Ricky Hatton hopes that his tale of personal redemption has unified fans and critics alike ahead of his return to the ring tonight.
Hatton last stepped through the ropes 3½ 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.
Loading article content
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 4½st while based at his own Hyde gym under the watchful eye of Bob Shannon, the veteran trainer.
As with the excess poundage, the psychological demons have apparently 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 months ago.
"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 15st 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' "
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, 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. It's up to Ricky and whatever he does I'm there for him."