Just twenty-four hours after Ricky Hatton announced that he would return to the ring on November 24th, the MEN Arena in Manchester sold out – even before an opponent had been named. He could have been fighting an unknown journeyman, but the reality is people aren’t forking out their hard earned money to see his opponent; they’re here to see Ricky Hatton in what could quite possibly be his last hurrah in a boxing ring.
The announcement of Hatton’s return was met with mixed emotions from the boxing public. Even die-hard Hatton fans were a little reserved in jumping for joy. The way in which he was knocked out by Manny Pacquiao three years ago, and the fact that he has endured personal problems since then, have made people wary. No-one wants to see Hatton spread-eagled on the canvas again. The fear, if you want to call it that, of seeing Hatton return is born out of love for him as a fighter and a person.
That said, however, even the most vociferous of fans and pundits who were and are against his return, will find it hard to say they are not looking forward to tomorrow night. The atmosphere for a Ricky Hatton fight is damn near incomparable, and you can bet that the crowd inside the MEN tomorrow night will not disappoint in that regard when Michael Buffer announces Hatton into the ring.
Standing across the ring will be former WBA world welterweight champion Vyacheslav Senchenko from Ukraine. Senchenko isn’t here to just make up the numbers and provide Hatton with an easy comeback into the sport. Senchenko, who lost his title in his last bout to Paulie Malignaggi, will present a more than adequate test and, moreover, it will give us a good indication of where Hatton is at and if he can still compete at world level.
Both men made weight comfortably and both looked in good shape. Each man tipped the scales at a ready 146lbs. In seeing each man take to the scales, what was noticeable is that Hatton really has put the work in these past few months. It’s a credit to not only himself, but also to his trainer, Bob Shannon, that he is in such good condition. Senechenko, too, looked like he’s put the work in and he was clearly the bigger man; not only in height but in build as well.
Senchenko, while a year older than Hatton at 35 years-old, should, theoretically, be the fresher man. He’s been more active and has suffered less punishment inside a ring than Hatton has. With a solid jab and straight right cross combination being his money shots, it figures that Senchenko’s game plan will be to keep things at range. If he is successful in doing so, it could be a long night for Hatton.
If, however, Senchenko’s jab isn’t sharp or precise, it will allow Hatton to duck inside and work the body. And with Senchenko being the much taller man, 5’10″, there will be a lot of body for Hatton to hit should he manage to get inside.
The boxing logic states that Hatton should win because he beat Malignaggi, and Malignaggi beat Senchenko. That logic doesn’t always ring true, though. Malignaggi is a mover and Senchenko struggled with the fast hands and in-and-out style that Paulie deployed for that fight. Hatton is probably the exact opposite of that.
Prime Hatton defeats Senchenko. But I suspect this won’t be a prime Ricky Hatton. This is a Ricky Hatton who was badly knocked-out in his last outing, has not fought in three years, has suffered from substance abuse in those three years and is jumping up a weight class. A win for either man would not surprise me, and we’ll know after the first 3 or 4 rounds what Hatton can or can’t do.
Above all, this is an event to be enjoyed and not to be missed. Whatever the outcome, one must hope that Ricky Hatton finds the redemption that he seeks.