Ricky Hatton: What boxing Hall of Fame induction means

Liam and Noel Gallagher (back) of the Manchester rock band Oasis, carrying Ricky Hatton's belts ahead of his fight against Paulie Malignaggi at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas in 2008. Dave Thompson/PA Images via Getty Images

For Ricky "The Hitman" Hatton, the finest moment of his boxing career was the night it all began, 19 years ago this week -- his fight against Kostya Tszyu in 2005.

As Hatton, 45, looks back on his career ahead of his induction to the International Boxing Hall of Fame (June 6-9) in Canastota, New York, he rates the significance of beating Tszyu for his first world title as the biggest highlight of his career.

Hatton was a figure of perpetual movement as he darted in and out of range, whipping in unforgiving shots to Tszyu's body at Manchester Arena in England. At the end of the 11th round, trainer Johnny Lewis pulled the Australia-based Russian out of the fight as he sat on his stool. Hatton was the IBF junior welterweight world champion, and his career then transcended to another level with six of his subsequent nine fights in the United States.

Despite entering the fight against Tszyu as an underdog in front of 22,000 of his home city fans, Hatton dominated the more experienced Tszyu, who was No. 3 in the pound-for-pound rankings at the time behind Floyd Mayweather and Bernard Hopkins.

"People said if I beat Tszyu it would be one of the best wins by a British boxer ever," Hatton told ESPN. "I think that's my greatest win, looking back, and it opened the door for me to fight in the States. He was known globally but, for me, people in America were saying who's this fat little kid from Manchester who has just stopped Kostya Tszyu on his stool."

With the expectation of his fans and in a fight that caught the imagination beyond just boxing fans in the U.K., -- Tszyu was also a big star in Australia at the time -- Hatton delivered a tireless and outstanding performance.

"When I was coming through I had the WBU title, which wasn't one of the major belts, and my defense was a bit ropey so I was getting cut on regular occasions," Hatton said. "And that's why a lot of people thought Tszyu would win.

"But it was self-belief. I didn't stop believing and even when I fought Kostya Tszyu, Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather, I always believed I would win."

After being stopped in two rounds by Pacquiao in May 2009, Hatton did not fight for three years while addressing depression and addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Hatton also ranks his losses to Mayweather (2007) and Pacquiao as some of his best moments, in part because they were the best two fighters in the world.

"Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather were highlights, even though I came off second best but they were the best in the business at the time," Hatton said. "I struggled with those defeats after but I'm in a happy place now and I'm happy talking about them now."

Fighting at home in Manchester also has significance to Hatton, and representing his hometown was one of his goals. Hatton remembers three fights in particular that had it all.

"Fighting at the City of Manchester Stadium [against Juan Lazcano in 2008] was up there. The fight with Paulie Malignaggi [2008 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas], and Noel and Liam Gallagher [of the band Oasis] carrying my belts to the ring was also big. I always wanted to be a world champion, support Manchester City and I liked Oasis, and I ticked all of those boxes in my boxing career.

"Stopping [Jose Luis] Castillo, a Mexican known for his body shots, with a body shot [in Round 4, in Las Vegas] was another good one. I beat him at his own game."

Hatton will also be remembered as an immensely popular boxer on both sides of the Atlantic. His self-deprecating humor was the antithesis to the foul-mouthed braggadocio and trash talk which is typical of pre-fight build-ups. Before the Malignaggi fight, Hatton even walked to the ring in a fat suit and a robe with the word "Fatman" across the top of the hood, in a joke about his weight that ballooned in between fights.

Hatton was an exciting, pressure-fighter who produced some stunning KO wins. Against Carlos Maussa in Sheffield, England, in November 2005, Hatton was in a treacherous situation -- a title unification fight with cuts above both eyes.

"I was winning the fight but people were getting worried about the cuts," Hatton told ESPN. "My feet actually left the floor when I hit him with a left hook to finish it [in Round 9, by KO]. If he had got up from that shot I would f---ing got out the ring.

Hatton (45-3, 32 KOs) ended his career with a knockout loss to Vyacheslav Senchenko in November 2012, a comeback three years after being stopped by Pacquiao.

While Hatton won belts at junior welterweight and welterweight, perhaps his biggest achievement was his popularity and connection with fans. When Hatton fought Mayweather, nearly 20,000 fans traveled from the U.K. to Las Vegas.

"You dream of fighting in Las Vegas, but you don't think it would ever come true," Hatton said. "Well, for me it did. When I laced up the gloves for the first time, I was growing up watching the likes of Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali on videos.

"I would never have thought one day my name is going to be alongside them in the Boxing Hall of Fame, never. I can't believe it, to be honest. There's not many British fighters in the Hall of Fame, so to get a call-up is just incredible."

Hatton said he considered taking his own life amid alcohol and drug addiction after the Pacquiao loss in 2009 and ahead of his return in 2012, and that his mental health improved with treatment. He now manages fighters and gives motivational speeches.

"I'm glad I didn't take my life when I was struggling, because I would have missed out on so much," Hatton said.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or is in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.