Ricky fell in love with Havana's olde-worlde charm

No-one could ever accuse Ricky Hatton of being a journeyman boxer, but there are few exponents of the noble art as well travelled as the former world champ-turned promoter and trainer. As the Olympics beckons, Dominic McGuinness finds the ‘Hitman’, who retired a year ago, in knockout form.

When you hear the phrase ‘I’ve had a couple of disasters in my time’ uttered in the familiar nasal Manchester tones of Ricky Hatton, you may think he’s alluding to the two defeats he suffered during in his glittering boxing career. But no, in true understated style, he’s actually talking about his costly time-keeping.

“My main trouble is always missing flights,” Ricky laughs. “I always leave it to the last minute. I think ‘We’ll be ok for an hour,’ but then before you know it, too late.”

Ricky’s sitting on the ring apron in the upstairs boxing area of his impressive health and fitness gym in Hyde, 12 km (8 miles) east of Manchester city centre. He’s relaxed, looking good after a quick break in Marbella, and throwing out travel tales as fast as he used to whip in his famous left hook.

”On one occasion, I managed to get on the plane to Tenerife, no problem, but some lads were sitting in our seats,” a big smile now breaking across his battle- hardened features.

Tenerife El Medano beachThe volcanic island welcomes huge amounts of tourists a year to its serenic beauty
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“Me and my mate looked at the tickets and I said ‘What are you doing? You’re in our seats!’ But we all had the same seat numbers so we gave the tickets to the air hostess who had a look and said; ‘These lads are in the right seats - you’re on the wrong plane!’

“We somehow managed to get on the wrong plane even though we’d had our tickets ripped at the gate. We were on our way to Turkey! If those seats had been empty, we’d have ended up there, but luckily the hostess noticed and we made it to Tenerife in the end.
“Another time I went to Tenerife with my friends,” he continues, now on a roll. “We came home one night particularly drunk at about two o’clock in the morning and ended up jumping in the pool with all our clothes on.

“We were caught by one of the hotel security guards who told us to go to an office. They sat us down and said they’d chuck us out of the hotel unless we cleaned the pool tomorrow.

“I was WBU light-welterweight champion at the time, but the next day me and my mate got the big brushes that clean the pool and started sweeping around the water. The whole pool area was soon packed to the rafters with everyone taking pictures of me as I was cleaning. It was a bit of a nightmare to say the least!”

Despite mishaps and missed flights, Ricky owns a property on Tenerife and visits the island several times a year. For a man who’s almost as famous for his off-training carousing as he is for his impressive exploits in the ring – 45 wins in 47 fights - such tales don’t cause particular surprise. This is the sporting megastar and friend of the celebs who takes greatest pride in being a champion of the people. A man who, by his own admission, probably had a pint with every punter that ever paid to watch him fight.

“I’ve been very lucky that boxing’s given me the opportunity to travel all over the world, meeting great people, and that’s what it’s all about,” Ricky says.

Old HavanaHavana is one of the world's most beautiful cities, according to Ricky
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“I boxed in Cuba at the World Junior championships in 1996. That country has produced the best amateurs the world has ever seen and I went there fighting for England when I was 17. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen and the people were so pleasant.

“The old buildings – you’d be hard pushed to find buildings made like that nowadays - and in the square in Havana you’d have people fishing over the side into the water. Fantastic place.”

More recent adventures have seen Ricky enjoy South Africa’s Sin City, sample the Middle East delights of Dubai (“Oh my God....never been so hot!”), before a lengthy jaunt down the east coast of Australia (“I beat their former world champ Kostya Tszyu who’s a living legend and a hero to the Aussies, so I was dreading it quietly, but they loved me to bits!”).

But all of those places just can’t compare to Ricky’s second home – a place he enjoyed incredible fight nights roared on by thousands of travelling Brits - the golden nugget of the Mojave Desert.

Las Vegas. I can’t praise it enough!” His eyes are now wide with boyish enthusiasm for the shimmering Nevada playground. “Everything is done so much bigger than anywhere else. It’s a wonderful place.”

Las Vegas at nightVegas is best known for its casinos but there is more to the city than meets the eye

Nowhere polarises opinion like Vegas, but after fighting there five times and visiting on dozens of other occasions for pleasure, Ricky is more qualified than most to extol its virtues.

“Some people, when they think of Vegas, they think it’s all about the strip, the hotels and casinos. They think that’s all it is. But there’s a lot more to it than you’d think.”

That knowledge comes from experience – some of it painful. There are the two crushing defeats to Floyd Mayweather Junior and Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand, but more tellingly, the weeks of excruciating training prior to those huge star-studded nights.

Ricky’s training camps included dawn runs up Mount Charleston, a beauty spot 56km (35 miles) north west of the strip and nearly 3,658m (12,000ft) above sea level. The highest of the Spring Mountains, the site is a popular camping destination and also boasts a small ski area.

“There are some lovely walks and treks and it’s all away from the bright lights. People think that Vegas is just surrounded by boring desert, but that’s far from the case. There’s some beautiful scenery above the city.”

While Ricky is officially retired from matters inside the ropes, life in his ever-demanding role as a boxing promoter and trainer is going well. Hatton Promotions has a stable of talented young fighters and Ricky has considered taking the show on the road.

Macau cityscapeRicky has set his sights on staging fights one day in Macau
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“I’ve been over to Macau which is the Las Vegas of Asia,” he explains. “We’ve been talking about putting fights on there. That would be absolutely sensational. The people there love their sport and they also like a gamble – you’ve never seen anything like it!

“It’s an incredible place and they have an MGM, a Caesars, the Hard Rock – exactly like Vegas. I think they want to get into boxing bit by bit so hopefully that’s something that can come off.

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