Former world champion Ricky Hatton and his 22-year-old protege Brett McGinty told David Hennessy that they have got their eyes on the big time ahead of his fight this Saturday.
As a boxer, Ricky Hatton held world titles at both light-welterweight and welterweight.
Now the Manchester man who is considered to be one of Britain’s greatest ever boxers is backing his young Irish protege Brett McGinty to reach similar heights.
The all-time British great has been impressed since he has taken the Donegal middleweight under his wing as a trainer and sees the same qualities that made him such a success in the 22-year-old from St Johnston.
In his fifteen year career that totalled 48 fights, Hatton was only defeated three times. That two of these defeats came against Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao, two of the best pound for pound boxers of all time, tells you that Hatton wasn’t easily beaten.
Brett McGinty made his pro debut last December when he defeated Czech southpaw Jan Ardon on points. The European Schoolboys bronze and Commonwealth Youth silver medal winner looks set to be a TV regular on Channel 5 and returns this Saturday when he takes on Jordan Grannum on the undercard of Sam Egginton’s clash with former world champion ‘King’ Carlos Molina.
Ricky told The Irish World that he sees much of the type of fighter he was in the young Donegal man: “I see something in Brett. I see a champion in him. I really, really do.
“I like to think I’ve got a big reputation and I wouldn’t want to stick my neck on the line, I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t think it was true.
“He’s not just got a style like myself, he’s got an attitude like myself. In the sense that he’s not fought for so long and he’s moved over the Manchester, away from his family in order to better himself. When the opponent came up the last time I didn’t want that opponent because I thought he was too big – even though I knew he’d win, which is why I accepted it in the end, it was a little bit tougher than I first thought. If there was one thing Brett needed to tick the box for it was desire and determination – and I think he did that in his debut.
“If you remember in my early career, I used to get cut in every single fight. And that’s because I was a little bit too aggressive, a bit too over-eager to get to the opponents and get the job done.
“Brett, he’s not got cut, but it was pretty similar in his first fight. He just needs to slow it down to ten mile an hour.
“But at the end of the day, if you’re an attacking fighter like I was, and like Brett is, you’re going to cop a few. It’s my job to ensure as we’re putting the pressure on that we’ve got to get hit as least as possible and that’s what we’ve been working on since the debut fight.”
Ricky has been as impressed with Brett’s mentality as his ability in the ring.
“People always seemed to like my style of fighting, just like they’re going to like Brett’s, and I think they’ll like his personality the more they see him, the more he’s out there. Brett will tell you himself: you’ve got to have a bit of a sense of humour to come through the front door of my gym. I mean, nobody trains harder than us in that gym as Brett will tell you, but it’s got to be fun, it’s got to be a laugh.
“We’re a close team, we’re a bit of a family, and as hard as it is, it’s real fun. And people liked me because of my style but I think they also liked Ricky Hatton for Ricky Hatton the person. I wasn’t full of bullshit, I didn’t sing me own praises, I never slagged off opponents. I always had a joke, a smile here and there. As well as entertaining people in the ring, I entertained them with what came out of my fucking mouth, didn’t I? And I think Brett is very, very similar.”
Brett adds: “I would say whenever I came over at the start, I was definitely a bit shy because of the fact that I was going over to Ricky Hatton, you know? He’s somebody who I watched when I was growing up, a world champion. I was definitely a bit shy and a bit nervous, but I was immediately put at ease in the gym. I really enjoy the environment. I’ll be honest: There’s nothing too enjoyable about the training. It’s hard graft. But the people in the gym are a top bunch of lads and it’s a really enjoyable environment to be in.”
Brett has had changes of opponents for both of his fights so far. This has been frustrating because he has been eager to prove himself against the best possible opponents.
Ricky says: “The change of opponent in his recent one, even then he said, ‘Agh, I want a tougher opponent’. I said, ‘Brett, the fights will come tough enough down the line mate’. He wanted an even better opponent. It’s clear to see his heart’s there, he showed that in his first fight, the fact that he wants an even better opponent in his second fight after having a hard one in his first, I think it shows you the type of attitude and desire that he has.
“I said, ‘Listen Brett, it was a far more difficult fight than what you could have had. There is going to be plenty of tough fights for you. Put the rounds in the bank, the experience and learn. Go through a few more boxers, then we’ll go for a test. Then go through a few more boxers, then we’ll go for another test. That’s how it goes.
“With each fight, we want to show improvement. Brett is in fantastic shape and I’m sure he’s going to impress again.
