Ricky Hatton has made official his November 24 return to boxing in Manchester, though no opponent has been named as of now, and opinions in and around boxing seem pretty well split.
Barry McGuigan and Oscar De La Hoya, for instance, have offered their support. Hatton's loyal army of fans have done the same in large numbers, buying tickets in big chunks immediately. Personally, I've been on board with the idea, so long as he's in shape, mentally and physically, and has the serious desire to get back in the ring.
Frank Warren, his former promoter, has advised against the return, and many fans are very skeptical of the comeback, and while I found Hatton's press conference speech pretty stirring, I have to admit that I also found it a bit troubling. He seemed almost too anxious at points -- as if he felt too much of a need to explain himself.
When one has to explain to that degree, it can give the impression that one knows something isn't quite right.
Joe Calzaghe, who retired undefeated a short while before Hatton's last fight, is one of those who thinks the "Hitman" shouldn't be coming back to the sport.
"Personally I like Ricky, I’ve known him for many years and the last thing I’d like to see is him getting hurt. I’d prefer Ricky not to box. He’s not going to get any better at the age of 33, but it’s his decision. ... No-one should be encouraging him to return and I just hope it doesn’t wind up being a big disappointment for him."
That is the real risk here -- it's not so much the physical damage could be done, because fighters risk that every time they go into the ring. That is, terrifyingly enough, part of being a boxer at all.
And honestly, I think these warnings and these worries could be right on target. When De La Hoya himself has been rumored for returns to boxing, which appear to be in the past now, I've personally thought it was a bad idea. Oscar had reportedly had some substance abuse issues, like Hatton has had, and both did some time in rehab, and I look at De La Hoya and I think, "Why come back? You're well off. You've just gotten over the sting of boxing being part of your past. Why risk it?"
And that's the risk for Hatton, too. To come back and suffer a disappointment could be devastating, and lead to a spiral for Ricky. I'm not talking about this because I think it's pleasant or fun to discuss, it's just something I think about with De La Hoya, so why not with Hatton as much?
Maybe it's that Ricky is younger. Or maybe it's that Ricky Hatton never became the part-time fighter that Oscar was for the last four or five years of his career. To me, Hatton suffering a bad KO against Manny Pacquiao isn't quite as bad as the fact that Oscar, who retired in 2009 himself, hasn't really been a full-time boxer since 2004. There's a big difference there.
Or maybe it's just that I like Ricky Hatton more than I like Oscar De La Hoya in most ways. I identify with Hatton -- blue collar fighter, working class image, all that bullshit. I never took to Oscar, really.
The announcement last Friday was enough to make me happy. The video teaser still gets me every time. I'm a big Ricky Hatton fan. And the more I dwell on this comeback, the more uneasy I become.
Perhaps it's just a fan's foolish hope that Ricky Hatton is making the right decision and isn't unwittingly walking himself into a buzzsaw. Right or wrong, we'll find out in two months' time.