positively on his career at present.
“I was very much aware I was fighting a great and for the chance to be the greatest on the planet at that time. To get the chance to fight for the number one pound for pound slot comes very rarely in boxing but I got the chance to do it twice. Others never get the chance to even fight for a world title. I was lucky I got to the top ten and fought and beat top 10 ranked fighters. I just couldn’t get that number one slot. But as I said if you are going to get beaten why not get beaten by the best.”
Although Hatton admits he was deservedly beaten by a fighter he labels ‘one of the best’ the all action pug stressed Pacquiao didn’t see the best of Ricky Hatton back on the famous night.
The fighter, whose fans bellow out a unique version of Blue Moon when he enters the ring, revealed he was feeling exactly that, blue and short on confidence as he made his ring walk back in May of 2009.
He had talked the talk in the pre fight press conference, was confident he could win when the fight was made and he always comes to fight, but by the time the clash came around Hatton was worried he wouldn’t be able to walk the walk against the slick southpaw.
The retired fighter, who promotes and coaches at present, wasn’t happy with his training camp. It wasn’t a case of fail to prepare, prepare to fail, on the contrary. Hatton believed he was over worked in his pre fight preparations. He felt jaded and in need of a rest with two weeks still remaining.
The former world champ had a history of ballooning between camps, hence the knick name ’Ricky Fatton’, yet was just three pounds over the weight limit with three week before the fight. A complete unheard of for him.
The Brit fan favourite was working with another former foe and pound for pound ranked fighter, Floyd Mayweather’s father Floyd Mayweather senior. Whilst he claims he had no problems with Snr when the pair worked together for Hatton’s clash with the Paulie ‘Magic Man’ Malignaggi he certainly wasn’t content with how things went pre Pacquiao.
Indeed Hatton claims his preparation for the clash in which would have enabled him to lay claim to being the best on the planet was one of the worst of his career. Not only does he feel he done too much far too soon he believes a lack of south paw pad work was to his severe determent.
“My preparation couldn’t have been worse. Floyd snr couldn’t do southpaw pads. I found that out a few weeks in to the camp. Which I know sounds crazy but that is the kind of thing that was happening. I have to admit the training camp for Paulie Malignaggi was excellent and I have no complaints with Floyd Maywheatear senior for that fight. However the camp before the Manny fight wasn’t good at all,” Hatton added.
“I was worked into the ground. I was three pounds over the weight three weeks before the fight and for me that is unheard of. A lot of people had been saying before the fight I needed a break and a rest. They felt I was over worked and that I peaked too soon. I agree, but Floyd Senior likes to work you to the bone and he kept me going. It really was very bad camp.”
Hatton was aware he would have to be at his best to beat Pacquiao, but claims a poor camp deprived him of confidence. The English star feared the worst during his ring walk. However, despite claiming the Filipino superstar didn’t fight a well prepared Ricky Hatton, Hatton is keen not to take away from Pacquiao’s victory.
“My confidence was shot. I know Manny didn’t fight me at my best. That is not sour grapes and I wouldn’t take anything away from Manny. He is an all time great fighter. I took the fight thinking I could win it, but by the time I was walking into the ring I wasn’t right and I had no confidence.”
Hatton stated before his disastrous camp that he was confident he could defeat the record breaking eight weight world champion and two time fighter of the year. Whilst he was at pains to stress Pacquiao is top quality he doesn’t believe the living legend is invincible. Hatton thought he found weaknesses in the fast firing Freddie Roach trained pug and he mapped out his blue print to beating the world number one.
“We had a game plan but I went in wide open and made mistakes and I got caught. So in effect I didn’t get the chance to implement the plan I thought could beat him. My game plan was to go in and shutter him. I wanted to rattle him. Manny comes in in straight lines and I planed to walk him on to body shots and the right cross. I knew it wouldn’t be easy Manny is such a great fighter he can do everything, but that was the idea.”
Pacquiao isn’t the only great fighter of the pound for pound variety Ricky Hatton fought. The Britain also shared the squared circle with another great of the current era, Floyd Mayweather. ‘Money’ is the one fighter that can prevent ‘The Pac Man’ claiming sole ownership of the best fighter in the world tag.
The whole world wants to know whose top dog and seen as the American and Filipino have yet to agree to a fight, Hatton, as one of a few fighters to trade leather with both, is regularly asked who he thinks is the better.
The puncher, who amassed one of the biggest followings in world boxing, can’t distinguish between their talents, but can separate the pair as men. It is safe to say ‘The Hitman’ didn’t hit it off with the unbeaten Mayweather and claims Pacquiao wins hands down in the nice guy stakes.
However, the globe doesn’t care who has the better heart. Fight enthusiasts want to know who is faster, stronger and better in the ring. Hatton stressed the pair have to go head to head to see who is ahead of the other in terms of greatness. Indeed in his guise as a fan he says it will literally break his heart if one of the biggest fight since Ali/Frazier didn’t happen.
