MENTAL HEALTH

‘If I can help others with their mental health, then this will have been for good’

'If I can help others with their mental health, then this will have been for good'
Written by ckv6u

When Ricky Hatton returns to the ring for his exhibition with Marco Antonio Barrera, just shy of 10 years since the night he fought as a professional for the 48th and final time, he will be fighting to honor the memory of the cousin who killed himself as he struggled with depression.

Hatton’s comeback against Vyacheslav Senchenko in November 2012 owed largely to the demons that had left him suicidal, and contributed to the arrest of the decline of his mental health. Though he was stopped that night at the Manchester Arena, Hatton achieved closure on one of British boxing’s finest careers, and he hopes that the progress he continues to make can help others to avoid his cousin Stephen Nightingale’s tragic fate.

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Hatton last fought in 2012 when he was stopped by Senchenko, now almost ten years to the day, he fights again – but there are different motives this time

He was one of Britain's most popular boxers and a two-weight world champion, having upset the odds to beat Kostya Tszyu in 2005 and then later shared the ring with both Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao

Getty – Contributor

He was one of Britain’s most popular boxers and a two-weight world champion, having upset the odds to beat Kostya Tszyu in 2005 and then later shared the ring with both Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao

Wherever he traveled he was always well supported

Getty Images – Getty

Wherever he traveled he was always well supported

“I lost my cousin due to mental health – he hung himself [aged 35], due to Covid,” Hatton told talkSPORT. “It was very upsetting.

“When the offer [to fight Mexico’s Barrera in an exhibition] come – it’s been a tough time for people with mental health [issues] – mental health’s come to the forefront, and we’ve had the lockdowns, and this and that.

“People know the position I was in and how I suffered with it, so if I can put on a show with Marco like I’m expecting to, I think it’ll inspire people. It’ll not only have been good for my wellbeing, but good for a lot of other people’s wellbeing.

“[The exhibition] was offered to me when Covid was still bad, and mental health – I suffer from my mental health – [was being tested].

“Saying to people, ‘We’ve been in Covid; we’ve all been in lockdown; we’ve not been able to do this; we’ve lost family through Covid; we’ve lost friends through Covid; we’ve lost friends through mental health’… What a way to say to people, ‘Remember the state Ricky was in a few years ago; look what you can do when you set your mind to it, to turn things around’. That was another incentive.”

Against Ukraine’s Senchenko, Hatton was 34 and returning from three and a half years of inactivity dating back to May 2009 in Las Vegas, where the great Manny Pacquiao had so destructively stopped him inside two rounds.


Pacquiao stopped Hatton in two rounds and he found the end of his career difficult to cope with

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Pacquiao stopped Hatton in two rounds and he found the end of his career difficult to cope with

Despite having established himself among the greatest of all super lightweights and become perhaps Britain’s most popular ever fighter he had found the nature of that defeat and the end of his career so difficult to deal with he spiralled into a damaging cycle of alcoholism and depression, and experienced with cocaine.

Hatton and those he is closest to recognize the trigger for his depression came when he suffered his first defeat, against Floyd Mayweather in December 2007but the acrimonious split from his long-term trainer Billy Graham, the loss to Pacquiao and then the breakdown of the relationship with his parents all further harmed his fragile frame of mind.

Before he announced his comeback, in September 2012, Hatton’s weight had swelled to 15th and he had also visited both The Priory and Sporting Chance. His comeback was born from convincing himself he required ‘redemption’ for the life he had lived since losing to Pacquiao, and to finally give him an overdue sense of peace.

“I’m under no illusions my best days are behind me,” Hatton continued. “It’s [almost] ten years to the day. That’s incredible.

Hatton has 'shifted a load of timber' as he showed a slimmed down figure

Ricky Hatton – Instagram

Hatton has ‘shifted a load of timber’ as he showed a slimmed down figure

“One, to hear the roar of the crowd, [two] to share the ring with Marco Antonio Barrera, [and three] in this period of mental health and Covid, where everybody’s been depressed, if it inspires a few people with weight problems [laughs] – I’ve shifted a load of timber.

“I’ve got me mental health problems, and I’ve got myself fit and in shape again, and fighting at the arena. If one person goes, ‘Jesus Christ, look at the state Ricky was in a few years back and look at him now’, it’ll have been for good.”

At his lowest, before his comeback, Hatton was found sobbing by his then-partner Jennifer in a darkened room holding a knife to his wrist. Even in the build-up to his fight with Senchenko he cut a significantly more melancholic and introspective figure than the animated one who proved so entertaining throughout the considerable access granted before he fought both Mayweather and Pacquiao.

He had first attempted to fight on in 2010, but having returned to the gym and still to reach his lowest ebb he found he lacked the drive he needed. Later that year he went to rehab to attempt to recover from ‘severe depression’ and a ‘drink problem’, contributing to his boxer’s license being withdrawn by the British Boxing Board of Control.

Fury came back to boxing after losing a huge amount of weight in 2018 and has made sure he has stayed in contact with Hatton

Tyson Fury – Instagram

Fury came back to boxing after losing a huge amount of weight in 2018 and has made sure he has stayed in contact with Hatton

The Gypsy King – who has suffered with mental health – battled back to the top and is now the WBC champion

Frank Micelotta/FOX

The Gypsy King – who has suffered with mental health – battled back to the top and is now the WBC champion

And now Hatton has significantly trimmed down ahead of his ring return

Ricky Hatton – Instagram

And now Hatton has significantly trimmed down ahead of his ring return

“I felt I’d let me family, me fans and everyone down,” he recalls. “I needed to make a comeback, not to go on and have fight after fight after fight after fight. I needed to make a comeback to redeem meself and prove meself, and reassure everybody, ‘I’m in a good place, and no matter how bad things get, look what you can do if you set your mind to it’.”

When Hatton’s friend Tyson Fury – a similarly positive figure in the growing recognition for those struggling with their mental health – launched his own comeback in 2018 off the back of battling obesity, abusing alcohol and cocaine, bipolar disorder and suicidal thoughts, there were times he used Hatton’s gym. Hatton even became an influential figure of his training team under Ben Davison until late in 2019 Fury replaced Davison with SugarHill Steward of the Kronk.

“I put a thing on my Instagram, ‘Not having my best day, but we’ve gotta get on with it’,” said Hatton, speaking in 2020. “Do you know who phoned me? Tyson Fury. Within 10 minutes.

“He said, ‘Hiya Rick, what’s up with you? You okay?’

“That’s the man, Tyson. Just to make sure I was alright.”

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