“When he first come over, I think he was a little bit of the shy type but bit by bit, he’s coming out of his shell more and I think, certainly, down the line, they (the fans) will like that.
“The easiest thing when you get a big crowd, a big following, is for it to go to your head; for you to get a bit giddy, a bit caught up in the bravado and the drama of it. But I think Brett’s got a sensible head on his shoulders. And to be honest with you, if I thought he was getting a little bit above his station or a little bit too cocky, he’d get pulled up by me in that department as well.
“So, I think Brett has everything — the potential, the skill, the style, the personality. All it is, is to be just given a little bit of time so that can all be nurtured. Regular fights which is what Mick [Hennessy] is doing for him, different styles of opponent.”
Brett is not the only exciting talent in Irish boxing at the moment with Monaghan’s Stevie McKenna, also nicknamed The Hitman for the quick KOs he dishes out, also fighting on Saturday night.
Brett says: “Me and Stevie would actually be very good friends. We went to the Commonwealth Youths together and we’ve been to Russia [training camp in 2015] together, so we know each other very well. So, to see him doing well, it definitely spurs me on and I’m sure it’s the same for him.
“At the same time, we also spar with each other and I had a spar with Aaron, there, before he went away to America for his last pro fight, so we’re helping each other all the time. And their success spurs me on to do better myself, and I’m sure mine does them. Seeing each other succeed definitely helps us.”
It was Steve’s brother Aaron McKenna who defeated Jordan Grannum in his last time out.
On his next opponent Brett says: “It’s probably ideal for me. He’s a very durable opponent. He’s very experienced. He’s someone who has been around the block. He knows his way around the ring. There are probably very few things that I could bring that he hasn’t seen already. It’s going to be a tough night for me. It’s not about this fight or the next fight. It’s about the next year or the next two years. We’re just building all the time. I had a tough debut fight and got through that with a win. Hopefully I’ll do the same and build on the improvements I’m making in the gym. I want to take the improvements into the ring on May 22.”
Ricky Hatton also revealed some Irish blood he has himself saying: “it is a definite thing but I can’t remember. I think the name down the family line was Slattery. My dad showed me paper cuttings years ago and apparently we used to have a bareknuckle fighter in the family by the name of Slattery.
“We were all puzzled where the boxing came from because normally somebody passes it down to you. But it was mainly a football family that we were involved in so we thought, ‘Well, where’s this boxing come from?’ And not just where the boxing came from, but the fact that I used to fight like a lunatic and nobody in the family had supposedly ever done it. We were all scratching our heads. But apparently, yeah, down the family tree, we had family members by the name of Slattery and I believe they were bareknuckle fighters. So, that’s obviously where it must have come from.”
Ricky has had some battles with Irish fighters down the years. Francie Barrett beat him as an amateur and Belfast’s Eamonn Magee knocked him down in what was an incredible battle in 2002 that the Mancunian boxer won on points.
What does he think makes Ireland produce so many tough fighters? “I think it’s their personality. For a country so small, to have so many fighters come through… it is (special). It’s a credit to them. It’s something I think that’s just in the blood. The Irish people are very passionate, very proud.
“When you’re in boxing, it’s something deep down, something that’s very hard to describe. You have to be born with it. You have to be born with a die hard attitude, a die hard sense of humour as well.
“And that’s the Irish in general. It’s been their way through history. It’s the way they’ve had to be. It’s sometimes happy-go-lucky, not a care in the world. But it’s also determined, and dead proud of their roots.
“I’ve never known an Irish man that isn’t proud of where they come from. I don’t know a single one. All Irish men are proud to be Irish men. That’s what it is.
“It’s a great time for Irish boxing. So many lads are doing great things. There are so many good prospects coming along. And they help each other out as well.
“A very similar thing happened in Manchester years ago as well. At the time, there was myself, Michael Gomez, (Anthony) and Farnell. We all boxed on the same bill together. We sparred together, trained together, boxed on the same shows together. The crowds were wild.
“I know I went on to do slightly better than Gomez and Farnell, but I think we did so much of all that together. And I believe this crop of Irish lads are going to do it together as well. I really do.”
When asked if a slip contributed to his knock down against Magee he says: “No, I didn’t slip over, he nearly took my f***ing head off to be honest with you. Ireland has turned out so many great fighters. And this current crop do have a lot to live up to. But there is no doubt, well I feel any ways, that they are going to do their country proud just like those champions of the past.”
Watch Brett McGinty live on free on Channel 5 on Saturday 22 May.