Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

In Pictures: Ricky Hatton welcomes Muhammad Ali to Manchester

Muhammad Ali visits the UK. 2009

Ricky Hatton fought back tears after welcoming Muhammad Ali to his gym in Manchester today.

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Hundreds of boxing fans gathered outside the Hatton Health & Fitness complex in Hyde to catch a glimpse of Ali, who stopped by as part of his brief tour of the UK.

The 67-year-old former three-time world champion looked frail as he emerged from a car to shake hands with Hatton, meet his family and pose for photographs.

And after showing Ali around the gym and exchanging gifts, Hatton said he had been humbled by the experience.

"It was very emotional," said Hatton. "We had a picture taken with Campbell, and he (Ali) was told this is Ricky's son.

"He raised his hand and hugged him and was trying to say something. It really brought a lump to my throat, my eyes were welling up at one point."

Ali, who suffers from Parkinsons Disease, has rarely been seen walking unaided in recent times but was determined to greet Hatton standing.

"I think he was going to come in a wheelchair initially but then he said I can't have Ricky Hatton meet me in a wheelchair, I've got to walk in," said Hatton, himself a former multiple world champion.

"That's a boxer through and through, the boxer's mentality and a champion's mentality.

"It's just sensational. I've been very fortunate to meet some of boxing's greatest stars but I've never had the chance to meet the greatest of all.

"He's not just one of the greatest boxers of all time, he's one of the greatest men of all time. He's made the entertainment side of boxing what it is today.

"Bearing in mind how poorly he is, for him still to come to the gym, raise his hands to the fans and have a picture, that's why he's the greatest."

Ali, who was joined by his wife Lonnie, is in the UK making appearances at a series of dinners to raise money for his charities, including the Muhammad Ali Centre in his home town of Louisville, Kentucky.

Hatton, meanwhile, has been focusing on his work as a promoter since his second-round knockout against Manny Pacquiao in May and said he was still to reach a decision about his future.

He said: "I've been very busy with the gym opening and the promoting - I've got some great fighters coming up - and I've had a couple of holidays.

"I've had a lot of fights and sometimes when you've been in this game as long as I have, running in the morning, training in the afternoon, dieting, I've reached the stage that I've had enough now, I want a bit of a rest.

"Once I've sat back and recharged the batteries, my feet might start itching again. That's where it will come from. But after that heartbreaking defeat, all I'm doing is sitting back."