– Jack Harrison contributed to this report.
Late into the evening of Sunday, September 30th 2012, we witnessed the “Miracle of Medinah.” Team Europe overcame all the odds on singles day to turn around a 10 – 6 deficit and not only retain possession of the Ryder Cup on American soil, but win the competition outright.
Inspired by the memory of the late Seve Ballesteros, the sheer determination and raw emotion on display created yet another unforgettable sporting moment in what has become the year of unforgettable sporting moments; the likes of which it seems unimaginable we will ever see again.
Whether it was the sight of Bradley Wiggins storming along the Champs Elysees on his way to winning the Tour de France; Mo Farah finding the strength and endurance to out sprint his rivals on the way to ten and five thousand metre Olympic glory; Andy Murray ending his long wait for that elusive Grand Slam or the roar of Ian Poulter as he inspired Europe to perhaps the greatest turn-around in sporting history.
The Great British public have been swept away in a procession of home-grown victories and success stories.
Amidst the wave of British sporting superstars who’ve dominated the back (and front) pages this summer, one man has been making headlines not for what he has achieved, although his accolades are many, but for what he could yet still accomplish.
Former world boxing champion, Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton has announced his intention to return to the ring after a three year absence and will fight Ukrainian Vyacheslav Senchenko in Manchester on November 24th, in what is sure to be a keenly followed comeback by one of the nation’s most popular pugilists.
With the euphoric feeling that currently surrounds British sport there is optimism aplenty; do we really dare to dream there is a chapter of the fairytale yet to be written? Can Hatton be the man who takes the torch and carries the “sporting feel good factor” it into 2013?
While the motivations behind Hatton’s decision to once again subject his self to the rigours of the boxing ring are his and his alone, the questions will linger. What does “The Hitman” have to lose? Does he still have what it takes? And, perhaps most pertinent, what does he have to gain?
The last time we saw Hatton, he was sprawled out in the middle of the ring after a crushing second round knockout at the hands of Manny Pacquiao. But, in reality, that defeat is the only real blot on his copy book.
Yes, there was the 2007 loss to the undefeated Floyd Mayweather; but Hatton had him in trouble and was by no means disgraced in that result.
Other than that, the Manchester fighter boasts a perfect record in professional contests, and spectacular wins over Kostya Tszyu and Jose Luis Castillo will live long in the memory.
Hatton reached the very top of his sport, and was beaten only twice, by men who are generally considered to be the best of their generation. As legacies go in the cruel sport of boxing, this is one to be proud of.
So with the Manchester native risking all of this, does he still have what it takes?
Even the most buoyed and positive of sports fans cannot answer that question with complete certainty. Hatton’s career has been based on a frenetic and relentless style, often taking two punches to land one of his own.
With a well documented history of between-fight weight gain, as well as alcohol and drug problems, will the 34-year-old have the fitness and energy to impose himself in the same way and will his famous punch power still be there? The answer to this question will be revealed on November 24th.
This summer has showcased the incredible power of sport. The history of boxing in particular would suggest that the lure of top class competition is irresistible; the need for adulation and adrenaline borders on addiction; and Ricky Hatton has given in to that burning desire.
The man himself admits that he has been lost without the sport he loves, a loss so great that he has suffered with bouts of depression and even contemplated suicide.
But what does Hatton have to gain? Purpose, redemption and (to borrow a phrase from Michael Buffer) the buzz that only the thousands in attendance and the millions watching at home can provide.
Is it really too much to ask then that we end the greatest year in our country’s sporting history with just one more moment of victory?
If the Ricky Hatton who conquered the world in 2005 steps through the ropes in November then maybe, just maybe, he can vanquish his demons and rewrite his own script.
In a year when sporting stories have seemed more like something from a Hollywood movie set, surely even the most cynical of all cynics could not bet against The Hitman providing us with just one more star turn.