Ricky Hatton's future in doubt but Amir Khan sets date for US debut
• Hatton allegedly told friends he was unsure about a return
• Amir Khan to face Paulie Malignaggi in May
* Kevin Mitchell
* guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 9 March 2010 18.55 GMT
* Article history
Ricky Hatton's weight has soared since he was beaten by Manny Pacquiao 10 months ago.
Ricky Hatton's comeback is looking as solid as the four stones of extra weight he has piled on since Manny Pacquiao knocked him out in two rounds in Las Vegas 10 months ago. Even his father does not know if he will ever fight again.
The bookmakers William Hill suspended betting on the fighter returning to the ring after rumours spread that Hatton told friends while on a drinking binge in Tenerife at the weekend that he was unsure about fighting again.
Hatton's camp yesterday issued a firm denial, and friends claim he went back into the gym for three days last week with the intention of stepping up his work in preparation for a fight in the summer against an opponent yet to be named.
However, his father and manager, Ray said: "I'm the same as everyone else. I thought he was on his way back. He's been ticking over in the gym, so I'm perplexed. I think now the team wants him to make a decision and then we'll have a press conference to announce it."
But Hatton went to ground when he returned to Manchester from Tenerife on Monday night and was not contactable yesterday. He has refused all counsel about curbing his drinking and eating and insiders say he is worried he might never recover the energy and verve that made him such a force as a world champion at light-welterweight and welterweight.
His legal adviser, Gareth Williams, suggested Hatton would confirm his plans "in the cold light of day", whenever that may be. Williams had been negotiating on Hatton's behalf for several months with Juan Manuel Márquez for a non-title bout in the UK this summer, although those talks are thought to have stalled. Hatton said he would also welcome a fight in Manchester against the WBO light-welterweight champion, Amir Khan, later in the year.
While Hatton's career is in limbo, Khan is moving ahead with plans for his American debut. He will address the media in London on Friday alongside the New Yorker Paulie Malignaggi, who will challenge him for his title at Madison Square Garden on 15 May, and Oscar De La Hoya, his American promotional partner.
Hatton, who revels in the name "Ricky Fatton", has expanded in more ways than one since the Pacquiao defeat, socialising heartily on the after-dinner circuit where he earns up to £7,000 for his self-deprecating comic turn. Even as his weight soared towards 14st, he did not surrender his boxer's licence.
The knockout loss to Pacquiao – who defends his welterweight title in Texas on Saturday against the Ghanaian Joshua Clottey – was so shocking that several of Hatton's inner circle, notably his partner Jennifer, urged him to retire. He was knocked cold, spent the night in hospital and for several months was in two minds about fighting on.
Before Christmas he announced he had to get rid of "the itch" and would pursue a fight against a top-10 opponent. He took a break with Jennifer in Australia over the New Year, stopping in Melbourne to see Andy Murray's progress in the Australian Open and telling the tennis player he was about to resume serious training.
That did not materialise to any noticeable effect and people close to him began to wonder if he was milking the continued speculation about his future to attract publicity for his promotional activities.
Les Beard, whom he brought on board from obscurity in the amateurs to join his team in a more influential role before the Pacquiao fight, has since left, which upset Hatton. Beard, who fell out spectacularly with Hatton's head trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr, in the troubled preparation for that fight, has taken up a lucrative job with the unbeaten Joan Guzmán from the Dominican Republic, who fights the South African Ali Funeka for the vacant IBF lightweight title in Las Vegas on 27 March. Billy Graham, who Hatton sacked after losing to Floyd Mayweather Jr in December 2007, has said Hatton should retire and has since fallen out with the fighter who had been a close friend for more than 15 years.
Audley Harrison's hopes of revitalising his career took a blow yesterday when the Polish heavyweight Albert Sosnowski withdrew from their fight for the vacant European title on 9 April to challenge Wladimir Klitschko for the WBC title in Gelsenkirchen on 29 May. Harrison is looking for a new opponent.http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2010/mar/09/ricky-hatton-return-amir-khan