By Robert Hough
Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton, who returns to the ring Saturday after 3½ tumultuous years, vowed Monday that however far and long his comeback goes, there’s clean – or at least considerably cleaner – living ahead in the months and years ahead. Hatton (45-2, 32 KOs) will face former WBA welterweight titleholder Vyacheslav Senchenko (32-1, 21 KOs) at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England, in a 10-round welterweight fight that will be broadcast on Showtime.
“I was known for ballooning up, putting 30 or 40 pounds between fights” said the 34-year-old who openly enjoyed long nights and food that would give a cardiologist a heart attack. “It was absolutely criminal for me to do that at 24 years of age. I can’t be doing that at 34 years of age. I’m becoming older, becoming wiser.”
If things go well on Saturday, the plan is to keep active and fit, and fight more than twice a year, the native and resident of Manchester, England said in a raw, candid conversation.
Hatton stepped away from the sport and spoke of falling apart after Manny Pacquiao decimated him with a nasty second-round knockout on May 2, 2009.
“It was hard for a man who had so much pride in himself to get destroyed by Manny Pacquiao,” he said.
There were suicide attempts, a nervous breakdown, a moment when his girlfriend took a knife from him when he was trying to slit his wrists, days and nights full of tears, he said.
“I was having to tell my girlfriend, ‘I need a hug. Help me, please, I’m scared.’”
About six months ago, the comeback plans took shape as life improved mentally and physically, Hatton said.
“I feel I’ve let a lot of people down and I’m here to put a lot of ghosts and feelings to rest,” he said.
So far, so good – surprisingly good in fact, Hatton said.
“I’m doing better than ever in the gym,” he said. “I was a bit surprised. I don’t expect people to believe that, but I hope they’ll give me a chance. I wondered what it would feel like the first time I got hit on the chin and the first time I got hit on the chin, I liked it.”
There will be more of the same aggressive style, Hatton promised, with a little more intelligence.
“Ultimately my aggressiveness and over-aggressiveness landed me in trouble against Floyd Mayweather and Manny. I live by the sword and die by the sword so I’ll be going 100 miles an hour, but I’ve got to be smarter and show a little more maturity.”