Inevitable end for Ricky Hatton means this time it's for real

For 42 months the brave Mancunian wondered if he had been right to quit. Defeat has confirmed it

There can no longer be any denial left in the life and career of Ricky Hatton after Saturday's gallant final stand in a boxing ring at the Manchester Arena.

Less than an hour after the referee reached the count of 10, with Hatton on his hands and knees and retching for breath under the neon and spotlight of 19,000 silenced fans, the boxer finally quit the ring and this time it will be for real.

In 2009, when he last retired, Hatton was in denial over the outcome of the fight against Manny Pacquiao, claiming that he had trained too hard, sparred too many rounds and ran too long. This time, after a brilliant camp, he fell to sickening punches that undeniably ended whatever dreams he had been dreaming. The fall guy in the drama, and it was a rare drama, was a nice kid from Ukraine called Vyacheslav Senchenko; he played his role with daring, survived the fanatical crowd, a few rounds of vintage Hatton and then conducted the collapse with a chilling ease that fools had doubted he possessed.

The fight, the biggest in Britain for a very long time, had a simple plot and an inevitable endgame from about round four when Hatton first started to gulp in air like a climber at a dangerous altitude. There were moments, horrible to witness for the thousands that have followed and respected him for so long, from round six when it was simply unbearable to watch. I had written about the reality of comebacks in harsh terms on Saturday in this paper and Hatton was living out our worst fears: his head never moved, his face as static as his heavy legs and arms. He was talking to himself as Senchenko's punches started to hurt and if that is not a horror-show then what is? The end was a relief.

He initially left the ring after the ninth-round loss defiant that he still had something to offer, but once the doors closed on his dressing room and the gloves were off in more than one way, he emerged talking sense. He had looked, he bravely admitted, everywhere for excuses since the last fight and finally, at a fitting wake deep inside the Manchester Arena, his personal venue, he said that there were no excuses left. There was a faint execrable suggestion from one of his American promoters that big fights remained for Hatton. There are words to describe the type of men that would encourage a third comeback after that loss, but they seldom get printed in a newspaper.

The comeback was the right thing to do, at the right time, for the right reasons and against the right opponent. His last fight was haunting him, he had looked at suicide, his life was ruined and he needed to fight. It was easy to understand and difficult to condemn once the redemption juggernaut left the station.

Hatton had repeatedly poured his heart out to many and he had devoted his life to getting ready in the gym, but I believe he knew that something was lacking. He knew the risks attached to losing, knew what the 42-month break had done to his body and that is why he took the risk of getting a former world champion for his first opponent. He never wanted to end losing to a bum. He also said last week that he would quit if he won and felt that he had lost it; I believe he was telling the truth and thankfully Senchenko put the decision beyond doubt with a sublime body shot.

"I'm not going to say that I'm the greatest British fighter of all time, but nobody has had my support. That is my greatest achievement," Hatton told me a couple of years ago. There is, after 15 years and 48 fights, nothing else left to say about his extraordinary career and he can now retire with pride.

Ring rusty returns: Calamitous comebacks

Muhammad Ali

Ali returned to the ring aged 38 after a two-year absence in 1980 to fight Larry Holmes. His opponent was then unbeaten and pounded the former heavyweight champion for 10 rounds before the towel was thrown in by trainer Angelo Dundee.

Sugar Ray Leonard

The middleweight retired several times and made numerous comebacks but his final effort, aged 40, proved ill-judged as he was pummelled by the late Hector Camacho in 1997.

Joe Louis

Financial difficulties forced Louis out of retirement when well past his prime and his career was ended in 1951, aged 37, with a comprehensive eighth-round stoppage by Rocky Marciano.

Felix Trinidad

The classy Puerto Rican was twice tempted out of retirement. On the second occasion, in January 2008 aged 35, he lost in decisive fashion to Roy Jones Jr.

Barry McGuigan

The "Clones Cyclone" called time on his career following a world-title defeat by Stevie Cruz in 1986, but returned two years later and was emphatically stopped by Jim McDonnell in his fourth comeback fight.

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