The announcement on Friday 14th that Ricky Hatton would be making a comeback to boxing, after a three year retirement, was one of the worst kept secrets in the sport. Hatton, affectionately known as “The Hitman” by his army of travelling fans, is set for a return to the ring on the 24th November against a yet unnamed opponent at the Manchester Arena.
As one of the most popular fighters of his generation, Hatton has said on Twitter that tickets for the bout will be sold out within a few days. However, the motives for the former two-weight world champion’s return have been questioned, with the likes of Carl Froch, Joe Calzaghe and Frank Warren publicly suggesting that Hatton should have stayed in retirement.
One side of the debate that has raged on social-networking sites is that Hatton’s return is motivated by a need to find a permanent TV home for his own fighting stable of Hatton Promotions, after Sky Sports stopped broadcasting. However, Hatton himself says he has never heard so much rubbish in all his life. Those in this school of thought also cite Hatton’s well publicised weight-gain in-between previous fights and his battle with drink and depression after he checked in to a rehabilitation clinic in 2010, as reasons for staying in retirement.
A second line of argument is that Hatton has only suffered defeats to the two current ‘pound-for-pound’ kings, in Floyd Mayweather Jnr and Manny Pacquiao, and a loss on Hatton’s record to anyone other than these two great, or potentially someone of a similar calibre, will impact on Hatton’s reputation.
However, Hatton has said he wants “to make British boxing proud” of him again, after suffering a devastating, and somewhat humiliating, second round knockout to Manny Pacquiao back in May 2009. No boxer of Hatton’s status wants to end such an illustrious career lying flat on the back, and for many, including myself, this opportunity for redemption is the biggest driving factor for Hatton’s return.
Although in an interview with Sky Sports Hatton argued that in order for him to challenge for a world title he must fight against someone who is ‘world ranked’ and not a journeyman, the forty-eighth fight of his career will set the tone for his comeback, and whether or not he will be able to challenge at the world level he once did.
As for opponents after The Hitman’s first fight in three years, there are three main names currently being rumoured; the domestic options of Amir Khan and potentially Kell Brook, and internationally, the current WBA Welterweight world champion, Paulie Malignaggi.
A contest against Khan, the former WBA & IBF Light-Welterweight champion, would certainly fill an arena the size of the Etihad Stadium in Manchester and draw in large audiences on TV, whilst also allowing Khan to step up to the welterweight division, as he has been rumoured to be considering.
Paulie Malignaggi, a fighter who Hatton stopped in November 2008, who has said previously on Twitter that he would welcome a re-match against Hatton, is scheduled to be fighting on the 20th October, which would enable a Spring 2013 contest between the two fighters.
Although Hatton’s legacy within his own incredibly loyal fanbase is not in any doubt, anything less than an explosive performance on the 24th November could hurt his reputation, not just domestically but also within the international boxing community, although to an extent this depends greatly on the calibre of his opponent.
Whatever happens, you can expect nothing less than 100% effort from one of Britain’s greatest warriors.