Ricky Hatton unveiled a remarkable physical transformation at the weigh-in before tonight’s exhibition with Marco Antonio Barrera.
But it’s the recovery in his mental health that has been most precious to him in the change he’s experienced in the build up to this occasion.
Legends don’t tend to leave the sport quietly. But this is no form of comeback. Hatton and Barrera will only be boxing eight two-minute rounds, in 16 ounce gloves without a decision at the end of it.
“Something like this where it’s in a controlled situation with someone that – we’ve been friends forever and a day – will know what isn’t enough and will know what too much is, it’ll be exciting for the fans and they’ll be able to see me and Marco showcase our ability for one last time without anybody getting hurt,” Hatton told Sky Sports.
It’s not a fight then. It’s a chance to say goodbye. To make a final ringwalk and hear the roar of his crowd once again in an appearance that will be televised on Sky Sports after the Natasha Jonas vs Marie-Eve Dicaire world title unification.
He knows it will get “emotional, in front of my beloved Manchester. Very emotional.
“Ricky Hatton… where the fans mean everything to me… if it wasn’t worth watching, I wouldn’t even have started doing what I’m doing,” he said.
“I started my career on Sky Sports and it looks like I’m going to end it there.”
Throughout this process he’s wanted to demonstrate the change in his mindset. “I just see myself as a retired boxer, a boxing trainer and an ambassador for mental health. That’s my job,” he said.
“To give a little bit back to boxing, try to bring the next champions through, give them the joy they can get from the sport. And if there’s anybody out there in that dark place I was a few years ago, look what you can do if you put your mind to it and do the right things. It’s not easy but you can do it.
“It hasn’t been easy. I’ve had a lot of support from family and friends. It was a work in progress.”
But, he said, “This Ricky Hatton’s here to stay now.”
That was part of his reasoning for doing this exhibition with Barrera. “I thought to myself, it’s going to be good for my well-being, it’s going to give me something to aim for and from where I was a few years ago; bottom rung of the ladder, suicidal, problems with drink, problems with drugs, wanted to kill myself to where I am present day, I knew that would be inspiring to others as well,” he explained.
“So it was a very, very easy decision for me to make in the end.”
Healing the rift with former trainer Billy Graham and his parents has been so important for him along the way. “I’m very, very proud to say I have done now and they’re going to be there fight night and that will make me as proud as hearing that crowd roar,” he said.
“I had got over my demons,” Hatton concluded. “To fall out for so many years with the family, to be back with the family, what a special night this night is going to be.”