Steve Bunce: Brave scrapper Hatton has nous to avoid desperate end

The spectre of Ali's fate hangs over every boxing comeback but Ricky Hatton will be the first to realise if he is making a mistake

It is said in closed and private boxing circles that the last man to realise that the dream is over is often the fighter, but I have to tell you that is complete and utter rubbish.

Boxing is a harsh, wicked and cruel business at times where the weak are exploited, the powerful mostly reign without any moral dilemmas and men that should know better allow their fighters to take risk after risk. Muhammad Ali needed rescuing long before the shame of his last fight, but too many people were still watching, applauding and getting rich.

The inevitable news that Manchester's Ricky Hatton will officially put an end to his ring exile early this summer has shocked nobody inside the ignoble art, but divided many.

The rugged and adored scrapper has been wrestling with his conscience since emerging from the painful defeat last May at the tiny fists of Manny Pacquiao. The troubled debate inside his head finished with yesterday's firm declaration to continue boxing. However, it remains to be seen if his body can take him where his head wants him to go.

It also, and intriguingly, remains to be seen if the people supporting Hatton's ring return will watch his preparations through rose-tinted glasses or with open minds. It will not be easy spotting problems because it is hard to gauge a boxer's decline as the gentle dwindling of abilities are only really visible to experts. In the summer of 2008 I was convinced that Hatton's timing and, more alarmingly, his reaction time to punches had diminished. I was ringside with 57,000 people to watch Hatton beat Juan Lazcano at the City of Manchester Stadium and I saw enough subtle hints, moments when he shifted his head a fraction slow, to be concerned. It took several months before Hatton and the people at his side admitted that they were all scared by what they had seen that night. Hatton said that he actually considered walking away. However, they agreed that a combination of factors was responsible for the sudden decline and they sat, talked and it was decided to continue boxing.

In December 2008, with new trainer Floyd Mayweather Snr in the corner, a brilliantly refreshed and rejuvenated Hatton stopped Paulie Malignaggi in 11 textbook rounds. Hatton was moving his head, his feet and thinking with his punches against Malignaggi, who was a world-class fighter and is still a top operator. The old Hatton looked like he was back and it was a great relief to watch him looking that good.

At that point Hatton had been a pro for 12 years and had won 45 fights, fought in title fights for nine years and had lost just the once when he was stopped by Floyd Mayweather Jr in December 2007. The way that he had beaten Malignaggi and, as he put it, his "new love" for the sport put an end to the clamour that followed the Lazcano win of people calling in private and public for him to retire.

Last year Hatton was back in Las Vegas with 30,000 travelling fans at his side for yet another showdown against the world's best pound-for-pound fighter. Nobody, we all need to remember, called it a mismatch before the first bell, but within a minute everybody inside the MGM's Grand Garden knew that the dream was over. Pacquiao was chilling and it ended in round two; it was an ending that very few predicted.

Hatton has been silent since then and only admitted that he will return to put an end to the constant hounding by people asking him if he is ever going to fight again. I was with Hatton last Saturday in Chorley at a dinner. He was in sensational form, performing a flawless set for over 60 minutes and not looking in bad condition for a man who loves a pint and a kebab. It was clear to me that he is desperate to box again and equally desperate to fight a ranked fighter; somebody like the Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez who will really test him, or could even beat him. "I have to prove that I can still do it and I need a good fighter for that," he said.

He will now need to convince his dad, his mum and his brother that he still has something left and that is not an easy triumvirate to win over. Hatton will not fight if anybody close to him thinks that he should stay retired and that is why the training camp will be 14 weeks long. There are no gung-ho cheerleaders in the Ricky Hatton business, trust me.

I think Hatton could be the first fighter to put an end to a comeback long before it is obvious that there is nothing left but bravery. Hatton will never become what thousands in the boxing business shamefully allowed Ali to become and for that reason I will support the return until Hatton calls it off.

Hat's magic: Ricky's record

Born 6 October, 1978, Stockport

Nicknames The Hitman, Ricky Fatton, Manchester Mexican

Debut fight September 1997 v Colin McAuley in Widnes (Won by TKO in Round One)

June 2005 Beats Kostya Tszyu – considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world – in Manchester to win the IBF light-welterweight title

November 2005 Beats Carlos Maussa to add WBA crown

December 2006 Awarded MBE

December 2007 Knocked out by Floyd Mayweather in 10th round at the MGM in his first career defeat

May 2009 Manny Pacquiao ends Hatton's reign as light-welterweight champion

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HE Dyslexia Tutor/Study Skills Tutor P/T

£21 - £22 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: Randstad Education has been help...

Newly Qualified Teachers

£90 - £115 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are currently seeking dy...

IT & Business Studies Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: ICT & Business Studies Teacher f...

IT Support Engineer (1st and 2nd Line) - London

£22000 - £24000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer (1st...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?