Hatton fears the duo’s legacy’s could be more damaged if they never fought than if they fought a great clash and one had to loose and in typical Mills Lane fashion screamed “let’s get it on.”
“It is hard to say who is the better. It is really difficult for me to separate them. I only got two rounds with Manny, unfortunately. I was better prepared and as result a better fighter when I fought Floyd. I have to admit both where very impressive and stopped me. Again I was better prepared so I put in a better performance against Mayweather. Manny versus Floyd would be a very close fight, but I couldn’t call it at present. They have to fight to distinguish who is the best. In terms of people though Manny is a lovely man. A real genuine person. I have a lot of respect and time for him outside the ring as well as in it. Mayweather on the other hand isn’t,” Hatton exclaimed before expressing his desire to see the two in action.
“I am a boxing fan first and foremost and I want to see that fight. The whole world wants to see that fight. It would be a crying shame if it didn’t happen. It is a shame it hasn’t happened as of yet. I don’t know why it hasn’t been sorted only the fighters and their teams know that. If it doesn’t come off it would break my heart. The whole world wants to see who would win between the best boxers on the planet right now.”
Hatton is now talking about pound for pound fights rather than preparing for them, but it no longer bothers him. He can look back at what he achieved with pride and look forward to having a further positive effect on British and world boxing from the other side of the ropes.
The proud owner of a 47 action packed fight record isn’t quite on the outside looking in. Hatton eventually decided to hang up his gloves but he couldn’t walk away from the game altogether. In 2008 he set a promotion company and has build a very successful stable.
World title challenger Matthew Hatton, British champion Anthony “Million Dollar” Crolla, Felix Sturm’s next challenger Martin Murray, hyped prospect Scott Quigg, Gary Buckland and the aptly named 6’8 giant Richard Towers amongst others are on his books.
The fighter turned promoter is enjoying using his good name in boxing to help progress the careers of a stable he is very proud of. A fighting record of 47-45-2 with 32 ko’s is proof the two weight world champion was good in the ring, but he isn’t doing to bad outside of it either.
Hatton Promotions was afforded Europe Promoter of the Year status this year and has secured world title shots for his brother Matthew Hatton, Ryan Rhodes and Martin Murray.
Not quite the buzz that filled his body when he stopped a world ranked opponent, but getting his boxers big fights fills some of the voids every boxer feels after calling it a day. The 33 year old, who was given his ‘Hit Man’ ring moniker not because of a love for Tommy Hearns, but because of the aggression he employed hitting the bag on his first day in the gym, is once again loving life.
“I am loving life now,” a relaxed and jovial Hatton explained. “As I said I struggled with the idea of retiring initially, but now its done I am happy. I have been promoting for a while now. I won European Promoter of the year last year. I got three of my fighters world title shots and Hatton Promotions is going strong. I get a buzz helping fighters and helping their careers grow. I like working with them and helping them become champions. It is onwards and upward for the Hatton Promotions stable.”
Whilst one of Brittan’s most popular fighters of all time is enjoying the business end to the game he developed a craving for the gym. The pen and phone don’t sit as easy in Hatton’s hands as the pads or wraps. He wants to be hitting bags not websites and he wants to sit in the corner not at a desk.
The Manchester City die hard fan, revealed whilst he enjoys promoting it doesn’t keep him busy enough. It also doesn’t prompt him to get a daily gym fix so the ‘Hit Man’ has become a corner man. Not quite the licence to thrill he had when in the ring but Hatton has become a licensed trainer and made a winning debut as he over saw Adam Little register a four round welterweight win on a small hall show in Oldham, England.
Hatton maybe sharing and trading knowledge rather than punches but he is just Over the ‘Blue Moon’ he loves to sing about to be back in the gym and soaking up it’s unique atmosphere.
“I have a lot of staff on my promotion team, all of whom do great work, and it isn’t as time consuming as I would have wanted. I am very involved and active but a lot of stuff is done by others. I want to do something a little more hands on too- so I went and got my trainers licence. I am going to train fighters now. It is great. I have a spring back in my step. I am down the gym everyday. I am on the other side of the ropes but the buzz and the banter down the gym is great. I missed that. It is not fighting but it is as close as you can get to that feeling.”
He couldn’t beat Pacquiao himself but could he unearth and nurture a talent that could one day be the best in the world?
“I am not sure about producing another Manny, but one of the greatest things I achieved in my career was my fan base. No one in Britain or possibly around the world had fans like mine. They were unbelievable and came in the tens of thousands. If I can bring someone trough who can get people behind him like that, generate a special fan base and make the punters excited I will be happy. I don’t mind starting on smaller shows and working with young lads coming through I am just happy to be back in a corner. “