Ricky Hatton has sold nearly 19,000 tickets for the event that will end his ring exile on 24 November and yesterday he added to their black market value by announcing a difficult fight against former world champion Vyacheslav Senchenko. In many ways the party just turned serious.
Hatton's last appearance in a boxing ring was in May 2009 when he was knocked out cold by Manny Pacquiao and the tiny Filipino has been placed front and centre as the root of Hatton's suffering ever since. Hatton has admitted he contemplated suicide at the lowest and darkest point of his depression, a time when a return to the ring would have been rightly ruled out.
It has taken a lot of time in the gym and with experts in their respective fields to get Hatton ready for the fight. He had to lose the weight, he had to reduce his excesses and more than that he had to convince himself that he could still fight. A planned return in 2010 collapsed in anger and his descent into a variety of abuses increased with frightening speed when he believed that it was all over.
However, the selection of Senchenko, when a dozen easier fighters came with willing resumes, suggests that the return has more to do with bold future ambitions than exorcising the demons left by Pacquiao's fists. It is also known that the selection was not universally applauded by the remaining and new members of Hatton's team; a team that is still trying to understand the fall-out between the boxer and his estranged parents, Ray and Carol.
Senchenko lost the WBA welterweight title earlier this year to American Paulie Malignaggi, who was stopped by Hatton in 11 rounds in 2008, but that is the Ukrainian's only defeat in 33 fights; he will also be several inches taller than Hatton and, alarmingly, remains understandably ambitious at 35.
It is a brave selection as it would be difficult for the WBA or any of the sport's diverse, pliable and often crazy sanctioning bodies to refuse Hatton a world title fight if he beats Senchenko. The obvious match for the future is Malignaggi, who defends the title he won from Senchenko in New York on October 20. He has not ruled out a fight with Hatton, or a return to the Mancunian's beloved Etihad stadium where the pair boxed on the same night in front of 55,000 people in 2008.
Hatton's return, unlike so many sad comebacks in boxing's unforgiving history, is not motivated by money. However, the chance to once again walk to ring with Liam Gallagher or Wayne Rooney holding his belts, and slip through the ropes in front of another capacity crowd has proved simply irresistible. "I'm human, I miss it," he has admitted.
The selection surprise of Senchenko means that on 24 November there will not be any confusion surrounding Hatton's return and everybody will know exactly what he has left to offer; hopefully, the risky and in many ways unnecessarily difficult selection will not end up haunting him like the Pacquiao fight has done. Hatton, by naming Senchenko, has only reinforced his image as a real fighting man and that man is somebody that the public is still clearly in love with.
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