Ricky Hatton was the greatest best piece of luck his trainer Billy Graham ever had, let's be honest. Hatton had a natural aggression and a certain amount of athleticism and in all probability would have done well with any trainer. But I wonder how good he might have been if he had been with someone who taught the basic fundamentals of boxing from the start?
By the time I was brought in as conditioning coach for Hatton in late 2000 he already had some very bad habits which his trainer not only indulged but practically encouraged - and they weren't only in boxing technique. Graham would give Hatton days off training when he was hung over - heck, they even got drunk together sometimes! Hatton at this embryonic point in his career really needed a firm figure of discipline in his life, not an enabler. Maybe even worse than this was the lack of progressive and fundamental boxing training. I remember going to the Manchester England gym with my then-training partner Richie Woodhall, to watch Hatton train. Richie was a complete purist boxer with excellent amateur and professional pedigree including Olympic bronze (losing to Roy Jones Junior no less!), Commonwealth Gold right through to the WBC World title so he knew his stuff.
We watched in amazement the lack of a consistent jab, the coming forward and going back in predictable straight lines, the pure reliance on his power and punch resistance to get him through, which it did for a long time as we all know. There was also an alarming lack of head movement and worse still, the leaping-in, blood or glory left hooks to the body with no right hand raised to the side of the face in defense, chin hanging out for all to see and indeed the very move that both Mayweather and Pacquiao both took advantage of in knocking him out.
Ricky later sent fellow Brit boxer Matthew Macklin to my gym for nutritional and conditioning training and Macklin had also done boxing training with Graham. He confirmed that he was leaving the Graham camp because while he thought Graham was a good trainer he only trained one style and he (Macklin) was learning nothing new at all. Macklin went on to train with Buddy McGirt and many other truly great trainers and while he probably didn't have the natural ability of Hatton with diversity and proper guidance in his technical training he really became an over achiever in many ways, winning British and European titles and getting three world title shots, many thinking he won at least one (against Felix Sturm).
The career is over now for Hatton but I often wonder how good he might have been if he had have gone to a modern great like say, Nacho Beristáin or Freddie Roach, trainers both also famed for schooling great body punchers like Miguel Cotto and Juan Marquez but with tight defensive skills in tandem. Both of these old school disciplinarians wouldn't have tolerated poor lifestyle choices in a young, upcoming fighter and would have surely put him on a better path to maintaining weight between fights and as for drinking, well, forget it!
It's a shame neither we-nor Hatton will ever know what might have been.Suggest a correction