Boxing


Ricky Hatton. Human Like The Rest Of Us

By Jonh Wight: So first Ricky Hatton is pictured in the UK tabloid press snorting cocaine. He comes out, makes a public apology and checks himself into rehab. But this isn’t enough, it seems, and now he’d had his boxing license revoked.

What next? Parade him in rags through the streets of Manchester wearing a sign which says ‘I took cocaine?’

Like Joe Calzaghe before him, Hatton has found himself at the sharp end of a tabloid machine which thrives on catching out people in the public eye for doing exactly what around half the population does on a regular basis.. Cocaine use in the UK is now higher per head of population than in any other country in the industrialised world. The problem isn’t so much that people take coke or binge drink to the extent they do in this country; the problem is why so many feel the need to.

Of course, such nuanced analysis is out with the competence of the tabloid press, especially that section of it controlled by News International, which pushes Rupert Murdoch’s reactionary and perverted worldview, packaged as investigative journalism, even to the extent of engaging in criminal activity when it sees fit to do so.

The possibility that Ricky Hatton’s cocaine use may be more than social cannot be discounted, of course, and if so help is what he needs not condemnation. His propensity for drinking and following a less than disciplined lifestyle between fights had been known for some time, but this was always looked upon as an attractive part of his make-up by many of his fans – a source of bonding as well as an affirmation of his working class roots. ‘He’s one of us’ was the common refrain you heard when it came to Ricky Hatton that you didn’t when it came to other fighters. The sad thing here is the fact that a significant element of working class culture in Britain remains bound up with alcohol misuse and bad diet. This isn’t the fault of Ricky Hatton, however, who in finding himself portrayed as a champion of this particular lifestyle has merely become another of its too many victims.

The truth is that a massive disconnect exists between how the proprietors of the ‘free’ press dictate how people should live their lives and how they actually do. The space opened up as a result of this disconnection is where hypocrisy resides, and this hypocrisy is none more evident than in the pages of the Murdoch Press.

Ricky Hatton during his boxing career provided many nights of excitement, drama and thrills for his legion of fans. But what those fans should never forget is that boxing is not so much a sport as an all encompassing lifestyle. For young men who’ve known nothing else but boxing since boyhood, its absence leaves a huge void that can never be filled. Years of preparing for fights, of living life to an ascetic routine of early morning roadwork, exhausting afternoon sessions in the gym, and a disciplined diet, are as rewarding as they are tough. This is especially true for the elite few like Hatton, who manage to reach the top to experience the glory and limelight that comes with success in the ring.

Boxers of the calibre and status of Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson, Aaron Pryor, Tommy Morrison and many others have succumbed to the temptation of cocaine as a way to fill the huge gap left in their lives after retiring from the sport. It is a roll call which suggests that glory in the ring, perhaps in any sport for that matter, is a drug every bit as addictive as the illegal kind. Maybe this also explains why in the case of Ricky Hatton an official and definitive announcement of his retirement has yet to be forthcoming. His reluctance to do so, even though to all and intents and purposes his boxing career is over, explains much about the addictive nature of the sport, and the glory it brings those at the top. It also reveals in Hatton’s case his inability to fill the gap in his life since. His forays into the world of television, stand up comedy and boxing promotion increasingly take on the appearance of half hearted attempts to find something to fill his time, rather than serious career moves. Add to the mix financial security and the ingredients are there for a downward spiral.

But, then, who among us who read the expose of Ricky Hatton’s drug use in the pages of the gutter press haven’t experienced a downward spiral in their lives? In fact, never mind the millions who’ve been following the story, what about those responsible for writing it? How many News International execs, staff, and journalists have partaken of a line or two?

To ask the question is to answer it.

The problem which former champions like Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe have isn’t so much drugs or alcohol as it is celebrity. Unfortunately for them success and wealth comes at a heavier cost than they could ever have anticipated when striving to reach the top. The privacy granted mere mortals must, for people in their position, seem like a priceless commodity now. No longer can they go out for drink in public, meet new people, or indulge the same urges we all experience from time to time without having to worry if it’ll make the next day’s papers. No longer can they afford to completely trust friends and associates not to sell stories about them to the press. No longer can they just be who they are instead of the people the fans have built them up to be.

As yet it remains unclear whether or not Ricky Hatton does has a serious drug problem, or if he was merely stitched up while having a few lines on a night out.

In either case it proves only one thing: sportsmen, elite athletes and former championship boxers are every bit as human as the rest of us.

Article posted on 25.09.2010



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