The Hatton family have football in their blood so it was a puzzle for them all when along came a young dynamo who grew up to be one of Britain’s boxing greats.
Richard ‘Ricky’ Hatton is the son and grandson of two Manchester City players with the game and the club written across their hearts, so how come their tough little offspring took to boxing like a duck to water?
The answer lies in Hatton’s genes and a feisty character called Richard ‘Spider’ Hatton, the great uncle whose cherubic appearance belied a reputation as one of 1920s Manchester’s best bare-knuckle fighters.
From an early age, Stockport-born Ricky took a liking to kick-boxing but by the time he was ten he was entering the real boxing ring for the first time and setting out on a career that would take him from the dizzy heights of sporting glory to the depths of despair and the brink of suicide.
Now, after four world championship titles, including one of the greatest ever wins by a British boxer over welterweight champion Kostya Tszyu, an MBE and two years of battling depression, drink and drugs, the 35-year-old is ready to spill the beans on his turbulent life story and how he has finally found something close to peace.
This hard-hitting, brutally honest and yet exhilarating story of the rise and fall and rise of a much-loved boxing legend is a must read for all boxing fans, revealing the man behind the gloves and the gum shield, the fighter who went to hell and back and survived a lifetime of wars both in and out of the ring.
From his first round, young Ricky was hooked. ‘The harder the fight, the more I loved it,’ he recalls. What started out as fun became a serious sport and he would spend hours practising punches, feints and footwork in the specially built gym in the cellar of his dad’s pub in Hyde.
His determination, his career and his success blossomed. From a Manchester council estate to the bright lights of Las Vegas, Ricky Hatton went on to experience a series of incredible highs in his career until heavy defeats to two legends of the ring, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, brought him down to earth with a bump… and unforeseen repercussions.
For the first time in his boxing career, Hatton was reduced to tears and couldn’t face going back into the training and dieting that used to come to him so easily. Slowly but surely he descended into a devastating spiral of depression, drink and drugs.
He admits he was on ‘a suicide mission. I just wanted to self-destruct’ and on several occasions he was only millimetres from slitting his wrists with a kitchen knife.
But with the love of his wife Jennifer and their three children and the support of former Arsenal captain Tony Adams’ Sporting Chance help group, Hatton has learned to cope with his problems and his depression.
He has regrets, some of them still raw and painful, but through it all, Ricky Hatton has remained the same charismatic, funny, passionate and eloquent man, a true fighter who has always retained the love and loyalty of raucous boxing fans.
Defeat has also thrown up other rewards. Hatton has finally found ‘a happy place’ and can look forward again to the next 20 years.
‘Onwards and upwards’ is his new fighting talk…
(Macmillan, hardback, £20)