Ricky Hatton’s professional debut came in a forgotten fight, well beyond midnight, with the chairs being cleared away and the crowd having long gone home.
That is proof that a boxer doesn’t have to be defined by their earliest fights. It is what Ricky will be telling Campbell Hatton after a week that they will never forget.
Twenty-four years after his dad began a journey that culminated in world championships, nationwide popularity and Las Vegas spectacles with the biggest names in the sport, Campbell made a successful professional debut on Saturday night.
Campbell’s introduction to the cruel old game was a glitzy and glamorous affair, a far cry from Ricky’s humble start in Widnes in 1997 when he was shoved into the ring after the main event for a fight that few remember and even fewer watched live.
Young Campbell would not be able to visualise how low down the pecking order his father was forced to start, after enjoying time in the Gibraltar sun aboard a luxurious yacht last week.
He is walking a familiar path into a ring that a famous father left behind and will now deal with familiar issues – his every move will be under a microscope, every lesson that he learns will be overanalysed in a way that professionals without a well-known surname are not burdened by.
“There is a lot of pressure on this kid,” said promoter Eddie Hearn. “Everyone is watching him, waiting to criticise.”
His father at ringside had tears in his eyes when his own ring-walk song, ‘Blue Moon’, blared out and the spitting image of Ricky Hatton himself emerged.
Campbell’s first fight, a four-rounder with Jesus Ruiz who had previously lost all 10 of his bouts, was a box ticked. It was notable for the wicked left hooks to the body that Campbell threw, once a favourite shot of Ricky’s.
The 20-year-old said: “I didn’t box my best. I can do better. The nerves got to me. I will get better, next time.
“I’ve always boxed [with a pro style]. The toughness is different. I was surprised by how durable he was.
“The occasion was so different, that was the main [difference].
“I have the same strengths as my dad, one of them is the body punch. That’s a main part of my game. If I can get it to where my dad did, which I can, not many will [handle it].”
His dad reminded that Campbell is still a novice: “You saw in flashes what he’s capable of.
“He’s only had a handful of amateur fights. He’s only been doing this a few years. It was a good learning fight.
“Sometimes he got too involved but that only comes with experience.
“He wasn’t even boxing five years ago!”
There are obvious parallels with Conor Benn. Five years ago Benn, then 19, won his debut with a first-round stoppage. In two weeks on April 10, he headlines against Samuel Vargas, live on Sky Sports.
Benn is still unbeaten but has been knocked down, written off and insulted before his most recent performance, against Sebastian Formella, proved his impressive growth. Benn embraced the pressure of his surname and Hatton must do the same. The early signs are good.
The next stop for Hatton will be a second pro fight on May 1, live on Sky Sports Box Office, on Derek Chisora and Joseph Parker’s undercard. The plan is then to get him in the ring eight or nine times per year, Hearn said.
It is worth remembering how different Ricky’s debut was 24 years ago, against Colin McAuley who also worked in a high-security psychiatric unit.
“Any idea that I would do okay was quickly dismissed within about 30 seconds,” McAuley previously told Sky Sports.
He described the body punches that would take Ricky around the world as “like a bolt of lightning”.
Ricky had the benefit of ironing out his youthful mistakes without the glare of expectation. Campbell will not be so lucky. How he deals with that will tell us if the second coming of the famous Hatton era will be anything like the first.
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