After three years away from boxing, Ricky Hatton is back. ShortList’s Andrew Dickens finds out the training secrets behind his return to the ring
When Ricky Hatton retired after an embarrassing two-round defeat to Manny Pacquiao in May 2009, British boxing lost one of its most popular fighters (not to mention one of the most famous belt-carriers in the business). It seemed that, with his own stable of young fighters, Hatton was out of the fight game for good, aged just 30. Yet despite entering a dark period of depression, addiction and attempted suicide, Hatton’s picked himself up from life’s canvas and is preparing for the kind of comeback not seen since Rocky IV.
Does your comeback training regime differ from your old routine?
I’m with a new trainer with different training methods. But the whole reason why I chose Bob Shannon was because I’ve been watching him for a number of years from a distance. Bob’s training methods are a mirror image of what my old trainer Billy Graham used to do – strength, resistance and weight training work, and that’s what Bob Shannon does.
Is it harder having had a break?
I found it easier, to be honest. I mean, it’s the hardest game in the world, but I think more because I’ve got the bit between my teeth than anything. I feel like I’ve got a purpose now, and not just the purpose of winning a world title; it’s even bigger than winning a world title. This time two years ago I was caught in bed with knives, trying to slit my wrists. I’ve won already, just being here and just doing what I’m doing.
What did you learn from that? What made you come back?
I came back because I didn’t want the last thing people remembered about me to be that I’d flushed my life down the toilet. I was a massive success, somebody who was looked on as a national treasure, if you like, who was hitting rock bottom and getting knocked out by Pacquiao after two rounds. I have a new little girl, Millie, who’s one. I don’t want people, when she grows up, saying, “Oh yeah, your dad, what a fighter he was, but didn’t he f*cking blow it?” I want them saying “What a fighter he was… yeah, he had a few problems along the way, but boy he come back even better.”
On to the nitty-gritty, what work do you do to improve your speed?
Speed ball, shadow boxing, pad work with my trainer. With hand speed, the more rounds you do, the fitter you get and as your timing gets better, the hand speed gets better.
What about endurance work?
We do a lot of hill runs. Bar bags: that’s something I’ve done the whole way through my career. And circuit work, where we do a lot of dumbbells and strength and resistance work.
When you’re sparring, are you trying to create fight conditions?
A ring’s a ring. To be honest with you, it’s different to on the night where you’ve got the crowd and the pressure and lights are on you. But what you do is try to get mirror image [of your opponent] sparring partners so it’s as close as possible to the real thing.
Do you want your sparring partner to go at you as hard as he can?
I think there’s a code between boxers that sparring means you don’t knock each other out. That isn’t going to give any fighter good preparation for his fight, but it’s got to be sharp enough because you’ve got to get used to taking a body shot, taking a head shot – realistic, but without going the whole hog.
What about your nutrition regime?
I get up in the morning, and I’ll do my run on an empty stomach. Everyone’s different; some will prefer breakfast, but I’ll just have a coffee and do my run. From a calorie and nutrition point of view, I probably have the equivalent of about five or six meals a day. I find that, nutrition-wise, smaller meals but more often works for you, so you can burn the calories off quicker. They’re good for keeping your fuel and strength up as you’re dropping weight.
What sort of stuff do you have to avoid?
Obviously alcohol. I mean, I like going out and having a pint every now and again. It’s just the rubbish foods. I’m eating probably as well as I ever have. Years ago people used to say “drink Coca-Cola and have chocolate” because of the sugar, but sugar can be the worst thing you could have. It’s just empty calories; proteins, carbs. The smaller meals that you can burn off, so it doesn’t lie heavy on your chest. It’s a work of art.
After a fight, you were known for having a blowout. Is that something you’ll change?
Very much so. Certainly not to the extreme that I’ve been known to. I used to lose about two and a half to three stone every time I used to fight. As a trainer now, if any of my fighters did it I’d wring their necks. You’ve got to be that little bit older, little bit wiser and set an example to your fighters. It was madness to do it at 24 years of age, but at 34 you can’t be doing with it. If I’m fighting at 10st 7lb, I don’t want to be any more than 12st between fights, as opposed to when I was fighting at 10st and walking around at 13st.
What sort of core stuff do you do?
On circuits you do a lot of groundwork, a lot of sit-ups and a lot of abdominal work. With Bob Shannon we do a lot of ab work; the body’s got to be tough because round your rib area there are more soft parts than the chin. And the more soft parts you’ve got, the less chance you’ve got.
Do you do any mental preparation before a fight, such as visualising what you’re going to do?
When I do my road work and have some quiet time, I often think about my opponent; what his strengths and weaknesses are. I watch tapes of my opponent but I don’t overcook it. That can send you doolally, because you’re watching too much of your opponent.
How important is music in your preparations?
When I’m training, my preference is a lot of the Manchester bands… Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, Oasis.
Are you still going to have a pint of Guinness after the fight?
Oh yeah, 100 per cent. I’ll have a cooked breakfast sometimes, I don’t think anybody would begrudge me that. They say ‘everything in moderation,’ and that should have been from the f*cking outset.
Ricky’s killer tip
Improve stamina by mixing your bag work with jumping in and out of a tractor tyre. Sometimes you take your foot off the gas when you’re on the bag – this doesn’t allow you to rest.
Ricky Hatton vs Vyacheslav Senchenko is live on Primetime, 24 November for £14.95. Call 0871 200 4444 or visit primetimeboxing.co.uk. Follow Ricky @HitmanHatton