If there was ever a moment to epitomise just how special Ricky Hatton’s connection with the fans was, it would ironically come in his final seconds inside a boxing ring.
As Hatton dropped to his knees after taking a crushing body shot from Vyacheslav Senchenko, Ricky knew that it was the end. But, in what can only be described as a scene out of a Rocky film, the chant of ‘There’s Only One Ricky Hatton’ became louder and louder as the referee neared the count of 10. By the end, the noise from his adoring fans echoed out the sound of the bell and everyone in Manchester stood to applaud their beloved icon.
“His legacy is that he will go down as the most popular post War British fighter, more so than Sir Henry Cooper, Lennox Lewis, Frank Bruno and Joe Calzaghe. His popularity was truly a phenomenon.” – Gareth Davies
Hatton was more of a throwback at the time, with stars and personalities such as his future nemesis Floyd Mayweather living in the limelight, ‘The Hitman’ was Manchester’s working-class hero.
In the mid-2000’s you probably wouldn’t have even noticed him walking past you on the street, he seemed to be just your run-of-the-mill man in Manchester, he would eat a fry-up, have a few drinks and then head down to the Etihad wearing his best City top. It was the fact that his blue-collar upbringing had stuck with him despite the wealth and success, Hatton never lost the common touch.
To match his heart-warming and honest personality, Hatton fought with a similar honesty. He was a brutal, relentless animal inside the ring, a fighter who’s answer to exhaustion was to simply stand toe-to-toe with his opponent and throw more punches. Hatton was happy to take a punch to land a punch, his Mexican style of fighting was uncommon in British boxers and Ricky’s fights always guaranteed fireworks.
“He is a hell of a fighter, he has a massive heart, he has a lion’s heart.” – Floyd Mayweather Jr
From local hero to national icon
Although his most notable fight may have come two years later, undoubtedly Hatton and Manchester’s most successful evening came in 2005, when ‘The Hitman’ faced off with Kostya Tszyu, a man that was then ranked as the number two pound-for-pound fighter on the planet and a fighter who some considered to be the best light-welterweight of his generation.
For Hatton tho, reputation meant nothing. Going into the fight, many considered the Mancunian hero to be the underdog and despite entering the contest with a record of 38-0, pundits thought that a routine Tszyu victory was in order.
Did the Hatton fans care? Did they hell. At the weigh-in prior to the fight, tens of thousands came out to get a glimpse of their man and Hatton made it clear that he wanted to do two things come fight night, win a world title, and make Manchester proud.
“I was sat in my corner ready to chuck the towel in but when you hear the roar of that crowd they dragged me through it, and we did it together that night.” – Ricky Hatton
In a fight that has been voted the greatest his beloved Manchester has even seen, Hatton started the fight in typical Ricky style, he marched to the centre of the ring and he didn’t hit the breaks once.
It was simply a war, it was just a case of the man who could survive more punishment. Although Tszyu had a reputation as a devastating knockout artist, Hatton took Tszyu’s power and just continued to respond with his trademark body shots. From the first bell, the Manchester crowd didn’t let the noise levels drop once, and the electric atmosphere pushed their man through the pain.
By the eleventh round, Tszyu decided he could take no more and he retired on his stool, the roof blew off the M.E.N Arena, Hatton was crowned IBF champion, grown men began to sob and Ricky Hatton had just unknowingly propelled himself to superstardom and he still to this day knows he couldn’t have done it without his unrivalled support.
— Sky Sports Boxing (@SkySportsBoxing) March 23, 2017
Manchester invades Vegas
For any professional fighter, one of their greatest challenges is capturing the hearts and the attention of the American audience, many had tried, and most had failed. But, Ricky seemed to grow his American fanbase with relative ease.
If Hatton was a throwback to us Brits, he could only be described as an enigma to the U.S. audience. 48 hours before his world title fight with Kostya Tszyu, Hatton was playing in his local darts team and drinking a pint of Guinness, but, come fight night, he was a brave and explosive fighter, a style American’s love, the American fans were captivated by Hatton, earning him the nickname ‘The Manchester Mexican’ from his fans stateside.
If Hatton’s fight vs Tszyu was his most successful night, then his fight with Floyd Mayweather in 2007 will be remembered as the night he crowned his popularity.
Rumour has it, Las Vegas still hasn’t fully recovered from the Hatton invasion in 2007. 25,30,35,000? Nobody will ever know the exact number that swarmed Las Vegas, but, it’s record-breaking memory still lives on in every bar and hotel lobby in the fight capital of the world.
— Rocky Fielding (@Rocky87Fielding) October 16, 2013
Sadly, as we all remember, Hatton and his legion of followers didn’t witness the giant-slaying that they were all so desperate to see, instead, Hatton came up a respectable second best to a man regarded as the single greatest fighter of his generation.
Despite coming away with a loss, Hatton still regards his Vegas nights, including the defeats, as some of the proudest moments of his career, even though the record books will say a Mayweather victory, Hatton vs Mayweather will always be remembered as the night that Manchester first invaded Las Vegas.
‘There’s only one Ricky Hatton’
Retiring as a four-time world champion at two different weight classes, Hatton has been voted as the greatest light-welterweight Britain has ever produced. Despite all the success inside the ring, Hatton’s legacy will always be remembered thanks to the once in a lifetime relationship he shared with his adoring fans.
After leaving the ring in 2012, Hatton famously announced that he had been dealing with health issues and battles with suicide and depression. But, even in his darkest hour, Hatton’s fans stood firmly by their hero’s side and made sure they were able to show Ricky the love he showed them during his career.
“They have done a lot to lift my spirits. I am humbled that so many people are concerned.” – Ricky Hatton
Even in the current era of British boxing, no fighter has managed to gain the public following that Hatton managed to achieve. He was a trendsetter for British boxing and has even managed to leave his legacy in America, his famous nights in Manchester and Vegas will never be forgotten by any boxing fan and the chant of ‘There’s only one Ricky Hatton’ still echoes around Manchester come fight night.