Popular British prizefighter Ricky Hatton's return to the ring was an unsuccessful one, as the 34-year-old suffered a ninth-round knockout defeat to Vyacheslav Senchenko on Saturday, November 24 at the Manchester Arena.
It was a venue where the body-punching pressure-fighter had previously been undefeated on 13 other occasions, but even the 20,000 partisan fans in attendance could not spur Hatton (45-3-0, 32 KO) on to victory.
While the image of a bruised and tearful Hitman contemplating the wisdom of his short-lived comeback may be lasting, especially when coupled with his shocking concussion when he traded heavy leather with Filipino phenom Manny Pacquiao three years ago, it will by no means define a legacy that also included a clutch of great victories, championship reigns in two weight divisions and the ability to draw a loyal legion of chanting fans to public workouts, weigh-ins and the gate.
Now, let's look back fondly at five of Hatton's most memorable winning performances…
Kostya Tszyu (June 4, 2005)
Russian/Australian light welterweight Tszyu had his fist immortalized in dental cast in 2011 when he was inducted into the boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York.
It was a fitting ceremony to punctuate a pugilistic career that included the taking of Zab Judah's zero, a stoppage victory over an admittedly battle-worn Julio Cesar Chavez, solid point victories over Ben Tackie and Roger Mayweather and early finishes struck against Sharmba Mitchell and Jesse James Leija. All this prior to even trading slugs with Hatton.
If you were picking Hatton to spring an upset over Tszyu, you were a minority, yet Ricky forced Kostya to quit in the 11th round of their Manchester matchup. Hatton depleted the 31-2-0, 25 KO fighter of energy courtesy of savage shots to the body and rough inside brawling. The victory propelled him into the boxing mainstream.
Jose Luis Castillo (June 23, 2007)
Mentioned in pound-for-pound conversations for preserving his undefeated stretch into the welterweight division in 2006, Hatton dropped back to 140 lbs in 2007 and, in June, dispatched of Castillo in just four rounds, the same Castillo who had competed with Floyd Mayweather, Jr. for 24 rounds.
The victory—undoubtedly one of Hatton's signature wins—fortified the Englishman's status as a ferocious puncher as a shot to the liver ensured the tough Mexican keeled over and couldn't continue after 11 minutes and 16 seconds of combat.
Carlos Maussa (November 26, 2005)
Hatton's ninth-round KO of Maussa followed his Tszyu win, saw him unify the WBA version of the world championship at junior welterweight with the IBF title and earned him Fighter of the Year honors—the only Briton to attract the accolade (as recognized by The Ring magazine).
What was Ricky Hatton's greatest victory?
Hatton suffered cuts early in the fight—to his left eye in Round 1 and his right eye in the third stanza. By the fifth round, Hatton found his range, tired the Colombian and had him bleeding in the sixth, swollen in the eighth and canvassed with a left hook by nine.
Jon Thaxton (October 21, 2000)
While Jon Thaxton lacked the marquee name value of Tszyu or Castillo and the honour at stake was levels below the elite belts, Hatton's victory over the Norfolk southpaw was labored but fun and fan/TV-friendly.
Hatton went to war with Thaxton and outpointed his rival despite suffering a deep gash that would later require 28 stitches. For his victory, Hatton was awarded the British title at 140 lbs.
Paul Malignaggi (November 22, 2008)
Malignaggi troubled Hatton with his precision during the fight's opener, but Hatton's power became telling as he beguiled The Magic Man with a right hand in the second and followed that stanza's success up with pressure, heavy leather and flurries until Malignaggi's head trainer Buddy McGirt threw in the towel.
There is an old saying in boxing: Every great fighter has one last great fight, and the 11th-round TKO trumping over brash Brooklyn boxer Malignaggi proved to be Hatton's.