Ricky Hatton - Retirement, Drugs and Despair
By John J. Raspanti (Sept 20, 2010) Doghouse Boxing  
A boxing career is like walking a tightrope. When you make it to the top level, every fight is important. The pressure is ridiculously intense, the build-up merciless and the result hopefully for the fighter…a win. A loss can work the other way sending the fighter into despair, retirement and maybe something that he’s been keeping at bay during most of his career.

The dark side.

I thought of this as I gazed at a picture of Ricky “the Hitman” Hatton bent over and snorting up an illegal substance. I shook my head and grunted, sadly the picture didn’t surprise me. Ricky has been known to indulge for years though most of us thought his drug of choice was food, not cocaine. But there he was, forty plus pounds above his prime fighting weight and resembling not the former Junior Welterweight Champion Of The World…but a common drug addict.

Ricky was knocked out in two brutal rounds 18 months ago by Manny Pacquiao. Ricky seemed to recover quickly and got involved in promoting though his father said recently that he had still not gotten over the devastating loss to Pacquiao. Ray had this to say about his son.

"With Ricky, he always wanted to please everybody – not just his family, but all the fans," he told Sky Sports News. "When he had defeats, he just felt like he'd let them down and he got more and more depressed, which led him to drink more and more”.

Ricky told Ray “I've let everybody down, including you and the fans, I need a drink to lift my head up.”

He’s a hero to many in England who once had his own theme song, a kind hearted happy go lucky kid who could do one thing real well…fight. He’s only 32 years old, a kid to most and certainly not old to many. But in boxing, Ricky is old and after being knocked out twice in his last three fights he’s not only old…he’s…done…finished…washed up.

32 years old.

Joe Calzaghe can relate. Joe retired in 2008 as the undisputed Super Middleweight Champion of the World. Within weeks he was probably asking himself “Now what?” The what turned into the same problem as Hatton…cocaine, Calzaghe was caught on tape and soon after admitted what he had done.

"I very much regret my occasional use of cocaine in what have sometimes been the long days since my retirement from the ring," Calzaghe said.

“Since my retirement from the ring”.

Say it ain't so Joe. During his entire career there was nary a rumor about Calzaghe being anything but devoted to his boxing career, but even though he retired, undefeated mind you…he most likely felt…forgotten, the adjustment from being super Joe to average Joe difficult and depressing.

In 2005 retired boxer and former WBC Featherweight Champion Naseem Hamed was involved in a automobile accident, and ultimately did some jail time. Hamed’s drug seemed to be speed and at other times…boredom. His last fight had been in 2002. He had quit at 28, saying he had lost his desire. Naseem attends all the big fights in Europe seeming to revel in being gazed at again…like the old days.

The late and great former Champion Alexis Arguello battled drugs and depression after retiring, as did Arturo “Thunder” Gatti. The Sugar man, Ray Leonard indulged in some drugs after his forced retirement from retina surgery in 1981 as did the Marvelous one…Marvin Hagler.

You may ask yourself why these high paid, super famous, incredibly rich fighters would dive into the world of drugs. Easy answer if there is such a thing, there looking for a way to replace the ultimate high of fighting before a live crowd, of hearing the masses chanting there names and feeling the love and adulation. Most fighters started boxing as kids working there way up through sacrifice and dedication. When it’s over all they have is the silence and memories. They are no longer part of the now, there part of the yesderday…so quickly…like the bat of an eye. Plus there not old, they still want to live a little but how do they do that without the thing that they love…the thing that made them who they are. So they go looking for a different kind of high but soon they might find out that this new high has a downside and…ramifications.

A lot of boxers retire very smoothly and ride off into the sunset, not needing or asking for any kind of attention. They really don’t miss being in the spotlight…right? But ask them if they do miss it…and almost all will admit yes...I mean how can’t they?

32 and your old, if that’s the case I’m ancient.

Let us all hope that Ricky and so many others pull themselves out of the darkness and find the light.

Questions/comments john.raspanti@activant.com

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