Iconic British boxing superstar Ricky Hatton faded badly over the second half of his comeback fight and was stopped by Vyacheslav Senchenko in the ninth round in Manchester, England.
Hatton fought well over the first half of the fight and put enough pressure on his opponent to keep him from establishing any sort of rhythm.
But by the midpoint of the bout, it became clear that the long layoff—Hatton hadn't fought in three-and-a-half years—was taking its toll.
With his activity slowing and Senchenko landing more and more hard shots, the bout seemed to be turning in favor of the Ukrainian former champion.
Then a lethal left hook to the liver ended affairs in the ninth round. Hatton dropped to a knee and failed to beat the count before collapsing to the mat in obvious pain.
Comeback over. Career likely over as well.
Many will rightly point out that a loss to Senchenko is nothing one should feel shame over. This guy is a world-class fighter who has never been knocked down and was a world champion as recently as this year.
He isn't a club-fighter. Or a journeyman. He's a legitimate welterweight contender, and even more so with this win.
When the fight was announced, many in the boxing press quickly questioned the decision to return against an opponent of this caliber.
Most felt that Hatton would be better served with a soft touch for his comeback rather than a world-class champion.
But boxing is a business and names matter. A win would've certainly propelled Hatton into a world-title challenge some time next year, likely against Paulie Malignaggi.
Many fighters walk away from boxing (as in other sports) only to question their decision at a later date.
Some return and show flashes of their former form. Far too many others come back as a shell of their former selves.
Boxing is unique in this regard.
If a baseball player comes back and no longer has it, there is little harm. In boxing, when you're literally taking your life in your hands with every punch, the consequences can be far more severe.
Ricky Hatton walked away from the sport after getting knocked out by Manny Pacquiao in the second round of their 2009 bout.
He embodied the hopes and dreams of a British boxing community that in recent years has seen several high-profile, potential stars, most notably Amir Khan, fall off.
Hatton is a champion who wears his heart on his sleeve, and his pride got in his way tonight.
While a fight against Senchenko made financial sense, given his position in the division if he won, it made little boxing sense.
It's a fight he should never have taken—at least not until he took measure of himself against a lesser opponent.
Hatton was ahead on the scorecards at the time of the knockout, but he clearly wasn't ready for this level of competition. And that's not a slight—it's a fact.
This should be a cautionary tale for fighters going forward. If you're going to retire, be certain.
And if you're not certain and do come back, take it slow.
You can only fight the man in front of you. But sometimes, the biggest fight is against yourself.
That was the case for Ricky Hatton tonight, and he paid for it.