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There's still only one Ricky Hatton

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Ricky Hatton may have lost in stunning, destructive fashion against Manny Pacquiao, but boxing won't soon find another personality quite like him. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Ricky Hatton may have lost in stunning, destructive fashion against Manny Pacquiao, but boxing won't soon find another personality quite like him. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Ricky Hatton was dropped on a right hook. Moments later, a left hand put him back on the canvas. The worst was still to come when in the second round, his raging opponent, Manny Pacquiao, hit him with one of the greatest knockout shots in big fight history, a perfectly timed, thrown and placed left hand that sent Hatton crashing to the mat.

There was momentary fear that Hatton may have been hurt more than just hurt from a punch; that something could have gone wrong. When he was up, he was still dazed. A few minutes passed and he seemed to get his senses back, a relief to anyone watching.

One wonders if the pain of this crushing defeat will ever leave. Hatton has openly admitted to taking his first career loss, to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2007, very hard. "Crying in my beer, as they say," Hatton remarked on the latest version of HBO's "24/7," which gives the best-ever look into the lives of elite fighters as they near their next night of battle.

English fans have known Hatton for years now as one of their own, a brilliant young man who fights with a lion's heart. American fans, though, have only gotten to widely and truly know Ricky Hatton in the last few years, particularly thanks to the HBO Sports team and their great work on the aforementioned "24/7," which has depicted Hatton as a humble, hard-working, ferocious guy in the ring who also loves to cut loose, have a laugh and a beer, and just go about his life. He's a family man, with loving parents, a fighting brother, a young son, and a new fiancée.

In short, Hatton is an everyman most of his days. The fighting is his job, and it's a field where he's come to remarkable heights that few could have ever really expected -- even though he's now been solidly knocked from the mountain.

When Oscar de la Hoya recently announced his retirement, the question came immediately: Who replaces Oscar, the king of the big fight? If the early indicators are anywhere near correct, the answer just might be Manny Pacquiao, who may have earlier been thought to be too small or not easy enough to relate to for American fans.

But Oscar taught us his own lesson as he became the sport's most popular fighter: A lot of it is about image, and size doesn't matter at the bank so long as you've got something. For de la Hoya, it was matinee idol looks and an Olympic hero's pedigree. For Pacquiao, it might be the level of awe he inspires; Oscar even at his best never had a moment like Pacquiao just had, where he so fiercely overwhelmed a top foe that you were left to wonder, "Who the hell is going to beat this guy? He's amazing!"

Ricky Hatton, though, played a huge role in this fight being the success it appears to have been. People may debate his credentials, his record, and his skills, but if you tell me there's no part of you that just likes Ricky Hatton, I have to wonder how that's possible. His image was never manufactured; he is who he is. He's as real as they come, flaws and all.

Hatton, now 30, will likely think retirement, though I still don't believe he will actually retire straight off. The days of the "Hitman," the fighting pride of Manchester, England, coming to Las Vegas and headlining mega cards are now over barring some amazing career rejuvenation. But he will remain a star so long as he fights on with his usual level of class, humor and pride.

Ricky Hatton is not among the greatest fighters of his generation. He's a little bit under that mark. But tell me this: Who takes his place? Who's going to bring 25,000 fans, most of whom can't even get a ticket to the fight, from England to Vegas? Whose fans are going to pound drums and sing their guts out, creating the most electric atmosphere I've yet seen for any fight (Mayweather-Hatton)?

He may once again feel as though he's let his fans down, but I guarantee they'll sing on for him. He had the guts to take this chance again, even after being so roughly defeated the first time. Hatton doesn't owe anyone an explanation or an excuse. He lost, and he lost bad, but he tried. He went into the ring. He took those thunderous blows from Pacquiao.

Hatton was once pretty much just "a British fighter," an import for those of us in the States. He became a global superstar, a beloved figure in the sport, with fans all across the world. Whatever Ricky Hatton decides to do, I give him a wide nod on my judges' scorecard in the battle of Hatton versus career expectations. He won that one with ease.

He's earned every bit of his fortune. Even Frank Warren, who had a nasty split with Hatton a few years back, gives Hatton his just due for always going that extra mile for his fans, in and out of the ring. And even after two gutting defeats, there's still only one Ricky Hatton. There won't soon be another figure in boxing too much like him, I don't believe.