By Iron Mike Gallego
Psychologists say the first Monday in January is the most depressing day of the year. The cheer of the holidays is officially over. The weather is bleak. Dead Christmas trees litter the streets. Your work clothes feel a bit snugger around your waist. That pile of work you joyously left behind a couple of weeks back? It's still there and it's bigger than you remember it. And, of course, there are stories like this.
Ricky 'The Hitman' Hatton, the loveable Manchester scamp who once managed to convince a significant percentage of the world that he belonged in the same ring as Floyd Mayweather, is reportedly losing his long-time battle with substance abuse, according to British tabloid, The Daily Star. Even at the peak of his athletic process, Hatton always enjoyed his booze. He proudly accepted the nickname, "Ricky Fatton," which he earned by packing upwards of 50 pounds of Guinness and bangers and mash onto his 140-pound frame between fights. It was even part of his charm. Hatton didn't live the usual Spartan existence of a fighter; he was "one of the lads" at the local pub who just happened to own a victory of Kostya Tszyu.
As a fighter, Hatton was always overrated. His only wins of note came against the finished versions of "Cool" Vince Phillips, Tsyzu and a bloated Jose Luis Castillo, who was only there for a paycheck. Between those guys, he got a very generous decision against Luis Collazo, a lifelong gatekeeper who was three fights removed from a win over an opponent with the lofty record of 7-41-1. But he had his fans. Lord, did Hatton ever have his fans. The chorus of Mancunians who would drunkenly bellow "There's only onnnnnnnneeeee Ricky Hatton" to the tune of Winter Wonderland throughout his fights. And between his popularity, charm, and an impressive record against less than stellar competition, Hatton managed to find his way into a fight with the best fighter on the planet. The result, of course, was predictable.
Since the Mayweather fight, Hatton's life has been a roller coaster. He fired his longtime trainer, Billy Graham, a fellow heavy-drinking Mancunian. He linked up with Mayweather's father, Floyd Sr. He looked impressive against the feathered-hair and feather-fisted Paulie Malignaggi. He was knocked out brutally by the iron-fisted Manny Pacquiao. He walked away from the sport. He was caught on tape using cocaine. He went to rehab. He cleaned himself up. He gained a lot of weight. He lost the weight and made a long awaited comeback to the ring against a lightly regarded opponent. He lost the fight. And now, this.
The Daily Star is a tabloid and its primary source is described as a "clubber," so maybe we shouldn't rush to assume that every word is true, but judging by his peers, Ricky Hatton's odds of finding a happy ending in life are slim. It's always a tragedy when fighters die in the ring, but even those who survive and prosper rarely wind up healthy and happy. There are exceptions -- Lennox Lewis, Sugar Ray Leonard, George Foreman and Larry Holmes, to name a few -- but the overwhelming majority of fighters, no matter how successful, wind up as little more than unheeded cautionary tales.
Muhammad Ali is the most recognized athlete in the world. He was at once the most compelling physical and verbal entertainer in all of sports. Today, he is neither. Today, he is effectively mute and paralyzed because of the damage he endured in the ring. And this is one of the happier stories.
Joe Frazier died broke, bitter, and still without a statute in Philadelphia. Tommy Morrison died of a disease that he refused to admit existed, even as it sucked the last bits of life from his body. Hector "Macho" Camacho was gunned down. Arturo Gatti died either at his own hand or that of his wife's in a hotel room in Brazil. Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson have collectively plowed through a billion dollars in purses, only to both wind up broke. Tyson is a chronic substance abuser who has contemplated suicide and nearly drunk himself to death. Holyfield, who also made news this week for claiming homosexuality is not consistent with his Christian beliefs, has fathered at least a dozen children, half of which were outside of wedlock (with his three wives). He's still interested in a fight at age 51, or at least he's up for it if will help pay down his child support bills. Floyd Mayweather has been arrested for beating women on four separate occasions and, despite his "Money" moniker, has already dealt with a hefty IRS lien. He's an inveterate gambler with a sizable entourage of "Yes Men": there's no amount of money that will ever be enough to keep him out of trouble. Manny Pacquiao has battled through substance abuse and womanizing problems and now finds himself $18 million in debt to the IRS and as much as $50 million in debt to tax collectors in his native Philippines. Even Oscar De La Hoya, "The Golden Boy," has been in and out of rehab in recent years and contemplated suicide.
We do not know what the future holds for Hatton. We do know that he's trudging down a well-worn path, a path that leads nowhere good. If boxing can do this to Ricky Hatton -- a good-natured charmer from a strong family, an overachiever, a legend in his hometown with an army of devoted fans, a guy who earned a lot of money and continues to have a successful business -- it can do it to anyone. Just imagine what it does for the less fortunate.
In boxing, every day is the first Monday in January.
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Iron Mike Gallego is the online identity of a passionate boxing fan. IMG is an occasional contributor to Deadspin, where he has written about topics ranging from boxing to champagne, and can regularly be found on twitter @ironmikegallego.