Friends and legends will share the ring when Ricky Hatton and Marco Antonio Barrera stage an exhibition at the AO Arena in Manchester on Saturday.
Although there will be a competitive undercurrent when the two put their gloves back on for what could be Hatton’s farewell appearance at the Manchester Arena, Barrera is proud to see how the “Hitman” has conditioned himself to recapture some of the magic of old.
“I’m very shocked at Ricky’s transformation and very proud of him, very happy,” Barrera said.
“I’m very honoured to be a small part of his transformation knowing that the exhibition came through and he started focusing on his health.
“We saw him four months ago at Tyson Fury’s fight and he was a completely different person to what we see today and we’re very proud and very happy.”
It means Hatton will be able to show off the hard-won skills he acquired over the course of a boxing career that saw him dethrone Kostya Tszyu at the Manchester Arena and take a legion of fans with him to Las Vegas for his super-fights with Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
“That’s where I think the competitiveness comes in the exhibition. Because we’re two very, very proud fighters. I want to go there and do myself justice, just like Marco’s going to want to go and do himself justice,” Hatton said.
Barrera is 48 years old, four years Hatton’s senior, and a veteran of epic rivalries with Erik Morales, Pacquiao and more.
Legends like Barrera and Hatton don’t fully forget themselves.
“I think I speak for Marco in the sense that we were very, very proud fighters,” Hatton said.
“We fought for our people and we wore our hearts on our sleeves in the boxing ring. It’s personal pride. When you’ve been in the fights that we’ve been in and done what we’ve done, we don’t want anybody walking away from that arena on Saturday night and going, ‘wasn’t that a load of rubbish? That was sending me to sleep.’
“That’s not going to happen. The fans always loved me because of my exciting style and I think that’s why they loved Marco as well.
“It’ll be an exhibition and it’ll be structured and there’ll be no liberties taken or anything like that. But me and Marco will make it exciting because we wouldn’t want it to be any other way.
“Because that’s the kind of fighters we are.”
Watch the Hatton and Barrera exhibition this Saturday live on Sky Sports Arena and Sky Sports Main Event from 10pm.