From Grimsby to European glory — Ricky Hatton’s incredible journey with Man City

All Ricky Hatton ever wanted to do was become a world champion and watch Manchester City take over the world, and it's fair to say that he's achieved his life's aspirations and then some.

In an incredible career, which saw him take 40,000 fans over to Las Vegas, 'The Hitman' could've been forgiven for letting fame get the better of him.

But to his core, he always remained the working-class lad who loved drinking beer, indulging in a good old-fashioned English breakfast and cheering on his beloved club with his best pals by his side.

While in the modern era, Manchester City have solidified their place as a global footballing powerhouse, it was a long road to get there, and Hatton has stuck by the club through thick and thin.

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Speaking exclusively to Daily Star Sport, he beamed: "It's been very tiring going to watch Man City win all these trophies. I went to Real Madrid away. I went to the Bernabeu, which was absolutely fantastic. The following week, I was at Wembley, which was brilliant, seeing us lift the FA Cup when we beat Manchester United in the final.

"The following week, I was on a legends' tour with me, Frank Bruno, Joe Calzaghe and Nigel Benn. We went Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We were here, there and everywhere. And then, the next week, I was in Istanbul for the Champions League Final. It was incredible.

"It was nice that I went with the same mates that I have had my season ticket with all my life. We've been going on ever since we were in the Second division. We sat in the North stand. It's weird to remember it peeing down, and us being 2-1 down to Grimsby, to go all the way to booking flights and hotels to witness us win the Champions League.

"After seeing some of the crap we've witnessed, I think we deserve it."

Throughout his illustrious career, the popular fighter made sure the world knew how much he adored his local side.

With the anthem of Blue Moon playing in the background, he'd strut to the ring in his fat suit, due to his infatuation with sausages and black pudding, hence the nickname 'Ricky Fatton' and dismantle whoever had dared take him on, while the Manchester City badge took centre stage on his shorts.

At the peak of his powers, he clashed with Juan Lazcano at his team's home ground on a night that neither he nor his wild supporters will ever forget.

He beamed: "It's mad that I boxed at the City of Manchester Stadium. I won four world titles in two weight divisions; I had record crowds that went to Las Vegas. I always had confidence that I could be a world champion; even as a youngster, people told me, 'If you dedicate yourself, you can go all the way'.

"I did believe that I could do it because you've got to. You've got to have the self-belief. But to set record crowds and have a massive following and become a two-weight division champion was class; I was happy when I won the British title. I ended up with four world titles and all the trips to Vegas.

He continued: "I made my comeback because I was in such a bad way for a period in my life. I wanted to return and say, 'Sorry, everyone. I'm ok now, look at me'. Until my fight against Vyacheslav Senchenko, it was only two of the greatest of all time who beat me. The fat kid didn't do bad."

In November, Hatton decided to make one last dance in an exhibition bout against the legendary Marco Antonio Barrera.

As the band played for the final time, the 44-year-old showcased the body shots we've come to know and love as he traded leather with a man who's achieved just as much as he has.

The night filled the crowd with joy, but now, Hatton knows it's time to give back to the next generation.

The sporting icon has stepped up to captain 'Team Manchester' in a new competition called 'The Box Off'.

The tournament is an innovative British Boxing Board of Control-sanctioned new professional team boxing format in which male and female fighters will be given a shot at exhibiting their skills on a massive stage.

Hatton asserted: "The fact that I could bring some fighter through from Manchester from the very bottom to the top is amazing. Not everyone has a following on YouTube these days or has a following on social media, and not everyone can get a contract at Sky or TNT, can they?"

"There's lots of homegrown talent, all over the country. It's alright if you go to the Olympics, the World Championships or the Commonwealth Games. But it's not that easy for some people. There are some great fighters who will never get an opportunity like that. This is their chance. If we can unearth someone from the very bottom level and give them a springboard to bigger things, that'd be great.

"In this world of social media, you can see these kids sat on the sofa at home as we speak, with no money, no contracts, no opportunities, then all of a sudden, bang, they get the knock on the door and receive this fantastic opportunity.

"Don't forget, Ricky Hatton didn't get what he got straight away. I was a carpet fitter when I first turned pro; I had to do that to pay for petrol in my car, food, and stuff like that. I know how hard it is at the bottom of the ladder when you first get going, and you haven't got any money. So imagine giving an opportunity to someone like that."

But before the icon jumps into his new role, he'll first have to head down to Wembley to watch Manchester City take on Arsenal in a clash for the Community Shield on Sunday.

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