- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Ricky Hatton, who had not fought since suffering a brutal second-round knockout loss to Manny Pacquiao in May 2009, formally announced his retirement from boxing on Thursday.
Hatton, the former junior welterweight world champion and former welterweight titleholder, was one of the most popular fighters of his time. With his everyman attitude and fierce fighting style, Hatton, 32, became a beloved figure in England and something of a folk hero in his hometown of Manchester.
"After a lot of soul searching over the last couple of years I have finally decided to confirm I will never box again and there will be no coming back," Hatton said. "There have been so many times since the Manny Pacquiao fight when I have woken up and thought I would give it one more go, but it was not to be.
"There have been amazing highs, and although I always wanted to be a world champion, I went beyond my wildest dreams."
Known as "The Hitman," Hatton was 45-2 with 32 KOs during a career that began in 1997 but, following his loss to Pacquiao, fell apart due to his battles with alcohol and depression and admission to a rehab clinic after the News of the World published a video that showed him snorting cocaine.
Hatton said Thursday that he will now focus on his promotional company, Hatton Promotions, which has been promoting fight cards for about two years.
Hatton reached the pinnacle of boxing in June 2005 when he won the junior welterweight championship by making Kostya Tszyu -- who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame last month -- quit after 11 grueling rounds in what was Tszyu's final fight.
"Beating Kostya Tszyu was my greatest triumph, but there were plenty of other great nights and memories," Hatton said.
In his next fight, Hatton scored a highlight-reel knockout of Carlos Maussa in the ninth round to unify alphabet titles.
Then Hatton decided it was time to come to America, where he made his debut in Boston in May 2006 in the first fight of a multifight contract with promoter Artie Pelullo and HBO. He moved up in weight and scored a controversial decision against Luis Collazo to win a welterweight title.
Hatton never defended the welterweight belt, instead returning to junior welterweight to defend his lineal championship via lopsided decision against Juan Urango and by fourth-round knockout against former lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo.
Hatton's passionate fans followed him to the United States by the thousands, but the scene was overwhelming in December 2007, when he moved back up to welterweight to challenge Floyd Mayweather Jr. at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas after his deal with Pelullo expired and he signed with Golden Boy.
Some 35,000 Brits flooded the city just to be part of the event, even though most did not have tickets to the fight. But that did not stop the Brits from spending a week partying, waiving British flags, chanting and singing "There's Only One Ricky Hatton!" (to the tune of "Winter Wonderland") before Mayweather knocked Hatton out in the 10th round.
Still the junior welterweight champion, Hatton returned home for his next fight in May 2008 and outpointed Juan Lazcano in front 58,500 at City of Manchester Stadium.
"Since I put on the gloves as a 10-year-old in Hattersley, boxing has been my life and still is," Hatton said. "My promotional company is going well and I am looking forward to taking one of my fighters on a similar road to me. People say no fighter will ever have the fan base I had, but one of my aims is to make sure one of my boxers gets a bigger one and achieves more than me."
Hatton returned to the MGM Grand to stop former titlist Paulie Malignaggi in the 11th round in November 2008 before being knocked cold in a scary scene by Pacquiao in the second round, also at the MGM Grand, six months later.
"Defeating Jose Luis Castillo, unifying the light welterweight title against Carlos Maussa, winning a world welterweight title when I fought Luis Collazo, beating Jon Thaxton to become British champion, fighting in front of almost 60,000 fans on Manchester City's ground -- it seems endless," Hatton said. "And when I look at my record the only men to beat me were Manny and Floyd -- still No. 1 and 2 in the pound-for-pound lists on the day I retire."
Hatton, who loved to tip pints of beer and would famously balloon in weight between fights to the point where he playfully referred to himself as "Ricky Fatton," had his share of problems and scandal after the loss to Pacquiao.
Hatton also had a falling out with original promoter Frank Warren, who had guided him to his first world title, as well as longtime trainer Billy Graham, who wound up suing him, claiming Hatton owed him money.
Besides his promotional company, Hatton, who has a son, Campbell, said he will also continue to focus on family life. His partner, Jennifer Dooley, is expecting their child later this year.
"Away from boxing, I have so much to look forward to," Hatton said. "My son, Campbell, is a boy any parent would be proud to call his lad and is growing up so fast I wonder where the years have gone. I am about to become a dad for the second time and that cannot happen quickly enough. Jennifer and I are so excited. She is my rock.
"There are so many people I want to thank for supporting me throughout my career and who made 'The Hitman's' journey possible. My family were there for me every step of the way. My mum and dad, brother Matthew, my amateur trainers Ted Peate and Paul Dunne, who taught me to box, my agent Paul Speak, my lawyer Gareth Williams, the British Boxing Board of Control and everybody at Hatton Promotions.
"Sky TV has been fantastic to me and I look forward to continuing my association with them as a promoter, the British media were fair and the local BBC and Granada followed me to Las Vegas. As big a thanks as any must go to the fans that would never stop singing and so often turn Las Vegas into a corner of England. Thank you all, but the fighting in the ring is over and I look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new friends on my journey as a promoter."
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.