News November 2017

Ricky Hatton Our Fight Part 4 Vyacheslav Senchenko


Ricky Hatton Our Fight Part 4 Vyacheslav Senchenko

By Michael J Jones

IN PART FOUR of Livefight’s exclusive Ricky Hatton series we talk to the last man to ever face “The Hitman” as a professional fighter. Ukrainian Vyacheslav Senchenko would face the Manchester legend five years ago and, after Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquaio, would become only the third man to best Hatton.

Senchenko had, only a few months previously, lost his WBA welterweight title via TKO to “Magic Man” Paulie Malignaggi and was already 35-years-old when he got the call to face the long-absent Hatton in Manchester. It would be the English-man’s first fight for three-and-a half years and would prove to be a one-off comeback fight.

The Fight

The two men squared off against each other on November 24th 2012 with the bout scheduled for ten rounds in the welterweight division. Both men weighed in identically at 146½lbs and the bout was the main event at the Manchester Arena. The venue, formerly the MEN Arena, was the setting for many memorable nights for the hero-worshipped Hatton.

Even the aging version of Hatton would draw a sell-out crowd of 10,000 to the venue with tickets sold out in under 48 hours despite no word of Ricky’s opponent or who was to feature on the undercard.

Both kept a dignified respect ahead of the contest but the main subject on everyone’s lips was the return of one of the most popular post-war British fighters of all time. Much had been documented about “The Hitman’s” fragile mental state and substance abuse in the aftermath of his first retirement following a crushing knock-out at the hands of Pacquiao. Ricky had battled depression and suicidal thoughts but insisted he wanted to become a champion once more to make his children proud.

There was also much discussion regarding the 34 year old Hatton potentially facing former victim Malignaggi should “The Hitman” prove victorious against Senchenko. The brash New Yorker had just made a winning first defence of his WBA belt and was keen to avenge his 2008 loss to Hatton in the near future.

“After the defeat by Paulie Malignaggi I thought about finishing my career and, at that very moment, I received the proposal to fight Ricky Hatton and I gladly agreed” Vyacheslav Senchenko tells Livefight five years after his famous contest with Hatton. “The fact that Ricky returned to boxing didn’t surprise me because he realised he wanted to take away the belt from Malignaggi (who Hatton had already beaten).”

“Well, before that he had to fight one fight first against me. Before our fight there was an agreement that by beating me Hatton would then meet Paulie. I didn’t feel disrespected by the fact (Hatton and Malignaggi had a deal), I didn’t think about it or whom had agreed what deal, it was just very important for me to win this fight and I did my best and proved victorious.”

Nobody seemed overly interested in what the tough and experienced Ukrainian was doing before the fight as all the attention appeared to be on the hugely popular Mancunian.

“I was given some confidence that Ricky was returning from over three years away and he had to drive all that weight he had gained in his time away from the ring. I realised that it would be hard for him to gain physical shape after a long time out.”

“I had nothing to worry about as I was sure I could defeat Ricky and the fact that everybody was against me I really did not mind. I was very well prepared psychologically.”

Focussed purely on the fight and paying little mind to the build-up, Senchenko went to work…
“My preparation took place in Donetsk under the guidance of Igor Gapon and my chief sparring partner was (feared Russian) Ruslan Provodnikov” continues the articulate former champion. “There was no special tactic I implemented, but we worked on combinations which were to bring me success in the fight. My task was to keep Ricky at distance and my combination of straight right, left to the liver was my favourite combination.”

“I often practised this move in training and (the move) passed this battle!”

Hatton began the contest in a frenzy but very early in the fight it was apparent his timing was off as he missed punches he once would have landed with ease. The returning “Hitman” won most of the early rounds on work-rate alone but the tough Ukrainian was fighting a good fight himself; taking plenty of punches on his arms and gloves and offering good jabs and right-hands on the counter.

By the middle rounds both had taken their licks in a hard fight but Senchenko’s greater accuracy was proving critical as the gripping fight wore on.

