Ricky Hatton's return to boxing is coming soon, with an official announcement to be made Friday for a November 24 fight at MEN Arena in Manchester, and for the first time, an opponent has been rumored.
The Daily Star speculates that Lovemore N'dou, a gritty veteran who was to face Hatton five years ago, could be the comeback opponent for the "Hitman," who will turn 34 in a few weeks and has not fought since 2009.
Ndou said: "I have unfinished business with Hatton because he gave up his title instead of facing me."
Hatton (45-2, 32 KO) is expected to face someone on this level if not N'dou, and it's the right call. Ricky is supposedly really geared up for this, and we know he's gotten himself into physical shape recently, but three and a half years is a lot of rust to shake, too.
N'dou (49-13-2, 31 KO) is a former brief junior welterweight titlist, winning the IBF belt against Naoufel Ben Rabah in February 2007, and losing it four months later by wide decision to Paulie Malignaggi. He lost again to Malignaggi in 2008 on the Hatton vs Lazcano card, but was far more competitive in that bout, and then moved up to welterweight.
As a welterweight, N'dou has gone 3-2-1, beating Phillip N'dou, Bongani Mwelase, and most recently Gairy St. Clair, but losing clear decisions to Kermit Cintron and Kell Brook, while also going to a draw with Ricky's younger brother, Matthew Hatton. During that stretch he also lost a catchweight bout against Canelo Alvarez, and wasn't competitive.
In other words, N'dou is experienced, durable (he's never been stopped), and still game enough to beat guys who aren't top fighters or even second-tier fighters, but he's not a big puncher, he's not a top talent himself, and at 41 he's winding down what has been a solid career.
He would make perfect sense as a Hatton opponent, really. It's safe but not so safe that you can't learn anything about Hatton's comeback idea -- to put it in perspective a little, this isn't the sort of junk that Jermain Taylor and Andre Dirrell did last December on ShoBox, where they faced guys who had very little value in the position. N'dou would come to fight and to win. He's not at his best anymore, and he's not a contender, but he's still no easy out, and if he gives Hatton serious trouble, there could be valid second thoughts about Ricky going any further in the return.