Sky Sports' Jim Watt and ESPN's Kieran Mulvaney both penned nice tributes to the retired Ricky Hatton today, remembering the Mancunian star as a personality as much as a fighter, whose appeal will last ages beyond his days in the ring.
"Ricky boxed with great style throughout his career. Even when he wasn't right on top of his game, he was never involved in a boring fight; he was genuine value for money. ... I prefer to remember him as a great fighter and a good guy whose head never disappeared up his backside; no matter what he achieved he never thought he was Mr Wonderful. You always got the impression that if you met him in a pub you could go over and talk to him - he was that approachable. As an all-round good guy who made it to the very top he will be held forever in very high esteem for the rest of his life, I would imagine, and rightly so."
And Mulvaney added this:
"They could identify with him, for a start. He was one of them. When he wasn't training, he liked to have a few drinks -- quite a few, in fact, blowing up in weight so rapidly after fights it was as if someone opened a valve and allowed air to rush into his body. It was an attitude to life that likely shortened his career, but he accepted it as part of who he was, mocking himself as "Ricky Fatton" and on occasion wearing fat suits to the ring.
"That was another reason fans flocked to him -- and, candidly, why reporters enjoyed covering him. Ricky Hatton was -- is -- funny, possessed of that calm, self-deprecating wit at which the English excel. His home reportedly featured fewer photographs of other boxers than it did of Bernard Manning -- a legendarily politically incorrect Manchester comedian."
It's not to say that Ricky Hatton didn't have a terrific career in the ring, because he did. But his connection to his fans was something you just don't see a lot anymore, in boxing or any sport, but particularly in boxing. His fans weren't always boxing fans in general (most probably weren't really boxing fans at all, to be honest), but he made a mark on the British public and many in other parts of the world simply because he was an honest, normal guy, funnier and more relaxed than most fighters are, a blue collar everyman who represented "the people."
Ricky Hatton was not some incredible talent that mere mortals could only dream of being. He wasn't born with immense physical gifts. Rather, he was a little fat guy who fought his way to the top of the sport, took real risks, and made himself a star through a desire to be the best. He never did quite reach the holiest of the grails, but he did pretty damn well for himself, and his popularity is unlikely to fade in his retirement. There really is only one Ricky Hatton, and the UK will not soon find a fighter to replace his giant personality and mass appeal.