Ricky Hatton returns to the ring for exhibition with Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera in Manchester

Ricky Hatton returned to the ring to face fellow boxing legend Marco Antonio Barrera in an exhibition at the AO Arena in Manchester on Saturday.

“There’s only one Ricky Hatton.” The chant reverberated around the stands before the man himself had even appeared for one last time at his beloved Manchester Arena.

The venue had been the site of some of his greatest nights, including his historic victory over Kostya Tszyu, as well as a bitter comeback that ended in defeat to Vyacheslav Senchenko 10 years ago.

Hatton motors through his exhibition with Barrera

But this occasion was not a comeback. It was an exhibition, really a celebration so Hatton and his fans could remember the good times one last time. They could cheer for their hero and sing ‘Blue Moon’ once again as Hatton made his iconic ringwalk.

In Marco Antonio Barrera, a legend of Mexican boxing himself, Hatton had a real friend and the ideal foil for this eight two-minute round exhibition with 16-ounce gloves and without a winner or a loser.

What it did have was a lot of noise and a deafening roar went up as Hatton held his arms up to his crowd.

In a nice touch veteran referee Mickey Vann came out of retirement to be the man in the middle one last time himself.

He wasn’t given much to do as Hatton manoeuvred on to the front foot and began to ply Barrera with jabs, push him back and look for a trademark punch to the body.

Barrera is now 48 years old, to Hatton’s 44, but hadn’t entirely forgotten himself as a fighter, bringing Hatton on to a short but flush right before the end of their first round.

Hatton whipped a left hook across to the chin, only for Barrera to screw his lead uppercut into the Mancunian’s jaw.

Neither was losing control but each wanted to remind the other that there was a real, if old, fighter still in there.

Hatton saw an opening for his right hook and flung that with gusto. He began to inject more power into his punches, his face set in a serious scowl even as a band in the crowd led the cheers around him

Neither was afraid to trade sharp blows

He worked Barrera suddenly on the ropes and would put him under pressure. Barrera summoned up his reserves to catch out Hatton with the occasional response.

They traded meaty punches in the last round too, each making sure to finish with a flourish as they let their hands go.

Hatton in particular motored through these eight rounds. He had shown just how far he’d come from the days of ballooning in weight and his own struggles with mental health. That was the issue he’d wanted to raise and champion through this event.

Mickey Vann raised the hands of both men and the crowd stood as one to applaud.

“I wondered how it was going to go, me and Marco are friends, but with such a big crowd getting behind me I wondered if it would get a bit heated. But it was good, entertaining, I think everything we wanted,” Hatton said afterwards.

“I’ve done a lot of good things in boxing, my win over Kostya Tszyu, my fights in Las Vegas, but this is up there with one of the best.”

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