Ricky Hatton is hopeful his tale of personal redemption has unified fans and critics alike ahead of his boxing return tomorrow night.
Hatton last stepped through the ropes three and a half years ago, when a two-round demolition inflicted by pound-for-pound superstar Manny Pacquiao left him brutally knocked out and mentally shattered.
A well-documented struggle with drink, drugs and weight gain followed and, as his once-close family ties broke down amid the strain, the 34-year-old’s thoughts turned darkly towards suicide.
But since feeling the itch to embark upon a ring return, a familiar and often misguided urge for many of the sport’s illustrious names, Hatton has painstakingly shed almost four and a half stone while based at his own Hyde gym under the watchful eye of veteran Manchester trainer Bob Shannon.
As with the excess poundage, the psychological demons have seemingly melted away and the former two-weight world champion is eyeing another memorable triumph against once-beaten Ukrainian welterweight Vyacheslav Senchenko before an adoring public at the Manchester Arena – a prospect that seemed improbable mere months ago.
The venue became a second home to Hatton, culminating in a defining victory over Kostya Tszyu to snatch the IBF light-welterweight crown in June 2005, and his gym walls remain emblazoned with reminders of such memorable nights.
“I’m excited, nervous, angry – all those things,” he said.
“I’m back to redeem myself, to make people proud of me again.
“I feel there’s so many people I let down over a three-year period.
“If you’d have seen me hobbling around Manchester around the 15-stone mark, drunk at every opportunity, and you see me now – physically and mentally in condition…
“I think even a Ricky Hatton critic would say ‘it’s nice to see he’s come back as he has and fair play to him‘.”
Shannon has played a crucial role in the final stages of Hatton putting the pieces back together.
The 55-year-old was aware of the now infamous problems his fighter suffered in the build-up to the Pacquiao defeat – a training camp haphazardly presided over by Floyd Mayweather Sr after the American was selected to replace Hatton’s mentor and Shannon’s former gym-mate Billy Graham – but was shocked to learn of the depths he subsequently sunk to.
He told Press Association Sport: “I heard a few rumours that the camp wasn’t really great, he wasn’t happy with the training, but you hear that after fights - sometimes it’s just an excuse.
“It’s come out and it was a shock what the lad’s gone through.
“In my opinion, he’s redeemed himself right now. To lose all that weight, to change his lifestyle around and to do what he’s done – he’s a winner already in my eyes.”
Should the referee or ringside judges concur tomorrow night, the clamour for showdowns between Hatton and the likes of Paulie Malignaggi, Amir Khan and Kell Brook will undoubtedly grow.
For Shannon, the matter of whether the comeback is one, last hurrah or part of a longer-term plan is solely down to Hatton.
“I think if he wins and he looks great and feels great then he might decide to have another fight,” Shannon added.
“In my opinion he probably will, but it’s up to Ricky.
“When he gets in the ring and feels the atmosphere again, feels the punches coming his way, he might say to me ’I’ve won, I’m happy, I’ve redeemed myself - I’ll retire’.
“But he might carry on and go for other big fights because there’s big fights out there – Amir Khan, Kell Brook.
“It’s up to Ricky and whatever he does I’m there for him.”