Hatton, a candid 90-minute Sky Documentaries film directed by Dan Dewsbury on the rise and fall of British boxing great Ricky Hatton, relives a stunning journey to the summit of boxing and the come down that followed it.
Everyone of a certain age remembers the career of Ricky Hatton.
From 1997 until 2007 the Manchester born light welterweight enjoyed a thrilling ride in boxing as he put together a 43-fight unbeaten run and became a two weight world champion.
Despite this, the film opens with the ex-boxer stating, “I was a world champion four times over, but I consider myself a failure.”
Immediately, this alerts viewers that while some of the highs of Hatton’s ring career will be covered in this documentary, the dark side of fame will become the major theme of the piece.
And it gets dark as drug and alcohol abuse, family feuds, suicide and an expensive court case are all covered.
The film is stitched together through interviews with the main characters who lived through the soap opera-like drama.
Hatton himself doesn’t hide from any of the difficult issues.
We also hear from ex-trainer Billy Graham, Ricky Hatton’s parents, Ray and Carol Hatton, and the boxer’s former fiancée Jennifer Dooley.
Early Years and Boxing Success
Ricky Hatton was born on the Greater Manchester council estate of Hattersley in 1978.
Hatton is fiercely proud of his working class roots.
His attachment to his home area and indeed the wider city of Manchester gained him many fans during his boxing career.
He was always seen as a man of the people, perhaps certain aspects of that led him towards some lifestyle choices that wouldn’t be recommended for professional athletes.
Before any of that became an issue for Hatton we are shown home camcorder footage of him at 11 and 15-years old dominating opponents in amateur boxing contests.
“It became addicting, that feeling, knocking opponents out. It made me feel 10 feet tall,” the boxer admits about his amateur days.
Soon after turning professional, Hatton linked up with trainer Billy Graham who operated out of his Phoenix Gym.
The fighter and trainer formed an instant bond.
“Even from the early days he talked about being undisputed world champion,” Graham, now living a reclusive lifestyle, remembered about the early days with Hatton.
The film shows quick clips of Hatton KOing early pro opponents as his unbeaten record rises and rises.
Momentum in Manchester was growing, so was his fanbase.
We are informed that Ray Hatton acted as manager and handled all of his son’s finances, leaving Ricky free to focus on training and boxing.
Which he did, in the main. Even in the early days though, Hatton couldn’t say no to a good night out.
It was said his heavy drinking binges in-between bouts caused tension between father and son, manager and fighter.
“I got given such confidence in my boxing ability but I was so weak in other areas with the lifestyle I led away from the gym,” Hatton admits.
The first act of the documentary concludes with Hatton’s crowning boxing achievement.
The night he became world champion. The night he defeated the great Kostya Tszyu in front of his adoring home crowd at the Manchester Arena in 2005. The film shows plenty of footage from the bout.
Dark Days Weren’t Far Away
Post-Tszyu, Hatton became really famous throughout the UK. He was mobbed whenever he left the house and attained mainstream recognition by doing the talk show circuit.
The film quickly moves to Hatton’s 2007 welterweight showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in Las Vegas.
A promotional dispute with Frank Warren is briefly covered and we see Hatton now being promoted by US outfit Golden Boy Promotions.
The build-up to the Mayweather encounter is shown in detail with Ricky Hatton speaking of how confident he was going into that battle of two unbeaten boxers.
Perhaps referencing the split from longtime promoter Warren, Graham recalls, “Things were changing. It was no longer fun,” during the Mayweather segment of the documentary.
Hatton would go on to lose the fight to the American great and went into a downward spiral.
“I felt so embarrassed, like I’d let so many people down. I was thinking, how am I going to explain it to my mates, my family, my friends, Manchester, Hattersley. It was horrible, horrible,” Hatton says in the film.
Perhaps his pride in his home city and wanting to represent it well had become too much of a weight on his shoulders.
“Ricky has a real need to be loved, not just loved but also wanted and accepted,” ex-fiancée Dooley had said earlier in the film.
Did he think he would be shunned back home because he lost against the best fighter of that generation?
Whatever he thought he admitted to putting a brave face on things while descending into alcohol abuse to cope with the feeling of failure.
The fighter also admits this period of time was the first time he dabbled in cocaine use.
After he lost to Mayweather, Hatton parted company from trainer Billy Graham.
The split was hard on both men and the film indicates they still haven’t sorted things out between themselves.
Despite struggling with substance issues, Hatton boxed on.
A homecoming fight took place in front of 50,000 fans at the home stadium of his beloved Manchester City FC and after that Hatton headed back to the bright lights of Las Vegas to take on Manny Pacquiao.
Hauntingly, Ricky admits that he wasn’t in a good place before the 2009 dance with Pacquiao. “I felt like I was getting ready to go to my own funeral,” he informed the filmmakers.
Tough Times Continue
While losing to another great boxer affected Hatton, things got worse for him after the Pacquiao fight.
Ex-trainer Graham came forward to contend he hadn’t been correctly paid by Team Hatton.
The matter would be resolved in court with the trainer winning the case and being paid an additional £1.4 million.
The court case also revealed further financial discrepancies which led to Ricky believing his father had been helping himself to large sums of money from his bank account.
It resulted in Hatton and his parents going through an eight year estrangement which only ended when his mother suffered a mini-stroke.
During the time apart from his parents Hatton hit rock bottom.
His drinking and drug taking was out of control.
He was exposed on the front page of a major Sunday tabloid newspaper, having been photographed snorting cocaine. “RICKY COKE SHAME” screamed the unforgiving headline.
Hatton’s relationship with Dooley was also falling apart during this time and he admitted to being close to suicide.
“I had no more boxing, no more Billy Graham, no more mum and dad. Night after night I’d sit there with a knife thinking to do it, just do it, but I couldn’t,” Hatton admits in the film’s most blunt moment.
A Triumphant Closing Act?
The film closes out with Hatton telling an audience at an after-dinner speech that he sought the help of a psychiatrist to get over his demons.
He implored anyone else feeling vulnerable not to seek solace in drugs and alcohol but to speak to someone about their feelings instead.
He was shown getting back into decent physical shape too for an upcoming (at time of filming) exhibition flight against Marco Antonio Barrera.
Hatton admits he wants to put the negative things behind him and just enjoy life with his family now, while father Ray described having to rebuild their relationship using “baby steps.”
While the film doesn’t deliver a glorious ending – this is real life after all – it does present Ricky Hatton as being in a better place now than he has been at any point over the last decade.
Hatton is a well made documentary which highlights the negative side of fame.
Outstanding physical ability is needed to get to the top of boxing, but mental strength is required to stay there.
The film also underlines how large amounts of money can drive a wedge between the strongest of friendships and even family members.
That is a sad fact of human nature.
Ricky Hatton didn’t pull any punches during his peak years in boxing and this film does likewise with the subject matter.
Credit to all involved.
Hatton is well worth 90-minutes of your time.
Hatton is available to view until September 30 on Sky Documentaries.