Whatever happens Saturday night, Ricky Hatton says he's already won the biggest fight of his life.
Not the Mayweather bout. Not the showdown with Pacquiao. For Hatton, defeating drugs, alcohol, and his own personal daemons was more difficult than any prize fight.
On Saturday, Hatton fights for the first time since 2009, and he'll do it in his hometown of Manchester, England. Saying the once-great boxer has a lot on the line would be a colossal understatement. For Hatton, Saturday is the first opportunity for him to reclaim his heroic reputation.
In Manchester, Hatton is very much still a hero. Rabidly loyal fans will pack Manchester Arena. More than 24,000 tickets were sold in 48 hours alone.
They'll go nuts for a fantastic talent who withered as a person when the game got away from him. After a brutal loss at the hands of Manny Pacquiao in 2009, Hatton spiraled into disarray, binging on food, coke, and booze. He ballooned to 210 pounds and suffered from panic attacks day in and day out. His girlfriend, he says, took the knife out of his hands multiple times as he attempted to slit his wrists and end a life he no longer desired to live.
"There was a time when it seemed like that might be the only option, when it would be best for me to just [commit suicide] and end it all," Hatton told Yahoo Sports.
In the process, Hatton's condition alienated his best friend and trainer, his parents, his girlfriend, and his daughter.
He battled back though. He went to rehab and slowly began losing weight, just by keeping it simple--training local fighters and feeling better about himself.
After a point, with relationships rekindled and the spirit inside him reborn, Hatton decided that he didn't want to retire the guy who got knocked out by Pacquiao and then tried to kill himself.
He decided to fight again.
“People ask, ‘Why come back?’ … I got Mayweather and Pacquiao already. I have my gym, a nice home, a holiday home, a nice car,” Hatton told the Los Angeles Times. “To stir up this hunger and drive should show you how disappointed I am in myself.”
Hatton didn't want a guy in his return that he could walk all over. He wanted an opponent worthy of the the struggle he'd endured, and he chose 35-year-old Ukranian Vyacheslav Senchenko, who last fought for the WBA welterweight title.
If he beats Hatton beats Senchenko, he says he'd like a big-money rematch with Paul Malignaggi, who he beat in 2008. Whatever happens though, "The Hitman" knows he's already won.
"Without a doubt, I've had the greatest win of my life, overcoming the personal demons that I have," he said. "I've won this already. No matter what might happen in a fight, I am already the winner."