• Steve Bunce

Cotto, Marquez & Khan options for Hatton return

Steve Bunce August 28, 2012

I've got a feeling that these rumours of a Ricky Hatton comeback might be the real thing.

In the past, when there have been whispers of a return, he's looked out of shape: bloated, with terrible skin. Right now he looks fantastic, and my understanding is that he is getting his head back into shape. That's crucial, because with Ricky you always need to make sure his head is right.

Going into his last fight, against Manny Pacquiao in 2009, his head was in the wrong place, and it cost him as he was knocked out in the second round. It's obvious that a lot of Ricky's problems outside the ring are to do with his defeats - and especially the shocking loss to Pacquiao.

Sure, he fell short against Floyd Mayweather Jr as well, but the Pacquiao defeat is the one that really troubles Ricky. If he does come back, it's not to do with glory, money or fame - it's about exorcising the demons left inside his head from Pacquiao's fists.

He can do that as long as he finds himself a quality opponent to face. It doesn't have to be Pacquiao again: Ricky just feels that he owes people for the way he performed. I don't think he should think that way: he didn't do anything wrong, he just got caught early. It happens to most fighters and of all the modern fighters Ricky Hatton does not owe his fans a single thing.

But if he returns, he does need to get in the ring with someone half-decent, because otherwise he could just clear his head sparring in the gym. I'm convinced he wants to return in a competitive contest just to get rid of the Pacquiao memories. Making a few quid, winning a title and living with the glory would all be a bonus.

So who is out there? Well, the name that's been thrown around is Paul Malignaggi, who Ricky stopped in 2008 - but the American fights later this year, so that puts him out until 2013, really, and we're hearing Ricky would want a bout in 2012.

Working on the assumption he would be operating at welterweight, he could make an outrageous move and go for Kell Brook - although the idea he'll come back and pocket what Brook's opponents usually get is clearly absurd. The figures are joke, to be honest.

Would he downgrade slightly and go for the British title, or European version? I doubt it. What about Juan Manuel Marquez? He's an option - and he beat Pacquiao last year, no matter what the judges said. Maybe Miguel Cotto somewhere down the line? There will be big fights out there for Ricky if he is right.

Hatton's loss to Manny Pacquiao in 2009 still haunts him © Getty Images

The Amir Khan clash is still lucrative, but it's not the fight it was when Khan was still a champion. However, saying that, Khan still thinks he is a champion and he is, in my opinion, living in denial.

Don't forget that Ricky is still only 33, so three years out of the ring may not have set him back too far. He looked bad against Juan Lazcano in May 2008, then six months later was fantastic in beating Malignaggi. It's all about what Ricky's head is like: if his head is in the right place, and the hunger and desire is there, we may see a fantastic version of him.

What I can say for sure is that he won't get anywhere near the ring until it gets really serious in the gym, with some hard, closed-doors sparring sessions. It hasn't got to that stage yet, but this is more than Ricky just getting fit.

Wach-ing quality
If I'd have gone into a bookies two years ago and said, "I want to put a tenner on Mariusz Wach beating Wladimir Klitschko, and I want to double it up with a tenner on Manuel Charr beating Vitali Klitschko", what odds would I have got? I wouldn't have been able to get the bet on, because no-one had heard of them. But both fights are happening this year following the announcement of Wach v Wladimir last week.

People wonder why David Haye, Dereck Chisora, David Price and Tyson Fury are heavyweight attractions. Well, because there's unknowns like Wach and Charr getting world-title shots. It makes our heavyweights look like the best available contenders in the world - which they are.

If fighting Wach makes cash common sense, then I don't blame Wladimir for calling him up - and the Klitschkos would never promote something that didn't fall into that category. Wach's got a proper "championship record", and that's all you need. He's 27-0 as a pro, he's known as The Viking, he's based in the US, he's taller than Wladimir... Why shouldn't he be a challenger? The fact he's never fought anyone of note is irrelevant; the fact he's been able to get this fight is irrelevant. This is the modern heavyweight business.

What needs to happen is that if people like Wach and Charr are going to get title fights, they need some sort of eliminator first: Charr and Wach need to face each other to work out who fights for the title.

There's always been people getting world-title shots who don't deserve them. The problem at the moment is we're getting too many in that category.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Steve Bunce Close
Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.