Sport on TV: Lightweight Ricky Hatton fails to pack any decent punchlines

 

In Night of the Fight: Hatton's Last Stand (ITV4, Wednesday) we hear about Ricky the Hitman's other bouts, of depression, drink, drugs and attempted suicide. And that's just in the opening credits. The boxer has recently published an autobiography, ludicrously entitled War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy must be punching the sides of his coffin – but at least the pride of Hyde has had an epic career; such have been the ups and downs, the vacillation between fighter and binger, that he might have called his book "War and Peace, and War again, then a bit more Peace…"

So this charismatic exponent of the sweet science would have made a worthy subject matter but Mat Hodgson, who also directed the acclaimed feature-length documentary about Queens Park Rangers, The Four-Year Plan, just made it at the wrong time.

For this is the story of Hatton's attempted comeback three years after being laid out by Manny Pacquiao beneath the bright lights of Las Vegas's MGM Grand. Instead this is set in the drab Manchester of Hatton's sobriety and he's just not the same man; the spark has gone, perhaps because he hasn't got 20 pints of Guinness inside him.

He is a shadow boxer of his former self and while no one would wish him to return to his bad old ways for the sake of light welterweight entertainment, it may have been better to chart his return from despair and self-destruction rather than just concentrate on the dull build-up to the fight. There are no substances in Hatton's body and there's hardly any substance to the programme either.

At the pre-fight press conference the man who plumbed the depths says: "I'm a very deep person, I'm as soft as shite, I keep it all inside." But you want him to let it all out, both the demons and the devilish wit. It's all very downbeat – which is perhaps a suitable sobriquet for the five-time world champion in his declining years.

Trainer Bob Shannon says to Hatton as he binds his fists, "You look nervous", to which Hatton hits back with "I'm not nipping out for a paper, am I? You twat". For the first 45 minutes of the film that might have been more interesting to watch, and frankly the viewer might well have done the same.

Perhaps it doesn't help that you know he didn't beat Vyacheslav Senchenko last November. Even if you didn't know, you could probably have guessed, so slight is the tension.

But then the real drama comes after the fight when the Hitman quits. His entourage are putting a brave face on the very battered face – "This wasn't surrender, this was redemption" – but Hatton is having none of it. "I've spent three years saying I've still got it. Have I still got it? No I haven't."

To capture the moment when a true champion throws in the towel — now that packs a punch and the film does it very well.

You have to wonder why Hatton tried to return to the ring. And yet the comeback trail had the massively beneficial effect of getting him back on his feet again – he lost five stone and got off the booze and the drugs. He came to terms with his health problems, not least through the familiarity and simplicity of his training routine. Ironically, the worry now is whether he can stay healthy and happy away from the limelight.

Mo Farah has a book out too, called Twin Ambitions, and he was plugging it on Alan Carr's Chatty Man (Channel 4, Friday) when he revealed the secret of his remarkable success in long-distance running. He has a twin brother, Hassan, who takes over the race halfway through and no one can tell the difference. The only problem is that Hassan "smokes 20 fags a day" so he tends to stick with the pack. What a wheeze, though, in both senses.

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