Ricky Hatton's Last Hurrah
I don't know who's wisdom it is or when it was uttered but someone once said "always leave them wanting more".
James Dean. Kurt Kobain. Heath Ledger. Marilyn Monroe. Freddy Mercury. JFK. Jimi Hendrix.
The list could go on and be a near-exhaustive collection of some of the most talented people to have lived in the past 50 years. These people are remembered and celebrated so faithfully not because they grew old and their spark of talent faded into distant memory but rather because they abruptly vanished while at their zenith, forever emblazoning themselves onto the cultural tapestry.
I turn now to Ricky Hatton, the polar opposite of the names discussed above.
Following his defeat by KO after being pummelled by the large Ukranian paws of Vyacheslav Senchenko (no, I don't know how to correctly pronounce it either) there has been a deluge of articles in various widely read papers celebrating the boxer's career and praising his honesty in the post fight press-conference. In the address to the media a bruised Hitman finally admitted "I haven't got it any more". That this is to be considered a revelation astounds me. My only memories of Hatton in recent years include his defeats at the hands of Mayweather and Pacquiao, accounts in the press of his habit to binge-eat, booze and bloat between fights and one sequence on soccer AM where he raced Chris Kamara to down 3 pints of full fat milk (he was defeated at this also!). Memories like this not only make me scoff at his revelation that he no longer has it but even make me question whether he ever had it. I'm unmoved by a fighter as ill-disciplined as Hatton - for me a top boxer should immerse themselves in the lifestyle of precise nutrition and ruthless training whether they have an impending fight or not. A fighter’s body must be their temple - the harsh reality is that Hatton's temple was the public house, taking Communion with a larger donner kebab and a cold pint of larger. Maybe I'm being overly flippant here. Even so, the celebration of Hatton as some odd form of tragic hero who has finally become conscious of the flaws of his character seems over the top to me. Jake LaMota as portrayed in Scorsese's 'Raging Bull' is a tragic boxer - Hatton's story seems to me to be vaguely comic, embodying the slobbish, lazy culture of indifference and inaction which is so widespread in this country. Fundamentally this comeback fight was an attempt to relive his glory days which have long since faded away, while lining his pockets at the expense of his faithful horde of Manchunians. Sometimes you just need to realise when to cut-and-run and unfortunately it seems like this process has taken Hatton the best part of half a decade.
Last summer we witnessed an example of sporting greatness Hatton should have followed. With one of his final touches of the ball Chelsea's Didier Drogba won them the Champion's League - the most coveted prize in club football. Knowing that from that point he would never relive such success and that from that point it would be a slow decline, the Ivorian left his club, his adoring fans and European football altogether to pursue a career in Shanghai. I find this decision highly commendable and he has without question engraved himself into the club's history. A British boxer in recent memory who quit while he was ahead was Joe Calzaghe, forever to be remembered as a truly great fighter. Kurt Kobain said in his suicide note "it's better to burn out than to fade away" - in my opinion Hatton has very much faded away, my memory of him being that fighter who wore himself out by the fifth round against an opponent I'd never heard of.