The worst-kept secret in sport is out. The Hitman is back. Ricky Hatton’s return to the ring three years after he was knocked unconscious by Manny Pacquiao will be confirmed officially on Friday.
After weeks of hard training and soul searching, Hatton, 33, will shake off the ring rust against a journeyman opponent in Manchester – his fanatical army of fellow Mancunians are sure to turn out in force.
This is the plunge Hatton vowed never to take when he formally announced his retirement last year.
The U-turn has been driven by the itch to fight again which gnaws at all great boxers, a nagging reluctance to go out on his back after knockouts by Floyd Mayweather and Pacquiao, and the need to find television exposure for the stable of youngsters he promotes.
Personal money is not the lure. Hatton is a multi-millionaire. The urge to fight again took on the heated proportions of a crusade when Sky Sports pulled the plug on his shows even though proteges like Scott Quigg are closing on world title shots.
Naturally, the prospect of the Hitman himself climbing back into the prize-ring has attracted a queue of alternative networks.
It is believed that a new TV deal has been brokered with Hatton committed to at least two or three fights.
In our recent poll a majority of fight fans urged Hatton not to risk a comeback but the health issues are not that simple in his case.
At 33 – even though those years have been lived high on the hog – he is still of a good fighting age.
Whether his punch resistance has been weakened by his old binge-drinking and the heavy defeats by Pacquiao and Mayweather is a question which only a return to action can answer.
The medical case in favour of him boxing again is made by the dedication he has been pouring into his training – rather than from a glass – during the last few months.
There can be no denying that Hatton’s lifestyle is much healthier when he is an active boxer. He has barely touched hard drink while coming down to within less than a stone of his world light-welterweight title winning poundage.
Ricky Fatton – as he humorously called himself between fights – said: ‘I’m so slim now I nearly fell through a street grating.’
Clearly, that sharp-witted mind remains undamaged by the blows this warrior has taken while thrilling crowds around the world.
The duration of his comeback will be determined by the first couple of bouts.
But if his skills are undiminished more big nights in Manchester and Vegas – even including returns matches with Mayweather and Pacquiao – are not out of the question.
Since Hatton is more likely to damage his well-being outside rather than inside the ring, the British Boxing Board of Control have no grounds on which to refuse to re-license him.
And who does have the right to tell any athlete not to take part in the sport he loves?