Chasing Nostalgia: How Boxers Easily Deceive Themselves and Others

It's not unusual in sports to have the typical story of the comeback kid. In boxing, comebacks and multiple retirements are about as common as Brett Favre retiring and coming back to the NFL. Sugar Ray Leonard's first retirement happened in 1982 at the age of 25. A detached retina after his classic war with Thomas Hearns sent him into the throws of an early post-boxing existence. Years of self-conflict and substance abuse plagued Leonard because he no longer had a reason to stay above the trappings of financial success and fame. When athletes retire, some too soon, they often find themselves aimlessly plodding through a life so alien to individuals used to being in a world filled with praise, money, achievement, and celebration. When the thrill is gone as they say, so too is the will to embark on a second life wind; at least for a lot of athletes.

In 1987 Sugar Ray Leonard comeback to fight Marvin Hagler, the middleweight champion of the world. But even after yet another career defining bout Sugar Ray Leonard would retire and comeback a few times too many. Finally, against Terry Norris and Hector Camacho the once flashy and skillful Ray Leonard realized his time had truly come and gone. No amount of attention seeking comebacks or theatrical grandstanding, of which he had been known for through his legendary career could mask the obvious reality that afforded Ray two harsh beatings from Norris and Camacho. He gave it up after those fights and in so doing gave up the allure of being the center of attention.

Ricky Hatton is going to announce his comeback on Friday and the opponent apparently will be Lovemore N'dou. But beyond that what exactly is there for the one they called the Hitman? After losing to the two best fighters he's ever faced, and the two best fighters within his realm of 140-147, how realistic is it to assume Ricky Hatton will comfortably insert himself back into the mix where he could conceivably win a world title? The 147 pound division is chocked full of guys who would beat Ricky Hatton. The name thrown around the most by fans and media is Paulie Malignaggi, who was conveniently brought up on a consistent basis as the more plausible path for Ricky to regain a world title seeing that he beat Paulie a few years ago. But even that has some question marks attached to it. Keep in mind one must assume Paulie's rebound as of late is solid, not superficial, and that he would have a better sense on how to fight Ricky in a rematch. Also, I don't necessarily believe that Paulie would be a walk over for a 33 year old, three years inactive past his prime Ricky Hatton.

Their first fight was about Ricky proving he still had something left after Floyd Mayweather knocked him out. Then he went on to face Manny Pacquiao and we all know what happened to him in that fight. If he beats N'Dou, which is likely, and he fights Malignaggi next and beats him; what then? A rematch with Floyd or a rematch with Pacquiao? I don't see Ricky beating the younger welterweights because all of them are faster, more skillful, and more talented.

What does he have left to prove? He's a well-respected multi-millionaire hall of fame bound warrior who became a super star. He's been out of the game for three years and I doubt he's gotten any better than he was when he was in his prime. When you are who you are and other guys in your weight division are not only younger but more skillful and have more tools in their shed than you, comebacks can be a bit irrational; at least meaningful ones.

I heard this had more to do with Sky basically telling other promoters to kick rocks in favor of a long term deal with Matchroom Sports and Eddie Hearn. According to sources over in the UK Ricky felt compelled to comeback because without the Sky deal his promotional company's future was looking uncertain. If that's true then it's unfortunate because I thought Ricky was doing well as a promoter. But sometimes the fight game can be as brutal and cruel to promoters as it can be to fighters.

I don't like this comeback for Hatton because I believe he'll find out real quick he can't make hay in the 2012 welterweight division. Can he make 140? Who knows but I doubt he can anymore. He had weight problems in his prime so imagine the hurdles he would have making 140 today. 154 is beyond his reach physically and talent wise because most of the junior middleweights would beat him. Could we finally get Cotto v Hatton? I mean I guess but at what weight limit? Cotto said he ain't touching anything south of 154 so maybe at a catchweight of 150? Could Ricky Hatton make 150 to fight Cotto? I would like that fight if it absolutely had to be made, and it doesn't but then again Cotto v Hatton at the Garden would be huge.

I don't know, I rolled my eyes when I first heard the rumors a few months ago because I honestly believe he has nothing left to prove nor does he have a clear path to a successful multi-fight comeback. Maybe one or two big fights after N'Dou but that's it.

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