Insightful conference call with Hatton and Senchenko re: Saturday’s fight

Showtime Championship Boxing, this Saturday, November 24, 2012, live on Showtime at 5 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast).

How do you figure? The former WBA welterweight world champion Vyacheslav Senchenko appears unintimidated by the prospect of fighting Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton in front of 18,000 plus hostile fans. Tickets for their show on Saturday night, November 24, 2012 were gobbled up in less than two days.

Vyacheslav Senchenko is photographed during a media workout session ahead of his fight with Ricky Hatton on November 24, 2012 in Manchester, England. Photo: Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Senchenko, the once-beaten Ukrainian, views his fight against the two-time world champ and British superstar at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England, as an opportunity to prove he’s one of the elite fighters in the deep welterweight division.

After Hatton’s 3½ year binge of excesses and feeling sorry for himself, he started missing the adulation. He’s hoping a win will suddenly put him back in the mix for his own championship fight. “It will open all the doors for me,” said Hatton.

Senchenko will be taking on an offensive-minded Hatton in a scheduled 10-round bout in a special, afternoon edition of Showtime Championship Boxing, this Saturday, live on Showtime at 5 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast). With the catch weight at 147 pounds, it will be interesting to see if Hatton can make that weight by Friday’s weigh-ins.

Senchenko (32-1, 21 KOs) went undefeated in 32 bouts before losing to Paulie Malignaggi in his most recent outing on April 29. The match in Hatton’s backyard will be only the sixth time in Senchenko’s pro career that he has fought outside of his hometown of Donetsk, Ukraine. The 35-year-old said he expects Hatton to be one of the toughest tests of his career. The 34-year-old Hatton (45-2, 32 KOs) is coming back after a 3½ year self-imposed exile following a loss to Manny Pacquiao in 2009.

While Senchenko is focused on defeating a “prime” Ricky Hatton, you know there has to be some rust. Senchenko did admit he’s looking forward to facing another British superstar after getting past Hatton – that being Amir Khan.

The following are the answers given by Hatton and Senchenko on today’s worldwide conference call:

Opening statement by Ricky Hatton: “I’m sure you’re going to ask me why I came back. I was always a very proud fighter. I was always a very hard fighter, always fought with a lot of heart and was able to dictate fights. So you can imagine when I got destroyed in two rounds by Manny Pacquiao, it was very hard for someone who takes so much pride in themselves. Even though it was by someone like Pacquiao, as soon as Manny beat me I went into depression and that led to the problems that were well-documented in the tabloids, with suicide attempts and nervous breakdowns and panic attacks. Not speaking to my parents for two years, and I’m still not speaking to my parents, which has been very, very hard. Losing my longtime trainer Billy Graham, tending to a court case. My life for the past three years has really turned to mush. So I’m now returning to my boxing career, not just because I got knocked out in two rounds by Pacquiao, but I think I let a lot of people down in that period of time and I’m here to put a lot of ghosts and demons to rest.”

Over and over again, Hatton repeated the words, “to be honest with you,” which leads you to believe he’s been doing a lot of fibbing lately. Not long ago, his girlfriend had to take a knife away from him. Plus, he’s been running the same reel about an excuse of being over trained by Floyd Mayweather Sr. when he trained him for the Pacquiao fight.

“In hindsight I wish I had the balls to tell him back then that I needed a break,” stated Hatton. “I would have done things a lot differently. In my sparring sessions, my sparring partners were knocking me down. Hell, my girlfriend (Jennifer) could have knocked me down.”

Ricky Hatton and his fiancee Jennifer Dooley watch the quarterfinal match between Rafael Nadal of Spain and Andy Murray of Great Britain during day nine of the 2010 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 26, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Getting ready for his fight against Ricky Hatton on Saturday night, Vyacheslav Senchenko is photographed in a local gym in Manchester, England. Photo: Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Senchenko, a natural welterweight, is 5’10” tall and has a 70” reach. In other words, on Saturday evening, he’s going to be almost three inches taller, have a five inch reach advantage and be a lot bigger than Hatton or his girlfriend. 

The warning signs of Hatton’s decline began in the weeks prior to that fight with Pacquiao. The young Cuban light-middleweight Erislandy Lara came to his training camp and gave Ricky such a tough time in sparring that he was kicked out of their camp. Lara, like Senchenko, is bigger than Hatton. So what was this young monster doing in a ring with Hatton so close to his big fight? Floyd Mayweather Sr, a defensive master though slightly demented, had their camp divided. With Hatton’s balance being off, so was his judgment of space and distance. He fought like a desperate man until he hit the canvas in round two.

