Ricky Hatton has a reputation as one of the world’s fiercest fighters — and opponents are running scared. We met him as he prepared for the title fight that never happened, and found him talking as hard as he hits you wouldn’t expect to find a world champion forklift driver on an industrial estate on the outskirts of Stockport, let alone a world champion boxer. Yet that’s exactly where we found the Phoenix Camp, the gym that’s home to the UK’s most popular, most exciting and frankly best boxer — Ricky The Hitman’ Hatton.
After 12 defences of his light-welterweight title, Hatton is now keener than ever to hunt down the other champions in his division. He wants to prove, once and for all, that he is the real champion of the world. Unfortunately, the Hitman’s peers aren’t keen to comply. His record of 33 wins in 33 fights (including 24 knockouts) was so intimidating that his latest opponent — Kelson Pinto — never even stepped onto his flight from Brazil, citing various lightweight excuses for ducking out. Nonetheless, Hatton dispatched the last-minute replacement Dennis Pedersen with a sixth-round knockout — make that 34 wins out of 34 — but it’s just treading water to this man. He’s ready for the really big time.
You missed out on fighting Pinto. What’s next?
I’d hoped that beating Pinto would have got me a unification fight against Kostya Tszyu or Arturo Gatti. Tszyu is the best in the division and that’s where I want to be. I want to prove that I’m the best. But myself and Gatti are probably the two most exciting fighters in boxing, so that would be one hell of a ding-dong. I think it would be a fight I would be remembered for after I retired.
Boxing has so many different sanctioning bodies. Do you agree that the sport would be better off with just one?
Yes and no. I think the more belts there are the more opportunity there is and the more money there is to go around the fighters, which is a good thing. Not enough unification matches are held to find out who’s the greatest of all the champions.
Are there a lot of champions running scared from challengers?
Yeah. There are so many versions of the world title now that everyone can win their own belt, defend it God knows how many times and avoid the other champions, which is a shame.
Is it true you were a kick boxer first?
I tried it, but I was a bit too short. I was always having to get close to get my punches off and I was getting my head kicked in! I decided to try boxing instead. My talent was always in my fists.
You were very successful as an amateur, and turned pro at just 18. How did you find the transition to being a professional?
It was pretty easy really. It’s normally a big jump, but I’ve always trained as a professional. I was sparring with professionals from the age of 15. I was taught the professional way, bobbing, weaving and body punching.
A lot of people talk about your superior stamina and conditioning. What’s the secret?
So you must enjoy your training?
I love it. It sometimes gets boring, always doing the same thing, but I come from a good gym with a good bunch of lads. We all have a bit of banter. Everybody’s working towards their own goals. It’s hard work, but it’s fun as well.
Do you have light days and more intense days?
As the fight gets nearer, you have to have hard days where you push yourself to the limit, but you can’t train that hard every day, or the well goes dry. I feel sometimes too anxious, so I take 5htp dosage to increase my serotonin level. You’ve got to know when to have a bit of a wind down so you can build up again.