Ricky Hatton: Pain of defeats to Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather led to my suicide bids
Former champion talks about how he is fighting back from a deep depression
In June, it will be a decade since the finest moment of Ricky Hatton’s career, the victory over Kostya Tszyu. Already hugely popular in this country, beating Tszyu made him a global star and led to a series of fights with the sport’s biggest names.
Those fights, which culminated in defeats to Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, made Hatton more than £25 million, but they almost cost him his life.
Until he was knocked out by Mayweather and Pacquiao, Hatton had never lost. The shame and guilt he felt at losing his unbeaten record, and the anxiety that his career was on a downward trajectory, led to a deep depression.
It didn’t make any difference to Hatton that the two men he had lost to are among the greatest boxers of the modern era, a pair who will, in the coming days, confirm a meeting in the richest bout in the sport’s history.
Within four years of that glorious triumph over Tszyu, Hatton was at his lowest point: there were alcoholic binges, a tabloid cocaine expose, and, as had happened between fights during his career, his weight ballooned.
Hatton tried several times to kill himself. Finally, what saved him was boxing. His comeback in 2012 may have ended in a third defeat - to Vyacheslav Senchenko - but the discipline of preparing to return to the ring began a process of recovery which has continued in retirement.
Today, approaching his 37th birthday, Hatton has finally found some peace.
He said: “I don’t have those dark thoughts any more, no. I am feeling older and, as you get older, you can look back at everything you’ve done in your life with a bit more pride. Depression is a serious thing and, after my defeat to Pacquiao, I was facing retirement and didn’t cope with it very well.”
Hatton can now see how the losses to Pacquaio and Mayweather, and the public’s disappointment at the manner of them, precipitated his breakdown.
“People used to say to me for years about the Mayweather fight and it f**** me off: ‘Losing to Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao is ok, there’s no shame in that.’ No, no, no. I didn’t go there just because it was them and it was a big payday. I went there to f****** beat them. So, when I didn’t, it did my head in.”
“I felt I’d let people down. I look at those fights with pride now, but for so long I just thought, f****** hell, I got beaten by him, I don’t want to leave the house, it’s embarrassing. I told everyone I was going to beat them and I couldn’t.”
Now Hatton can see honour in defeat. “Floyd gave me probably the biggest compliment he could have and he doesn’t give many out. He said, ‘Sometimes when I get to round six or seven and the fight is out of reach of the other guy, I jab and move and keep away so they see the final bell, but when the fight was running away from you, you just kept coming at me. Roger (Mayweather, his trainer) kept saying you’d fade and give in, but you never did.’”
“My trainer Billy Graham even said I should jab and move and look after myself. He said it wasn’t our night. But I was of the opinion that we’d gone there to win and I needed a knockout. That meant I had to go after him. That was my mentality. I had an exciting style, I was very aggressive, a body puncher, and I attacked all the time. My style appealed to people. That’s why I had the fanbase. The disappointing things in your life fade a little. You know you’re getting old when your son is 14 and it’s 10 years since the Tszyu fight. I feel happier about things, I don’t blame myself over the losses.”
Nor does Hatton have any regrets about the comeback three years ago.
He said: “That was a success, even in defeat, because people used to see me walking around at 15-and-a-half stone, in the pub, drunk, falling over and looking a shadow of my former self. They’d pity me. I fell out with my parents, I fell out with Billy Graham. Everything seemed to cave in. I tried taking my life several times.
“All of a sudden they see me walking around with my six pack again and living dead healthy. I was five and a half stone lighter. Then the fight came around and people thought I’d just pick someone I could knock over in a few rounds.
“I fought a former world champion in Senchenko who had a 35-1 record. I just had too many miles on the clock. I just wanted to get my respect back for all the bad that happened. All the bad that happened gave me a little bit of sympathy because I was very poorly man.
“I’ve always had the same attitude – fight anyone. I didn’t ever think, right, let’s have an easy one now. Even that comeback fight, after so long out, I chose to go in with a very good opponent. I probably should have chosen someone else, just to get my confidence up.
