Ricky Hatton could have chosen an easy opponent. He didn't. And despite a fair start and a big effort, the gas tank just wasn't there for a full fight against a solid opponent, and Vyacheslav Senchenko ended the comeback bid in the ninth round, knocking Hatton out with a left hook body shot.
Hatton (45-3, 34 KO) was out of the ring for over three years, and looked rusty, with some poor timing, but the real issues came in the middle rounds, as Hatton's stamina was tested, and it just wasn't there. Hatton kept swinging, and kept missing more and more, particularly with wild left hooks, while Senchenko's counter shots were landing harder and harder.
The body shot was perfectly placed, and Hatton fought hard to rise to his feet, but just couldn't do it. Referee Victor Loughlin counted to ten as the stunned Manchester crowd watched their hero's career likely end -- or at least, that should be the end.
After the fight, though, Hatton, interviewed by Primetime in the UK, didn't commit to a retirement or another fight, but for all the world it sounded like he was more considering another fight:
"I thought I was maybe four rounds up. But there were obviously clear signs of ring rust. I hit him a couple of times, and I tried to sit down on my shots, but they were miles away. You expect that a little bit. For my first one back in over three years, I put myself through hell. I'm really heartbroken, because I worked so hard to get my life back together. I felt like I was winning and was nearly home, and for one shot... I'm absolutely heartbroken."
Hatton also said, through tears, that he was sorry to his fans for letting them down. The obvious emotion of the moment understandably overcame him, but for whatever it's worth, which may be nothing, Ricky Hatton has nothing to be ashamed of in my opinion. He fought hard, fought as well as he could, and he did what he wanted to do, only falling short in the end. The accomplishment of coming back is something in itself. Most fighters wouldn't do as well as he did, and he purposely picked an opponent who could beat him on this night. That's what happened, but it sure wasn't for a lack of effort.
And I agree with Hatton: For being out of the ring for three and a half years, he wasn't bad.
I don't know if he'll continue. I don't think he should, but that's just my opinion. If he does, then all I can say is best of luck to him. And if he doesn't, all I can say is best of luck to him.
And congratulations to Vyacheslav Senchenko, whose own career gets a boost, and this could be a win that leads him to another world title crack in time, if he wants one. He fought smart, learned Hatton's rhythms, and won the fight with a great punch. That will be overlooked, but Senchenko absolutely deserves credit for the win tonight.