“If I could put my house on it, I would,” said Hatton on Monday. “I have a new baby daughter, Millie who’s 13 months old and a son Campbell who is 11.

“I’ve got myself a new trainer. Now that I’m 34 years of age, I’m more mature. I’m back to training old school – moving my head. I’m refining my game. I can look in the mirror and know I’ve been doing my best in the gym. It’s a win, win situation, especially now that I have the bounce back in my step. I have to do this.”

In boxing, everyone knows you take these things step by step. If we were to poll the people in the know, the trainers, promoters, matchmakers, those who have even a moderate interest in this outcome, I’m certain the majority would have him taking on an easier opponent, a warm-up fight. But Hatton has too much pride to take a step back. He’s in a hurry. The same hurry that tricked his mind into believing a little dope would pleasure him, wipe away his depression, but not be habit forming. The same hurry that had him ballooning upwards in weight from 139 pounds to 180 pounds between fights. He wants all of his past and future troubles to be washed away in this one night. His burning desire is supposed to wipe away all of that rust?

On September 14, 2012, Hatton (top right) posed for a photo with trainer Bob Shannon at a press conference in Manchester, England, where he confirmed reports he was resuming his boxing career. Photo: Paul Thomas/Getty Images. (lower right) Hatton, a bit overweight participates in Soccer Aid in support of UNICEF at Old Trafford on June 6, 2010 in Manchester. Photo: Shirlaine Forrest/Getty Images (lower left) shows Hatton enjoying some dark ale after a loss in Las Vegas to Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Hatton has fought just once in the last four years. That being said, his opponent is no bargain. Senchenko has fought only five times over the same period. However, Senchenko had a good reason. His nose needed mending after being broken early in the Malignaggi fight.

The questions asked of Vyacheslav Senchenko: “I’m not looking in advance, because when I win this fight, I will be in contention for some of the biggest fights out there. I could fight Amir Khan if I win, but right now I’m concentrating on this fight. I will have to see what’s next.”

Hatton is coming off a 3½ year layoff.  Do you think you’re catching him at the right time?

“When I made the decision to fight Ricky, I did it expecting the best Ricky Hatton. We know Ricky wouldn’t have come back if he wasn’t at his best – that’s just how boxing is.  Ricky wouldn’t have taken the risk if he didn’t think he was 100 percent. So we’re expecting a very hard fight. We’re expecting the best Ricky Hatton, a prime Ricky Hatton.”

This is just your third fight outside your native Ukraine. How do you prepare for a fight in front of 18,000 hostile fans?

“I’m very excited that I’m going to Manchester to fight in front of a huge crowd. I had a great camp and prepared the way I always do. It’s an opportunity to shine and show the British my skills. Sure, there will 18,000 Ricky Hatton fans, but once I’m in the ring it’s just me and Ricky. The fans aren’t in there with him.”

Hatton beat Malignaggi, and Malignaggi defeated you. Why will you upset Hatton?

“When I fought Paulie everything went well in the beginning and then I got injured (the broken nose) and I couldn’t apply the plan we had scheduled in training. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. It was a one-time thing because of the injury. I had a good training camp and was able to prepare well, but I got injured. Those things happen in boxing. I thought I had fought well but I just couldn’t see anything because my eye was completely closed. Of course Paulie was an odd boxer to fight. Ricky’s fighting style suits me better. I believe it will be a better fight for me. I’ve had a great camp and I’m ready to get back into the limelight with a win.”

What were the main reasons you accepted the fight against Hatton in England?

“This is the way to come back in the limelight – to beat one of the most popular boxers in the world. It will bring me back in the top position worldwide. If I beat Ricky, then I can get another shot at a title.

Once you’re in the ring it’s just you and the opponent. The challenge is to show the 18,000 patrons that I’m the best boxer in the ring. And the fact that the fight is televised in the U. S. on Showtime makes it even better. The stakes are higher now.”

Can you tell us the keys to victory?

“We need a good jab, a good jab when the opponent comes in – and good legs and sharp punching. I’m an old-school, classical boxer so I need to be able to control the fight. I like boxers that come in rather than run away. If I can dictate the pace and not allow Ricky to get into a rhythm, I should be able to execute my strategy and do what I prepared for in camp.”

Do you think you’ll need to knock him out to win a decision in England?

“I’ve got to fight my own game plan. I’m not looking for a knockout; I’m looking for a good, technical fight. A good, distance fight. If I can stop him early, that would be good, but I’ll take the points victory. As long as I don’t get injured I should be fine. There’s no problem with the eye, it was a one-time thing with Paulie. I haven’t had a problem since.”

It looks as if the deck is stacked against Mr. Hatton. If he were to win, that would surely make him a very special fighter.


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