Ricky Hatton longs to hear the roar of the crowd one last time.
It’s why the 44-year-old Mancunian boxing icon, long retired from competitive sport, is returning to the ring for an exhibition with Marco Antonio Barrera on November 12, live on Sky Sports.
He wants to recreate his famous ring entrance and reconnect with his fans at the Manchester Arena, the site of his career-best victory over Kostya Tszyu in 2005.
“My ringwalks are always very special. The ringwalk was the one thing that I miss from boxing,” he told Sky Sports.
“For any boxer when he comes out the changing room and does that walk to the ring, it’s the most nerve-wracking thing. When you retire, that’s the one thing you miss.
“That adrenalin rush, the roar from the crowd, that nervousness as you’re making your ringwalk. It’s the most nerve-wracking thing of any fighter’s preparation before the fight. But when it’s gone you miss it and I’m going to get the chance to feel it again so I can’t wait.
“My fighting days are behind me,” he added. “There’s very little risk involved. I think that’s what fight fans worry about when fighters make comebacks. They’re worried about seeing their heroes get beat or hurt.
“They don’t want to see the champions of yesteryear getting bashed up.
“With an exhibition, there’s very little chance of that happening. You’ve got the big gloves, less rounds and there’s an understanding with two professionals.
“It’s a celebration.”
The event gives him the chance to put Barrera through his paces. “Ultimately I’m a fan. I always knew how good he was. It’s going to be an absolute pleasure to share the ring with him and find out just how good he actually was first-hand. That’s a treat for myself,” Hatton said.
“It goes without saying, if you’re a boxing fan, you’re a Barrera fan.”
He committed to training for the show they intend to put on. “It’s given me a goal and a target, something to set my focus on, it’s kept me in the gym,” he said.
“Everyone knows the story with my mental health, I’ve had problems with drink, drugs and depression.
“My mental health is bang on track but my physical health has never been better and it’s going to stay that way.”
That crucial change, Hatton explains, has come about from preparing for this.
“I shifted a load of weight but more importantly I think it’s ended up being a lifestyle change for me. I never cared back in the day with putting too much weight on. Because deep down I knew in six or seven weeks I’d be back in training for my next fight,” he said.
“There are not many training camps I’m going to be going back into anymore so this is going to be a lifestyle change.
“I don’t intend going back to ‘Ricky Fatton’. Absolutely not, for the sake of my health. I got down from 15 stone to 11 and a half stone. I can’t keep doing that. I can’t keep dragging someone out of retirement for an exhibition every time I want to get some weight off. Things have got to change now.”
As a fighter he was famous, or to sports nutritionists notorious, for fluctuating enormously in weight between training camps. He doesn’t necessarily regret that. “I don’t think I would change it,” he said. “Because I think that’s what people loved about me.”
That however is a habit he won’t allow the boxers he now trains to replicate.
“I wouldn’t let any of my fighters or my son [pro boxer Campbell Hatton] do it,” he insisted.
“I won’t be doing my job if I bring the next batch of future champions through telling them to do what I did. I wouldn’t change it, but they won’t be getting away with that with Ricky Hatton in the corner.”
What so many really loved about him was how they related to him. While he was a boxing superstar, he was still a man of the people. He had a unique connection with his supporters, and wants to serve up a reminder of those days in this exhibition on November 12.
“I think the fans are going to love it, it’ll be massively exciting,” Hatton said. “I worked hard all my life to have the fanbase that I did, I had the fanbase I did because I was exciting.
“The fans will go away loving this again, I like to think they’ve loved my fights over the years.”
The Manchester Arena too is the perfect venue for rekindling old memories.
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“It’s like a second home, the Manchester Arena because of all the great fights and champions that have been there. There was me there, Anthony Crolla was there, Mike Tyson boxed there years ago, David Haye’s boxed there, Carl Froch boxed there, Naseem Hamed boxed there,” Hatton said.
“The history of the fights and the people that have boxed there, it’s a little like the UK Madison Square Garden.
“For me to go where there was the biggest victory of my career against Kostya Tszyu, I can’t really put that into words.
“It’ll be an emotional one. But I’ll hold it together.”
Sky Sports will televise a full fight night, headlined by Natasha Jonas vs Marie-Eve Dicaire, before Ricky Hatton’s exhibition with Marco Antonio Barrera on Saturday November 12.