Ricky Hatton returns to the ring tomorrow in Manchester for his first fight in over three years, facing a solid test in former welterweight titlist Vyacheslav Senchenko. Will the rabid Hatton fans see the 'Hitman' of old, or is the comeback doomed?
I'm predicting a Joe Frazier type comeback for Ricky Hatton here, outcome included. Hatton just won't have it anymore. I usually don't like predicting a guy is shot but I've just got a gut feeling here. I did not like what I saw of his physical appearance in his "Road to Redemption" documentary. But if Hatton is just 70% of what he used to be he'll beat Vyacheslav Senchenko. If he's 80% he'll stop Senchenko. I just seriously doubt he has that much left. Because Senchenko is much taller than Hatton, speed and power will be needed to overcome that (I doubt Hatton's technical skills are going to help much). I also doubt Hatton will be as fast as he used to be. But the power should still be there, not that it was ever a lot at 147 to begin with. Hatton needs to rely on volume and it's unlikely he'll be able to maintain the output of old. I'm thinking we'll see a 50-60% Hatton and the fight will end up a draw (perhaps a bit controversially where Senchenko walks away feeling cheated). As a Hatton fan I actually hope I'm wrong. Draw.
I don't imagine Hatton is going to look like the superstar of old. It's been too long since he's been in the ring and he wasn't exactly on top of the world in terms of being an athlete during his time off. I still figure he wins here, Senchenko was picked for a reason. But I see some ugly moments for Hatton where he's just not able to do the things he wants to with the ease he expects. Still, Hatton should win by decision here and that's a good thing because the boxing world is always a little more fun when the "There's only one Ricky Hatton" chants are booming. Hatton by decision.
Ricky looked as good as one could hope at the weigh-in, but there are still open questions as to how his body will respond to being back in a real fight. Senchenko isn't a brute, and doesn't pose a big threat to Hatton in terms of a physical pounding, but the No. 1 question, to me, is if Ricky Hatton still has his legs. If he doesn't, then there's a solid chance that Senchenko can get his jab working, as he never did against Paulie Malignaggi, and dictate where and how this fight is fought. If Hatton's body is responding well, and he's in shape as much as he appears to be, I think he takes this fight. Even 70% of the old Ricky Hatton should be too good for Senchenko, even considering Hatton's not all that great a welterweight and wasn't even years ago when he was in his prime. But Senchenko certainly isn't Floyd Mayweather, and he's not Luis Collazo, either. He's a steady, stable fighter who can do his job.
In short, Hatton made a wise choice with this opponent. If he can't convincingly defeat Senchenko, he probably shouldn't be pursuing this comeback. As big a fan of Ricky Hatton as I am, though (and I'm not going to pretend I'm not), and as hard as I'm rooting for the fairy tale comeback, my gut feeling is he's going to struggle mightily in this fight. It will go the distance, and 10 rounds is going to seem an awful long time to Hatton by the seventh or so. Senchenko will have an argument to have won this fight. But, ladies and gentleman, we will have a split decision... Hatton by controversial split decision.
Whether it's simply that I've somehow been swept away with the romanticism of the big comeback idea remains to be seen, but over the past few weeks I've come round to the notion that this might be a fairly straightforward night's work for Ricky Hatton.
That is, at least, the Hatton of old, the only real template we all have to base these opinions on. Senchenko is solid enough, but he's tailor-made for that guy we remember - relatively static, plodding, predictable. All the noises coming from Hatton have been confident, sure of himself, comfortable with his camp. That doesn't necessarily mean it translates into the ring. Hatton won't look as flashy as Malignaggi did in doing much the same job, but it'll be enough to silence the doubters, and enough for a first step back. A stoppage could come between 8-10, but I'll go Hatton by wide UD.
I feel this is a sensible opponent for Hatton to fight in his comeback. Senchenko is a good fighter but he's not a massive puncher and can be easy to hit at times. The main problem Hatton will have is getting on the inside, Senchenko has a big reach advantage and a stiff jab, which could cause Hatton problems early, especially if Hatton struggles to find his rhythm due to ring rust.
No-one knows how Hatton will look until he's in the ring and trading blows again. My gut feeling is that he'll have enough to beat Senchenko in a tough fight but his comeback as a whole may not be as successful as he'd want it to be. It'll be a good fight, and a close one, but I'm picking Hatton to be carried to a points victory by his adoring and vociferous fans. Hatton by decision.
Final Tally: Ricky Hatton 4, Vyacheslav Senchenko 0, Draw 1.