Hatton faces toughest fight yet

TWO years ago, Ricky Hatton was a beloved world champion with millions in the bank and the world at his feet.

“He’s not blaming anyone else, but obviously we know how difficult it can be for people when they are not at the top any more.

“He’s very upset and very down as you’d imagine. He said he feels he’s let everyone down.”

- Max Clifford on Ricky Hatton this week.

TWO years ago, Ricky Hatton was a beloved world champion with millions in the bank and the world at his feet.

Now, just days after pictures and a video of him allegedly snorting cocaine were splashed across a national newspaper, he’s in rehab after admitting battles with depression and alcohol.

It is a tragic fall from grace - and unfortunately Hatton’s story is far from unique.

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For as long as there have been sports, there have been sad tales of stars struggling to cope after their time in the limelight has passed. But why?

Many famous athletes, it seems, identify so strongly with their persona as a champion boxer or adored footballer that they simply can’t deal with their inevitable return to a more mundane existence.

Frank Bruno, himself a victim of the retirement curse, once said: “When you’re used to getting up at seven o’clock in the morning, going running, to the gym, sparring, doing press conferences, after-parties, retiring is the worst thing that can ever happen to a sportsman.

“Being busy all the time, you’re pumped up, hyped up but after you feel so, so empty it’s untrue.”

While not officially retired, Ricky last fought back in May 2009 - a crushing two round loss to Filipino phenomenon Manny Pacquiao - and he recently admitted it was unlikely that he’d box again.

Since then, despite the success of his fledgling promotional company, he has obviously found it difficult to revert to a “normal” life.

Now he squares up to a different kind of fight, no doubt hindered by more lurid media claims and people lining up to criticise him.

Such things can totally distort our perspective as a fan. But despite all his money and fame “The Hitman” is just that - a man. Don’t lose sight of that.

Like any other person, he’s cursed with doubts, insecurities and weaknesses. And, like any other person, he makes mistakes.

When he was conquering the boxing world, his fans revelled in the song “there’s only one Ricky Hatton” as they supported him across the globe.

As he tries to conquer his personal demons, that lyric still rings true. But he needs - and deserves - support now more than he ever did in the boxing ring.

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