Ricky Hatton used to live by the body shot. His comeback bid died by it Saturday, as Vyacheslav Senchenko stopped Hatton on Showtime with a left hook liver punch in the 9th round of a fight that Hatton might've won on the scorecards if he'd made it one more round.
Hatton wouldn't say afterward whether he would continue his boxing career, but he was in tears and sounded like he realized he should hang up the gloves.
It all started so nicely. Before a decibel meter-shattering crowd of 20,000 fans, he made his usual electrifying ring entrance to the tune of "Blue Moon," and was ahead over the early rounds. There were close ones in there, for sure, but he was applying some of his trademark pressure and landing a lot of punches that would send Senchenko off balance. But the punches didn't seem to do any lasting damage. Perhaps that's because Hatton has always been a case study how a few pounds can make an enormous difference in how good a fighter is, and Hatton has been a subpar welterweight, where he fought Saturday.
And there were other ominous signs over those early rounds. Hatton was suffering from ring rust after a three year layoff, clearly, and his reflexes weren't what they used to be. Nor were they ever that good. Senchenko was landing at will on the wide open Hatton, and if he was more aggressive, maybe he would've dropped or stopped Hatton earlier, especially after Hatton began to fade as the rounds elapsed. Hatton's plan to fight more defensively disappeared as quickly as a beer in the hard-drinking Mancunian's hand. Senchenko was increasingly beating up the tiring Hatton with his jab, and landing flush right hands and left hooks. Senchenko fought well, and with a toughness he didn't show in his loss to Paulie Malignaggi.
The end came in the 9th on the kind of liver shot that would do in a lot of fighters, let alone a man who has abused his body so badly over the years. At the time of the stoppage, Hatton was ahead by four points on one card and one point on the other two cards. The 9th was another close one, and while I had Senchenko ahead, the British judges did not and might not have no matter what happened in the 10th.
Although it ended poorly, it was a respectable enough comeback loss. He might have been a bit ambitious in his choice of return opponent, but if he can't beat the likes of Senchenko — who will earn himself another big fight off this win, as he's got a "name" now and is vulnerable — he can't get back to that world class level he said he came back to obtain. Nor was the respectable loss enough to make me want to see Hatton in the ring again. If he keeps chasing a happy ending, each loss might be that much more devastating. Hatton has plenty going for himself outside the ring, and a sterling career inside has plenty to make him and his family proud. It's time to walk away for good from being a professional boxer.