• Steve Bunce

Hatton's comeback hits all the right notes

Steve Bunce November 20, 2012
Ricky Hatton is back - but he's not doing it for the money © PA Photos

As soon as Ricky Hatton announced he was returning to professional boxing, he immediately re-appeared at the top of the list of Britain's - and even the world's - most popular fighters.

Very few fighters can sell 19,000 tickets in a few hours - especially with an opponent still to be named - but Ricky Hatton managed it back in September, when his comeback was confirmed.

Manny Pacquiao can sell that volume of tickets, Floyd Mayweather Jr can do it. The Klitschko brothers can probably do it too. Add in Hatton, and that might be the list.

'The Hitman' sold out the MEN Arena three or four weeks before he named an opponent, and three years after his last professional fight. He had the choice of hundreds of opponents, and no-one would have asked for their money back if he'd gone for any of them. He opted for what I think is a brilliant opponent, Vyacheslav Senchenko, a guy who just a few months ago was the world champion. A guy whose credentials are fantastic and a guy who, if Hatton can beat him, will mean Hatton is absolutely nailed on for a world title fight.

Hatton could have had two or three meaningless fights, made plenty of money, entertained plenty of people live and on TV, and been no closer to knowing how much he had left. Choosing Senchenko is a bold move - it says, 'Look, I'm back for real. If I beat Senchenko and I look good, then I deserve a world title fight. If I beat him and I look bad, then it's back to the drawing board.

'If I lose to him, well, then it's back to retirement.'

Hatton has been brutally honest about his aims. He has not put a foot wrong since the rumours of a comeback first emerged. For that he needs to be applauded.

His physical preparations have been similarly smart. Any fighter that gets back in the ring after a longer break than six months suffers from ring rust. Hatton has not only not boxed since 2009, but there were months and months - if not years - when he was not even in the gym.

However, the way that he has meticulously planned his comeback - by slowly dropping the weight before beginning to train hard, getting his mind and body in the right place before even beginning to spar - tells me that he has made every effort to overcome a) ring rust and b) any suggestion that he has rushed his return.

It's unusual for a fighter to take so long, to prepare a comeback as cautiously as Hatton has done. This is not a knee-jerk, instant reaction - and that is reflected by the fact he's not coming back for money. He's not even coming back for glory - he's coming back for redemption.

The obvious goal and objective is for Hatton to do a job on Senchenko; hopefully a better job than the one WBA welterweight champion Paulie Malignaggi did with his ninth round knockout of the Ukrainian in April. That would lead to an inevitable rematch with the American.

Hatton won the first fight back in 2008, but Malignaggi would start as favourite for the second I think. Where it takes place makes no difference. Malignaggi is already talking about a trilogy - when Hatton heard about that, he laughed.

As he chuckled: "Well that would be fun, wouldn't it?"

Cobra needs to box smart after homecoming romp

The Yusaf Mack experiment in Nottingham on Saturday night against Carl Froch came to an expected early end. We did not learn much from it.

Mack was tough, he had decent pedigree, but on the night it was just a case of a good fighter meeting a great fighter in the best possible form.

The fight was really about Carl Froch's homecoming - and that might sound strange, because his last fight was in Nottingham, but his last fight was one he was meant to lose.

Back in May he was the underdog and Lucian Bute was the undefeated world champion. Carl came through that night and there was a sense of relief. So, in many ways, the fight against Mack was a thank you to the fans - to the fans who have travelled to Denmark, to Finland, to America on two occasions to cheer Carl on in the Super Six tournament.

Now it gets interesting for Carl Froch, because after nine consecutive world title fights he's just getting the recognition he deserved for a long, long time. 2013 will be an interesting year. In theory he's got a mandatory defence against a guy called Adonis Stevenson, which would not really mean that much. There's already a move to get Stevenson to step aside so Carl can face Bute in a rematch instead.

It's an odd rematch, because Bute so resoundingly lost the first meeting, but it is one Bute and his 20,000 fans in Canada desperately want, and if that's the case Carl will take it (and should, because it will pay him a lot of money).

The other two guys he wants are the only fighters to beat him in his career, Mikkel Kessler and Andre Ward. The Kessler fight was wafer-thin, but the Ward fight - and some tend to forget this - was not close. Ward dominated - and that's the fight Froch desperately wants, because he wants the chance to prove himself against Ward as he feels he didn't show his best in that first fight.

Carl is 35, so he's not racing the clock but he does need to pick his future fights carefully. If he's only got two or three fights left, a lot depends on what the fights take out of him - the Mack fight won't have drained him much, but a duel like the first Kessler war leaves you needing a longer lay-off. So it is crucial he picks and chooses the right fights.

Froch is at that stage now where a fight against either of those guys could take place in front of 25 or 30,000 people in a stadium - and that's because he's now a major, major attraction in British and world boxing. And it's long overdue.

© 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.