“But I don’t regret choosing Senchenko. It wasn’t me to choose a weak opponent. I was past it that night. My timing was gone. I was missing by a bit and, at that level, it’s the difference between winning and losing.”
Hatton now derives professional contentment from training a group of 10 fighters. His heavyweight Lucas Browne, an Australian, is ranked No 4, No 5, and No 6 contender by three of the world sanctioning bodies, and will fight for a world title this year. He has the three Upton brothers from Essex, Paul, Sonny and Anthony, all developing nicely, and a clutch of talented fighters from Eastern Europe. The gym is still the office for Hatton.
“My life was never boring. It was always 100mph for my sins. But now my life is slowing down. I’m in the gym every day training my boys. I’m a father. I still go out to the pub, but it’s not like it used to be. That’s the way life goes. I always had to be doing something. Now I do sportsman’s dinners, charity appearances and I train the boys. I enjoy passing on my knowledge.”
Hatton is able to admit now that he was never quite the same fighter after the Tszyu fight, that some deep hunger had left him. “Once you had achieved Mount Everest, you have to really try and psyche yourself up to get going again. I achieved Everest with that Tszyu fight and then it was Maussa for my second world title, Collazo, Urango and so on. You have to psyche yourself up that little bit more to get out of bed in the morning.
“I trained harder than I’d ever done and there were no corners cut. But the hunger I had before the Tszyu fight wasn’t the same before the Mayweather fight. It was just different. You can’t put your finger on what it is. You feel comfortable. If you feel comfortable, what do you do? You sit in your arm chair and relax. I’d reached a stage of comfort.
“By the time of the Mayweather fight, I was ‘Ricky Fatton’. I’d been going up and down in weight since I was 18. My body had been through it. I certainly didn’t feel fresh. I wasn’t right for the Pacquiao fight, either. It was a terrible camp. But no excuses.” Hatton grins, and throws a fist at an imaginary opponent.
He says he is still the same person he was before the multi-million pound contracts and bill-topping Las Vegas showdowns.
“I’m very blessed to have a wonderful house and I drive a nice car and I have a fantastic gym. But I still go to the same places and do the same things I’ve always done. I have the same friends I grew up with. I sometimes go to certain places and they go, what are you going in there for? I say, what do you mean? I’ve been going to these local pubs all my life,” he explained.
“I think that’s why I had the following. People see that. It doesn’t need me to tell the story, they can see it with their own eyes. The minute I could go and get a season ticket in the stand at Man City, I went and did it. I still go and play darts on a Monday night with my mates. I win more than I lose. I look like Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor but I don’t exactly play like him. I’m not bad.
“I’ve still got a bit of a belly but you should’ve seen the size of it when I went out after a fight. I’d cram it all in to maybe a six-week period.
“My weight has plateaued. Because I’ve retired, I’ve settled into more of a natural weight. I train Monday to Friday and I do my boxing training. I go for a run from time to time, but I should probably do it a little bit more.
“I am still strong, though. Sometimes I do the pads with the boys and I push them. I grab my lads and throw them around and you can see them thinking, I wouldn’t like to have fought you. And these are light middleweights.
“Sometimes I go and play five a side with my mates and the next day I can’t move. I can do round after round boxing, but not another sport.”
Hatton concedes this is partly the result of a failure to look after his body in the way Mayweather, who is a year older and still at the top, has done.
“As I’m a trainer now, I know I shouldn’t have gone out, had a few pints, put weight on and had this ‘Ricky Fatton’ persona. It gave me the popularity because people knew I was one of them, but, as a trainer, I wouldn’t want my kids to do it. You should look after yourself. There’s a reason Floyd Mayweather is the best in boxing. It’s not just because of his boxing ability, it’s because he looks after his body, he dedicates himself completely to the sport.
“I was dedicated, but I was dedicated for twelve weeks of a training camp. Your body pays the bills and Floyd looks after his every day of the year. That’s why he’s the best. That’s what I try and instil in the kids I train.”