Mr. Hatton? Nice to Have You Back

28/09/2012 16:49 BST | Updated 28/11/2012 10:12 GMT

Boxing is a brutal and uncompromising sport that can destroy the hopes and dreams of even the greatest athlete. In most sports, being able to run faster than your competition or jump higher is enough to see you become number one and stay there for as long as you remain fit.

In boxing, the cruel truth is that if one punch detonates in the right spot at the right time, all those sacrifices and hours in the gym account for nothing. Goodnight, Vienna.

It is this element of the sport that brings so many of us back. Even when the sport is presumed to be in decline due to the best not fighting the best (Mayweather-Pacquiao), too many title holders (WBA interim champion?) and the rise of MMA related sports, every now and then a fight will come along and reinvigorate the public's interest.

Ricky Hatton was a rare type of fighter. He captured the imaginations and the hearts of a huge audience and he maintained it by fighting often and providing excitement. Between 2000-01, Hatton fought 11 times (six in 2000, five in 2001), the majority of them in his home fortress of the M.E.N Arena in Manchester.

In contrast, the majority of big name fighters will have one or two fights a year. They simply don't fight often enough to keep the average sporting fan coming back. Amir Khan and David Haye have fought just once each in 2012, and they are our biggest name fighters. Compare that to the peak of Hitman mania or that of 'Iron' Mike Tyson in the 1980s.

You were never given the chance to pause for breath between fights. Sky had Hatton's back, and both them and Frank Warren made sure his name was never far from sports fans' thoughts. It also helped that when he fought, Hatton was vicious and exciting to watch.

Hatton was 43-0 when he travelled to Las Vegas to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. The fight was billed as 'Undefeated', and somebody's '0' had to go. Thousands of fans travelled to Vegas to be with their hero. Some of them didn't even have tickets. That's a following.

After a good start, Hatton became more and more frustrated by his genius American opponent (not helped by referee Joe Cortez), Hatton lost composure and Mayweather took control, stopping the Manc warrior in the 10th round.

Two victories later, Hatton again travelled across the pond to fight another pound-for-pound superstar, Manny Pacquiao. This time, the British fighter was knocked unconscious in the second round. To this day, there aren't many more shocking sights to see than the abrupt and brutal end of Hatton's career. Sky's commentator at the time, Ian Darke, commented on the horrific sound that Hatton's fiancée Jennifer made when Ricky suffered the knockout blow. These types of endings will haunt a fighter for ever. It certainly did for Ricky Hatton.

Three years away from the ring can be a lifetime for a fighter, and after well documented troubles with depression, alcohol and substance abuse, it can seem even longer. But the Hitman announced recently that he is back.

He returns to the ring on 24 November 24, against an opponent yet to be named. Many writers, fighters and fans have wrote that it is a hiding to nothing and that it will only serve to hurt his legacy, but nobody knows what is in a fighters' heart except the fighter himself.

Hatton is looking fit, healthy and seems to have a new found purpose. He's got his mojo back, and reading his recent interviews with Boxing News and watching his press conferences, it's very easy to fall back in love with him. His Twitter account is funnier than most comedians' entire career.

But it's what happens when a world class fighter starts putting pressure on him again that matters. Will he fold, the nightmare of the Pacman defeat coming back to haunt him? Or will he grit his teeth and prove the naysayers wrong?

So many fighters have failed to do and turn back the clock and recapture past glories? Greater fighters have tried and failed, but fewer fighters will have the support that Ricky Hatton has. The crowds that sing 'Blue Moon' upon his ring entrance. The crowd that followed him from Manchester to Vegas for nights of magic.

Speaking to the great boxing writer Thomas Hauser in 2007, Hatton attempted to put into words what attracts people to him and his career:

"I think people watch me because I'm an exciting fighter," he said. "But I think they watch me too because they look on me as a mate. I get a huge rush when fans say how much they love me. But I don't expect people to roll out a red carpet for me when I walk down the street. I'm just a normal kid doing very well at what he does. My life is my family and friends and boxing. I like my food. I'll go to the pub for a few pints and to throw darts. There's two things you'll always get from me; an honest effort in the ring and an honest answer out of it. And I'm very lucky. There's nothing I want for in life."

These same people will inspire him to reach for those great heights again. We should all hope that he can. Boxing needs Ricky Hatton just as much as Ricky Hatton needs boxing.