Biggest fight starts now for dejected Hatton

Once the pain of the dug left hand which dumped Ricky Hatton down for the count on his boxing comeback has eased, the tremendously popular Manchester ’hitman’ must gear up for the fight of his life.

Hatton cut a dejected figure in the ring after recovering from the crunching body shot which gave Vyacheslav Senchenko victory, stunning a previously raucous, 16,000-strong MEN Arena crowd into silence and sending the 34-year-old back into retirement.

Perhaps in the long run it will come as a blessing to Hatton that he was unable to continue labouring under the illusion that his demons could be dealt with by dealing out more blows to the head, and he can get some serious help.

For long before the knockout blow came, it was apparent that while Hatton’s fighting heart had not faded, his ability to cut it with the best in the business had been cut from him by the searing punches of Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather.

Hatton shipped a lot of punishment at the hands of Senchenko, always a tough comeback prospect after three-and-a-half years out of the ring, finishing up with a badly swollen face, a maroon left eye and a battle to claim the bout on the scorecards.

The crowd at ringside underlined Hatton’s desire not so much to stage a golden comeback, as another march on the world title – with IBF title holder Paulie Malignaggi already lined up for a belt scrap in New York next year had he won.

But what then? Would a second career victory over the light-punching Senchenko then have convinced Hatton he could keep his problems at the door longer by getting back in with some even more dangerous foes?

Hatton said not.

“If I hadn’t been hit with that body shot I would have just scraped over the line with a points win and I honestly think I would still be telling you all the same thing,” he said as he announced his retirement. “A fighter knows and I know it isn’t there any more.”

Now we must send our hearts out to Hatton, whose relentless desire to please his ever-loyal fans led him to suffer the final career indignity of defeat in front of a hometown crowd.

Hatton seems finally to be coming to the realisation he has nothing left to prove. He came up from a council estate and conquered the world, taking scores of thousands of fans to Las Vegas and seeing his face shine down from the famous billboards.

He seemed to have convinced himself that he had something left to give, and that redemption could be found inside the boxing ring.

He needs the help of those loyal fans more than ever, as he begins a battle to make the most of his post-boxing life.

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