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Don't rule out a Hatton return

Ricky Hatton looked better in his comeback fight after 42 months of inactivity, depression, and suicidal ideation than I thought he might.

Yes, he got stopped out Saturday by a liver shot in Round 9 by Vyacheslav Senchenko. Yes, he's 34, and yes, he's been stopped three times now, by Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and now the Ukrainian. After the count-out, in the ring in Manchester, England, Hatton said he'd need to think about his next move. Then, a short time later, at the post-fight presser, he announced his next move: retirement.

"I found out, and as upsetting as it is, I think I'm being the man now and saying, 'Listen, I give it my best. It wasn't there. And that's the end of Ricky Hatton.' A fighter knows when they're in there, and I knew," he said, emotional, but proudly defiant, his swollen right eye testament to the rigors of the game. "It just isn't there anymore. It's too many hard fights. I burned the candle at both ends. I'd like to thank my fans. But I am proud to say, and you may think this is arrogant but I don't really care to be honest at the minute, but it'll be a long time before anyone brings crowds like I brought. And I'm very proud to take that title into retirement with me."

His exit, this version, seems final, doesn't it? I just wouldn't be too sure.

I am hoping that he is graced with a full dose of acceptance of where he is and who he is in life, that he truly does feel content with how he went out this time. But this was a man who floundered mightily when he left the ring after a KO loss to Pacquiao in 2009. This is a man who battles demons of self-worth and substance addiction and crippling depression, a guy who hasn't talked to his parents in two years because of a rift. The ring, the sense of purpose, the desire to climb a high hurdle, kept Hatton on a straight and narrow path. I'm hoping he can continue on the right road after calling it a day, again ... but I am slightly dubious.

Maybe today, maybe a week, a month, or a year, his brain is likely to focus on the best parts of the Senchenko fight. And allow the possibility of ... one ... more ... fight ... to creep back in.

Promoter Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy focused on the upside of the scrap. "I don't think that Ricky Hatton should let his head hang, and that he should build on this," said Schaefer to Lem Satterfield of Ring TV. "If he should want to have a [rematch] against Paulie Malignaggi, and fight for the WBA welterweight championship, I'll be happy to see if we can put that fight together."

And does Team Malignaggi think the door is shut tight on a Hatton rematch? "As always as a team we will weigh all our options when they are presented to us from Golden Boy and we'll make the best decision for Paulie," answered adviser Anthony Catanzaro.

Most fight fans I chatted with think Hatton should stay on the sidelines. But the sidelines, for a complicated lad like him, have in the recent past proven to be more dangerous than the ring. Bottom line: Just don't be surprised if Hatton gives it one last go, and if he does, I recommend you afford him some leeway. Because boxing is maybe his one truest love, and it is beyond hard to cut that cord when even a hint of romance remains.