at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Hong Kong – Former world champion Ricky Hatton says he has put his drugs, drink and depression nightmare behind him as he relishes his new life outside the ring as a promoter.
The British star, nicknamed “The Hitman”, admitted he had contemplated suicide after his humiliating second-round knockout at the hands of Manny Pacquiao in May 2009 – the last fight of his career.
But now, three years on from that defeat and almost a year since he officially hung up his gloves, Hatton says he is “loving” his new life as a boxing promoter.
In Hong Kong scouting for Asian boxing talent, Hatton said:
“When I retired it was very, very hard to come to terms with. I had a lot of time on my hands and was worrying 'What am I going to do next?'
“I landed myself in a little bit of trouble but now I've got too much on my hands if you like. I've never been this busy and I'm loving every minute of it.”
With about 30 fighters in his stable, the Stockport-born former world welterweight champion has also recently established his first gym and has his own brand of clothing.
Hatton emerged onto the scene in 1996, winning a bronze medal at the world amateur championships. He became British light-welterweight champion and won the 'fringe' IBU light-welterweight title in 2001.
By 2005 he was gaining a reputation as one of the world's best fighters and claimed the IBF light-welterweight title before moving up a division to welterweight, overcoming Luis Collazo to take the WBA crown.
In December 2007 he succumbed to his first professional defeat – against Floyd Mayweather – and in May 2009 he suffered his humiliation against Pacquiao.
In September 2010 he suffered a further blow to his reputation when his licence to box was withdrawn as a result of having taken cocaine, contributing to an ignominious end to a fine career featuring 45 wins and two defeats.
Hatton was diagnosed with depression and a drink problem the same month after the News of the World published video footage of the boxer allegedly snorting drugs.
He finally confirmed his retirement in July 2011, more than two years after his last fight.
In an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live two months after quitting professional boxing, Hatton admitted the Pacquiao defeat drove him to the brink of taking his own life. But he said this week: “I'm well past that (depression).
“I spent a lifetime thinking, 'should I have another fight? Should I not?' I knew it was over but instead of making a final decision and laying a line under it people would say, 'Are you going to fight again'? And I would say, “You never know'. But I did know and bit by bit it was driving me insane.”
Hatton says he has helped overcome depression by approaching his current interests with the same single-minded determination he took towards his boxing career.
He established Hatton Promotions in February 2009 with the aim of “becoming the most successful boxing promotional company in England”.
“My ambitions now as a promoter are as big as they were when I was a fighter,” said Hatton.
“I didn't just want to be the best in England, I wanted to try to be a global success.”
It is that ambition to be a successful promoter on the global stage that took him to Hong Kong this week. Hatton said he was astonished that more talent had not emerged from Asia.
“I'm flabbergasted,” he said before watching an evening of fights in Hong Kong.
“You can't tell me that someone round here hasn't got the talent somewhere. We just need to get it and nurture it. I'm sure we could find some talent here and it could be really, really massive.”
Hatton says he wants to bring British fighters to Asia to excite sport fans and also take Asian talent to Britain to give them experience and “make them stars”.
He is focused on unearthing the next “Hitman”, no longer dwelling on the decline of the boxer who is also known as “The Pride of Hyde”.
“I never look back now and I think people respect me for that. Instead of going the other way and crumbling, people do like a comeback and that's what I like to think I've done.” – Sapa-AFP