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Hatton is back to redeem himself

There's only one Ricky Hatton, and he is back.

Hatton, the former junior welterweight world champion -- who also won a piece of the welterweight crown -- was last seen in a boxing ring out cold after suffering an absolutely brutal second-round knockout loss to Manny Pacquiao in May 2009.

It was as nasty a knockout as you'll see in boxing, a clean left hand on the chin that left Hatton separated from his senses, flat on his back in the center of his ring. The television shots of his girlfriend, Jennifer Dooley, in tears at ringside are indelible.

That punch not only sent Hatton into retirement, but on a long slide into the depths of drug abuse, drinking, depression, panic attacks, significant weight gain and multiple suicide attempts.

"I tried to take my own life. My girlfriend had to take the knife off me, take it away from my wrist three, four times," said Hatton, who rarely holds back when reporters ask him about anything. "My nervous breakdown was horrendous."

Now, 3½ years later, Hatton, seemingly with his life under control again, is ending his retirement and attempting to rise like the Phoenix.

Can he do it? Nobody knows. And nobody will know, including Hatton, until he steps into the ring to face former welterweight titlist Vyacheslav Senchenko of Ukraine in a scheduled 10-round welterweight fight on Saturday (Showtime, 5 p.m. ET/PT) in Hatton's hometown of Manchester, England, where he remains a beloved figure -- their everyman.

The fight sold more than 20,000 tickets in about two days, before the opponent was even announced. Hatton sounded really moved by the overwhelming support from his fans.

"I can't even express to you how grateful I am for the outpouring of love and support I've received," Hatton said.

The 34-year-old Hatton (45-2, 32 KOs) has always had the most passionate fans in the world. He is a beloved figure and tens of thousands of fans followed him from England to Las Vegas for his five fights there, including against Pacquiao and a previous loss to Floyd Mayweather in 2007.

Those fans are the ones who sing nonstop at his fights. Come on, you know the song, don't you?

"There's only one Ricky Hatton! One Ricky Hatton! Walking along, singing a song, walking in a Hatton Wonderland!"

Undoubtedly, the serenades will continue.

"I'm not really an attention kind of guy, but that's the part I miss more than anything," Hatton said. "I'm looking forward to making that ringwalk and all the crowd. That's something any fighter would miss. I'm forever banging the drum that the support of the fans means everything to me. I feel like I let them down and they're a big reason why I am coming back.

"I've come to deal with the Pacquiao and Mayweather defeats. I get that now. But I can't get out of my mind how many people I disappointed with my personal life. That is 70 percent of the reason for the comeback. The other 30 percent is I don't want the last image being of me on my back, even if it was against Manny Pacquiao, one of the greatest fighters."

Aside from all the bad times during the past 3½ years, Hatton did stay close to boxing when he was sober enough to be involved in his Hatton Promotions, which put on many strong cards. As he began to straighten himself out, he started training young fighters, which put him back in the gym. About five months ago he decided he wanted to make a comeback.

But he is also coming back to redeem himself with his fans for his personal failings.

"I was always a very proud fighter. Always fought with a lot of heart and was able to dictate fights," Hatton said. "So you can image 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 Manny Pacquiao. As soon as Manny beat me I went into depression and that led to problems that were well-documented in the tabloids."

Then Hatton ran down the issues.

"Suicide attempts and nervous breakdowns and panic attacks," he said, as though he was reading a grocery list. "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 [because Graham sued him for a share of the purses he felt he was owed]. 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 Manny 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."

Hatton, who will be fighting in the 147-pound division, said he ballooned to 210 pounds during his retirement.

"I've come down from 210," he said. "My doctor told me I was a heart attack waiting to happen and with everything else that was going on, I wanted to take my own life. But I got my act together."

When he was in the gym in recent months training fighters, he started getting in shape. Eventually, he began to talk seriously about making a comeback.

"I was in the gym training lads and being in the gym, I was getting fit without realizing it," said Hatton said. "That got the ball rolling. I got a little bit of the buzz back and I was feeling healthier.

"I feel I can do this. I have had a lot of rough fights and I've burned the candle at both ends a little bit but being away 3½ years, I have that hunger back. I know I have a lot of miles on the clock but I'm rejuvenated because I've had a break. A lot of people think I can't succeed and I know I've had a lot of tough fights, but I got to battle. I'm in the right frame of mind. The desire was gone and now it's back and it's the best thing that's happened to me.

"The first time I was back in the ring and I got hit on the chin, I liked it, to be honest with you. I've no doubt there will be a little bit of ring rust, but I would have thought there would have been a little more in the gym."

Given the time off and the problems he has had, nobody would have been surprised had Hatton picked a soft touch to face. Many were downright shocked that he picked Senchenko, a legitimate fighter.

In his last fight in April, Senchenko (32-1, 21 KOs), 35, lost his world title when he was stopped by Paulie Malignaggi on a cut in the ninth round. Malignaggi, who was stopped in the 11th round by Hatton in a 2008 lineal junior welterweight title fight, likely will defend his title in a rematch against Hatton in his next fight if he comes through against Senchenko.

"I've performed in some very big fights, been on the stage at the highest level of the sport," Hatton said. "I want to be back there. My team begged me to take an easier fight. I wouldn't have it. There's no way that if I want to fight for world titles, which is what I want, that I was going to take an easy guy. I need to find out what's left in me. We all do. And we're gonna find out, because I've gone straight back into world level."

Hatton said that although he feels good and believes he has looked good in training, he is tempering his expectations.

"I'm not going to get carried away," he said. "We know how I am performing in the gym, but that all goes out the window when the bell rings. I need to transfer what I am doing in the gym into the ring. This is about getting past Senchenko and looking good. If I don't produce the performance I want to show, I'll retire again.

"I need to prove myself. [Saturday] will tell people, the fans, the press and myself just where I am."

But where he is, not matter what happens, is in a place much better than where he went in those 3½ dark years after the loss to Pacquiao.

Already the father of an 11-year-old boy, Campbell, from a previous relationship, Hatton and Jennifer have a 13-month-old daughter, Millie. Hatton once again feels good about his life and is excited to fight again.

"My life fell apart in the last 3½ years," Hatton said. "Life really kicked me in the ass. But I have fought back to get where I am today in life, forget boxing. I haven't even thrown a punch yet, but this comeback is already a success just because I am here. My toughest fight has already been won."