“I expected Hatton to start the fight very active and my task was not to impose clinching and close-quarter combat” reveals Vyacheslav now 40-years-old. “In the second half of the fight, I felt Ricky was starting to get tired and, in our plans, it was my intention to give my best and finish the fight ahead of time.”

After eight rounds the contest looked even on points though the judges all had Hatton in a slight lead. Worryingly, the former two-weight world champion was slowing down and beginning to mark-up heavily just as Senchenko was coming on strong.

“I knew in such an even fight the victory would not be given to me (by the judges) so I was counting on the maximum (effort) before the last round (to get the stoppage). When I floored Ricky I thought he would get up. You have to give him his due he tried his best to but he could not.”

In the ninth with Hatton weakening seemingly by the second, Senchenko drove a sickening left hook to the ribs to send the Manchester star down and out. A look of desperate agony was etched on Ricky’s pale face as referee Victor Laughlin consoled the once-great fighter. The physical pain of the ripping left to the kidney gave way to emotional trauma as Ricky wept.

Even after coming to the UK and besting one of our modern greats, there was still little credit given to Senchenko. As he celebrated arguably the finest victory of his career, the cameras were back on a despondent Hatton as the beaten man quickly re-announced his retirement from boxing.

Senchenko would return to the UK the following year to face Kell Brook in an eliminator for the IBF title but, after wobbling the Sheffield star, was halted in the fourth round.

“For Brook, I didn’t build the fight up correctly and never fulfilled the plan for the fight. I had an injured left hand and Brook was physically superior to me (uninjured). I managed to shake him but, before that, I was missing a lot of heavy blows. He caught me on the back of the head and afterwards I could not recover.”

The Kremenchug fighter retired two years later with a 37-2 (25) record and keeps his hand in boxing in the capacity of being a trainer of young professionals like his former rival. The retired champion is also a shareholder for Sparta Boxing Promotions.

“I had met Ricky at the WBA conference (before the fight) and we talked and he really is a good and friendly guy. As a boxer, I respected him very much as he was a real fighter with a big heart. We’ve never met since our fight but I have been following his coaching career and he has proven himself a very good coach.”

“I wish Ricky every success for his future as a trainer. Please give Ricky my regards and my respect and thank him for our fight.”

Parting shots

This fight would mark the only time in his career Hatton would lose a professional fight in the UK.

Scores at the time of the stoppage were 78-74 and two cards of 77-76 all for Hatton. Most had it even or Senchenko slightly ahead at the time of the stoppage.

There was talk for months before the fight of the return of Hatton who was training and sparring hard even weeks before the comeback was confirmed. After working for most of his career with Billy Graham and a short stint with Floyd Mayweather Sr, Hatton worked with Manchester fight guru Bob Shannon to get fighting fit for Senchenko.

Hatton was never as effective at the higher weight of 147lbs. At top level as a welterweight he appeared sluggish when struggling to out-score Luis Collazo, was knocked out by Mayweather before losing his return against Senchenko.

Class-act Vyacheslav conducted this entire interview online. Livefight was very grateful for prompt and full answers to all our questions.

Senchenko was the WBA champion for three years but made only three defences in that time before Malignaggi toppled him seven months prior to the Ukrainian’s bout with Hatton.

Hatton’s last great performance was stopping Malignaggi in eleven rounds in Las Vegas in 2008. Malignaggi was a stylistic nightmare for Senchenko and, even though it was close on the cards, most thought Paulie was clearly ahead when the fight was stopped on a TKO in the ninth.

The Hatton contest was only Vyacheslav’s fourth pro bout outside of the Ukraine.

Many had questioned the selection of Senchenko as a comeback opponent for the returning Ricky Hatton without a warm-up first. Even a prime “Hitman” may have struggled with the tall, rangy and technically sound Senchenko. Hatton’s trainer Bob Shannon even stated his reservations about the match ahead of the contest.

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