Light-Welterweight champion Ricky Hatton has been a pay per view attraction for almost two years. I’m not sure many of the fights, Kostya Tszyu aside, have warranted the implicit kudos associated with attaining PPV status either on paper or in retrospect but despite, mediocre performances and moderate entertainment value the blue collar hero’s fans will once again need to dig deep to see him in action. A satellite subscription to SKY Sports is no longer sufficient. Setanta Sports, with whom Hatton partners for his next offering, require a further £10-20 to watch him do battle with veteran Mexican Jose Luis Castillo. The news he will not feature on Sky Sports, the channel that has carried his bouts since he was a young prospect, caused a minor ripple – hidden in the aftermath of De La Hoya v Mayweather and tragic loss of Diego Corrales – among those who follow Ricky’s career. Though my own relationship with SKY is best described as one of love and hate; they love my direct debit but hate giving me value, I couldn’t help wondering whether Hatton was further risking antagonising his supporters and pushes him further from the British public that would love him if they were able to see him at his best.
Of course, Setanta is as simple as SKY Sports to purchase a PPV event from but detail on how to secure theevent is misleading and implies the customer must also subscribe to the additional channel beyond the event. Inevitably, the decision to jump ship is driven by money – for all Hatton’s bonhomie and grace, money is a key driver in his decision making, and why shouldn’t it be? He is, after all, the one taking the risks and making the sacrifices. But for the well being of British boxing, his fight with Castillo – which has the ingredients for a fine match-up – will be unavailable to most fans either through financial limitations or an indifference to the sport as a whole.
Setanta Sports is an aspiring network but in its embryonic state it will not provide the ‘bums on seats’ required to further cement Hatton’s place in British boxing folklore and the hearts and mind of the British public. And I wonder whether the money Hatton is earning will keep him as warm as the affection his predecessors Bruno, McGuigan, Benn and Eubank are held in following their retirement?
I write a lot about boxing’s ill-health and the sport’s need for a galvanising fighter to re-engage the television audiences, Hatton was, and remains, the most viable candidate but his solitary existence on peripheral channels only serves to exclude casual fans.
It’s a shame. I can’t criticise Hatton for leaving Warren when he did, but I do wonder how big a star he could have been had he continued to fight on terrestrial channel ITV to whom Warren was about to sign an exclusive deal. Both parties could have gained so much.