sport

Senchenko admits Hatton shock

Vyacheslav Senchenko is surprised to be facing Ricky Hatton in Manchester in light of a chance meeting between the fighters earlier this year.

The pair attended the WBA's annual awards in Panama City in February, with Senchenko present as the then-holder of the governing body's world welterweight crown - a title Hatton himself claimed by beating Luis Collazo in June 2006.

According to Senchenko, Hatton was some way beyond fighting weight having been out of the ring since his May 2009 defeat to Manny Pacquiao.

"I met Ricky when we were at the WBA event in Panama earlier this year," the 35-year-old Ukrainian said via an interpreter.

"We had a photo together but I did not think we would end up fighting so soon because Ricky was much bigger."

Hatton has battled through struggles with drink, drugs and depression to shed around four and a half stone and astonishingly appears to be in prime condition for the 10-round welterweight showdown.

While the Mancunian's tale of personal rebirth is now well documented, Senchenko is chasing a redemption of his own.

Two months on from that impromptu photo opportunity, he lost his world title and unbeaten record to one-time Hatton victim Paulie Malignaggi in Donetsk.

Before an expectant Donbass Arena crowd, the hometown favourite's 33rd professional contest unravelled by virtue of a cut that ultimately handed slick but light-punching New Yorker Malignaggi a rare stoppage win in the ninth round.

Senchenko lays the blame for defeat squarely with his injury and is determined to bounce back stylishly in a first bout outside his homeland for six years.

"The main thing that made me lose against Malignaggi was the bad cut and I lost the opportunity to apply my plan the way that I had foreseen," he explained.

"I got injured and that derailed everything.

"This is a unique opportunity to wipe out the only loss of my career and come back stronger and more popular than before, beating somebody like Ricky Hatton."

Although keen to respect his revered opponent and open to the possibility of a rematch if called for, that is exactly how Senchenko envisages events transpiring tomorrow night - with him enjoying the spectacle of a disappointed partisan crowd on this occasion.

He added: "When I became a champion, Ricky was already a champion and he was already in the limelight. Now that he's given me the opportunity of this, it is a wonderful story.

"I've been preparing for this fight very seriously and I am convinced I'm going to win. I don't want to make any prediction - that will be shown in the ring - but I expect a tough fight.

"I don't want to say anything bad against Ricky. If it's too tough, maybe Ricky will decide to pack it up. If it's a good fight, he might take this challenge again."