The Last Word: Ricky Hatton's biggest fight will be to keep the demons at bay

The Hitman has turned his comeback into a confessional but redemption is not guaranteed

Ricky Hatton reminds us who he is, what he wants to become, but cannot escape who he was, what he was in danger of becoming. That, to be as brutal as his line of business, was a suicide statistic.

Hatton may feel redefined by renewed ambition, but someone with his history of depression, returning to such a uniquely punishing sport as boxing after three largely dissolute years, needs to be protected from himself.

The Black Dog is out there, untamed. Hatton may convince himself he has it on a long leash, but its teeth are sharp. The consequences of an unsuccessful comeback in Manchester on November 24 do not bear thinking about.

The fear is articulated by self-loathing. It was noticeable that when the former world champion was asked to address his primary motivation, he spoke in forbiddingly astringent, starkly confessional, almost demeaning, terms: "I have a lot of things in my mind to sort out... I have a lot of demons to put to rest… people don't know what's going on between my ears… I want my kids to be proud of me… I don't want people saying about me, 'His life turned to rubbish'… we all know it turned to mush."

The images Hatton created, of himself as a shell of a human being, sitting weeping in a darkened room, considering the advantages of death on a regular basis, were terrifyingly authentic. It was an act of conspicuous and characteristic bravery, given that depression remains one of sport's great taboos. It is all too easy to forget that when Frank Bruno was sectioned under the Mental Health Act an infamous headline screamed: "Bonkers Bruno locked up". The tone of the coverage of mental ill-health has softened, largely because of recurrent cases in cricket, but it still takes courage to be candid.

Hatton's tragedy may lie in the machismo of his sport. Barry McGuigan, his principal cheerleader, was also a great champion, a populist whose instinctive aggression and unassuming nature transformed him into a warrior king. He, too, suffered from depression when the bright lights of a dark trade flickered, and died. McGuigan has earned the right to lecture non-combatants, but it was disturbing to hear him castigate the "critics and carpers" who doubt the wisdom of his friend's return to the ring. Had he not learned from his own experiences?

Frank Warren, a promoter who has little compunction in making money from the meat market, evidently fears the worst. He opposes the comeback, even though his professional instincts tell him the residual loyalty of an army of fans, who once colonised Las Vegas, is ripe for exploitation.

Hatton has lost three stones, and has purged himself of the drink and drugs which took the edge off a lonely, essentially dishonest existence. He knew he was not the character he promoted in his after-dinner speeches: funny, sharp and self-deprecating. He was consumed by what he lost when Manny Pacquiao rendered him senseless.

To use perhaps his most poignant phrase, "The dream is redemption". He has still to be hardened by the privations of the gym, but The Hitman has been resurrected, so we no longer refer to him in the past tense.

That is critical, because few fighters handle retirement painlessly. For any professional athlete it is a grieving process, fraught with the attendant emotions of denial, despair, anger and depression. Boxers, denied their daily fix of endorphins from stringent physical activity, tend to find solace in dangerous places.

The hardest game does not do fairytales, and Hatton's life already has too many undercurrents of chaos for anyone to be sure of a happy ending. Revelations that he brawled publicly with his father, and insisted police press charges, the day before he confirmed his comeback suggests the demons are not dormant.

People love him for who they think he is. The problem is that no one, not even Hatton himself, knows who that person is. Self-discovery will come at a prohibitive price.

'Arry is ready and waiting

Be afraid, Premier League managers. Be very afraid. Henry James Redknapp is back among friends, refreshed and ready for action.

'Arry, as we are contractually obliged to refer to him, marked the end of the international break with his first extended interviews since being sacked by Spurs. Entirely coincidentally, he may have piqued the interest of the odd club chairman.

To summarise: the England job wasn't really for him. He's a players' man who loves the rhythms and rituals of club football. He doesn't need Power-point presentations and 70-page dossiers to produce invigorating, attacking teams. He holds no grudges, even though his dismissal by Tottenham was "a bolt from the blue". They were unlucky. Life goes on, enriched by his acquittal from tax-evasion charges and successful heart surgery.

He's 65, but a very young 65. He's popular, and there are not many better coaches. He's working, unpaid, at Bournemouth so he will be free to accept a suitable challenge.

It will not be a seismic shock if an offer arrives sooner rather than later. It is a mere three weeks to the next international break, when certain clubs will panic. Enter, stage left, Henry James Redknapp.

Empty gesture

Sport's summer of love may have come to a juddering halt, but British Swimming have chosen to spread the good news with an "Olympic heroes" tour of the UK. One trusts the Smart Car containing said heroes will not be too roomy.

News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Sport
wimbledonScot will face Ivo Karlovic next
Life and Style
Kissing
life
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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test