Thousands of fans travelled wherever he fought from London to Las Vegas, and he quickly became boxing’s man of the people. They warmed to him even more with word of big drinking nights in between the fights and training camps, and the ballooning weight.
It merited the Ricky Fatton nickname from his rivals but he seemed to lap it up, always happy go lucky, at least on the surface. But Hatton’s life was beginning to unravel even before he lost his first fight to Floyd Mayweather Jr, and he was never the same again in the ring after.
From there his life spiralled out of control. I remember sitting in a gym in Manchester as he told me in detail about holding a knife to his wrists and preparing to take his own life. He could never quite go through with it.
While some of that is known, Sky’s new documentary Hatton unpicks the detail of the boxer’s personal implosion and the resulting fall-outs with family and friends.
What director Dan Deswbury does so well is not just take Hatton’s version of events to relive the nightmare scenario in which he found himself embroiled, but that of those most affected by it too. Central to the film is Hatton’s former trainer and second father Billy Graham, whose relationship with the boxer broke down so acrimoniously that it ended up in the courts.
Graham lives in the middle of nowhere and, when Dewsbury first knocked on his door, he was told in no uncertain terms to leave. Undeterred, he returned again, and again, and finally got Graham’s agreement to be involved.
What the documentary finds is Hatton is not the only tortured soul. The split after that first professional loss clearly still impacts Graham’s own life, as he reveals with a gravelly voice and between puffs of a cigarette.
The former boxer’s ex-fiance Jennifer Dooley is almost as compelling, reliving the darkest days of their relationship and the dawning realisation that she was going to be unable to bring Hatton back from the brink of heavy drinking and drug taking, or rescue him from the grip of his inner demons. As she puts it, “I was leaving when he needed me, but it was a choice between peace or chaos, and I couldn’t choose chaos anymore.”
At times, the film feels like a counselling session for all the main characters involved, including Hatton’s parents Ray and Carol, from whom he was estranged for eight years following a disagreement about their son’s financial affairs. It doesn’t fully get to the bottom of the matter, but through no fault of the programme makers: the issues are clearly not fully resolved, but Hatton appears to have decided that family is more important than any past squabbles.
For all of the main players, this must be uncomfortable viewing. Watching it, you’re left hoping that all they have found peace or can do in the future. Refreshingly, Hatton, who always felt that, as a man, he had to deal alone with his emotions, talks to a room of fans in Manchester telling them to seek help for any mental health issues.
You’re left with hope too – that somehow Dewsbury’s film can bring Hatton and Graham back together and rekindle a friendship that was so rapidly and disastrously shattered.
Hatton will air on Sky Documentaries from August 31