MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Ricky Hatton will complete his transformation from a self-described overweight drunk to a redemption-seeking boxer on Saturday when the former two-weight champion returns to the ring for a comeback fight.
It's been 3½ years since Hatton was knocked out by Manny Pacquiao, sending the Briton into retirement and his life spiraling out control. Hatton has said his battle with alcohol, drugs and weight gain almost led to him taking his own life, but those struggles will be put to one side when he takes on Ukrainian welterweight Vyacheslav Senchenko in a non-title fight in his home city of Manchester.
"I'm excited, nervous, angry — all those things," Hatton said. "I'm back to redeem myself, to make people proud of me again. "If you'd have seen me hobbling around Manchester around the 15-stone (210 lbs) mark, drunk at every opportunity, and you see me now — physically and mentally in condition. ... I think even a Ricky Hatton critic would say, 'It's nice to see he's come back as he has, and fair play to him.'"
Under the gaze of veteran trainer Bob Shannon, the 34-year-old Hatton has worked tirelessly since announcing his return in September, shedding 4 ½ pounds. He hasn't said whether a victory this weekend would prompt him to continue as a boxer.
"When he gets in the ring and feels the atmosphere again, feels the punches coming his way, he might say to me, 'I've won, I'm happy, I've redeemed myself — I'll retire,'" Shannon said. "It's up to Ricky and whatever he does I'm there for him."
A veteran of 33 fights, Senchenko meets Hatton two months after losing his unbeaten record — and his WBA world welterweight title — in a ninth-round loss to Paulie Malignaggi in Donetsk, Ukraine. "The main thing that made me lose against Malignaggi was the bad cut and I lost the opportunity to apply my plan the way that I had foreseen," Senchenko said. "I got injured and that derailed everything.
"This is a unique opportunity to wipe out the only loss of my career and come back stronger and more popular than before, beating somebody like Ricky Hatton." Hatton will likely have a typically partisan following behind him. But after such a long time away from the ring, it's hard to gauge what shape he will be in. He has a record of 45 wins and two losses, his first coming against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2007.
"It will be a very emotional night for me," Hatton said. "The ring walk is where you get your nerves together, you start thinking about your family and your kids, what you've gone through to get to this point.
"Life has kicked my (butt). I've got so much tension and anger inside me that I want to throw at Senchenko but I can't throw it at him like I did against Manny Pacquaio."