“It was a wonderful moment that me and my family will cherish forever.”

It is twelve years this summer since the moment Ricky Hatton is recalling, but the memories remain as vivid as ever for the man who helped Manchester City transcend its traditional UK football audience.

He is, of course, talking of the night he topped the bill at the then-named City of Manchester Stadium, where the boyhood Blue successfully defended his IBO light-welterweight world title against Juan Lazcano.

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The Mexican took Hatton the full 12 rounds, but in front of a post-war UK record of 55,000 fans, the home fighter won a unanimous points decision.

It was, however, about more than boxing for the Hitman.

Hailing from Hyde, he was born into a family of City fans.

His father Ray played for the reserves, while Ricky himself was part of the School of Excellence in his youth.

He was a City supporter before he was a boxer and to fight at the stadium he frequented as a fan was a dream come true.

“It was unbelievable to be honest,” said Hatton.

“To see the stands full to the rafters when I was on that centre circle with nearly the same amount of fans on the pitch. It was breathtaking.

“I said for a number of years I always dreamt of fighting at Manchester City. I dreamt of fighting at Maine Road but it didn’t quite come off.


                        City DNA #66: The Hitman

“I am glad I was able to tick the box - being a big Blue and doing so much for Manchester and so much plugging of the Club - that I finally did get my chance to box at the stadium.

“When I look back on the list of things I’ve achieved, that’s one of my proudest moments that stands out for me.”

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It is no surprise to hear him say that.

Ricky Hatton is a man who, despite never playing for the Club, will be indelibly linked with Manchester City.

If Noel and Liam Gallagher were the famous fans championing the Club in the 90s, it was Hatton who took up the mantle after the turn of the millennium, when he was one of boxing’s biggest draws.

Blue Moon was his song of choice for his ring walk, whilst he proudly displayed the City crest on his shorts, which meant the Club were visible on some of the biggest nights in boxing.

Five months before the Lazcano fight, Hatton had lost his unbeaten record to pound for pound king, Floyd Mayweather Jr.

A sold-out crowd of 16,459 packed into Las Vegas’ MGM Grand for a fight which generated $47 million in pay-per-view money and, as the lights dimmed, the Hitman entered in a sky blue robe, adorned with the City badge, whilst our Club anthem blared out

However, that defeat made the unforgettable night at the City of Manchester Stadium all the more poignant.


                        City DNA #66: The Hitman

“There were a little bit of extra nerves because it was a massive crowed, a big occasion and I was boxing at Manchester City,” Hatton explained.

“The previous fight I’d been knocked out by Mayweather, so there was a lot of pressure on my shoulders.

“When you lose your unbeaten record in the fight before, fighting at City in front of 55 thousand wasn’t the easiest way to be introduced back to boxing.

“I was able to do it and I’m glad I did. It was a wonderful moment that me and my family will cherish forever.”

A proud Mancunian, Hatton’s love for City, where he has been a season ticket holder, was replicated by the adulation he received from local fight fans.

Twenty-two thousand filled the MEN Arena to watch him dethrone Kostya Tszyu for the IBF light-welterweight title on an emotional night in 2005, whilst he was renowned for his travelling support, with thousand heading Stateside for his biggest bouts.

In a city so defined by football, it would have been easy for him to keep his allegiance under wraps, so as not to affect his support across Manchester.

But that was never in question for Hatton, who was proudly received by Blues and Reds alike.

“The whole family are City fans,” he added. “There was only ever going to be one team for me.

“Having said that, when I was boxer, Manchester United fans supported me as well as Manchester City fans.

“I think the best way you could describe my support is a city united.”