‘I used to have my nappy changed on the side of the ring!’: Campbell Hatton on why his boxing career was ‘bound to happen’, his bid to step out of legendary father Ricky’s shadow and how Conor Benn has inspired him to cope with the spotlight
- Campbell Hatton fights at the Sheffield Arena against Michal Dufek on Saturday
- He has seven straight wins but is still learning to cope with being in the spotlight
- Campbell wants to forge his own legacy after following his iconic father Ricky
- Hatton also spoke of his admiration for Conor Benn and his boxing upbringing
If you spend long enough in a certain environment, eventually it becomes second nature.
Growing up in a family like the Hattons means lacing up your boxing gloves is an almost unavoidable fate, but one that Campbell – the son of former two-division world champion Ricky – has taken with both hands.
This weekend Campbell is looking to extend his professional record to eight straight wins against Michal Dufek at the Sheffield Arena on the undercard of Dalton Smith vs Sam O’Maison – though it hasn’t been as plain sailing as it appears on paper.
Following in the footsteps of someone as legendary as Campbell’s father was always going to bring heaps of pressure on him before he even stepped inside a ring and the 21-year-old is still learning the ropes after one or two results went his way despite fans claiming he should have been beaten.
Campbell Hatton has spoken about his boxing upbringing and coping with the spotlight
The son of legendary fighter Ricky (right) says he is still a work in progress as a boxer
Stepping out in front of 66,000 fans at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last October on the undercard of Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk, Campbell beat Sonni Martinez on points in a nervy display that easily could have earned him his first loss.
The young fighter is the first to admit he wasn’t at his best – but believes it was an eye-opening night that was ‘the best thing that ever happened to me’ after conceding the grand stage came far too early in his career.
‘It was a really bad night for me,’ he tells Sportsmail. ‘I still thought it was close and everything that was going on around it played a big factor. If I was to box him again I feel it would have been a comfortable fight.
‘I do feel [that fight] was the best thing that happened to me in my career. Going away from that, we realised the pressure and spotlight on me probably was a bit too much too soon, we went away and boxed on a quieter show and it was night and day.
He was heavily criticised after narrowly beating Sonni Martinez on points last year – despite many feeling he should have suffered defeat – but has used it as a learning curve
‘I have started thinking about things more not just trying to bulldoze opponents and force things. I’m just relaxing and making improvements now and I’m starting to see the best of me.’
Campbell couldn’t have had a better foundation as a boxer. He grew up watching his dad Ricky in action – who is now his manager and mentor – with uncle Matthew, who was also a fighter – his trainer.
But he insists boxing was never forced upon him – he believes it was inevitable the sport would come calling to him after being exposed to it from such a young age.
‘I’ve been in boxing gyms for as long as I remember,’ he says. ‘My nan and granddad always tell me I had my nappy changed on the side of the ring! So that’s good to hear isn’t it? I’ve always been around it from a young age.
‘I haven’t been pressured by anyone but it’s always going to happen because you have that interest. I would have a little knockabout on the bags while you’re there watching training and being in that environment. I think it was always bound to happen but I was never pushed towards it.’
Campbell says becoming a boxer was ‘bound to happen’ after being exposed to the sport from a young age – he even had his nappy changed ringside
Being a Hatton comes with expectation, as Campbell has experienced already in bucketloads, but he’s received nothing but support from his family.
‘I’ve certainly felt the pressure while being a boxer – you get that target on your back. With my family they’ve always just got behind everything I did. They always let me find my own way. We’ve always been big on sport in the family but they’ve always just got behind me and whatever I’m interested in and boxing was no different.’
Campbell was rarely allowed to watch dad Ricky fight after he was born in 2001.
The legendary fighter was reluctant to let his son see him get hurt but as he got older – around the time that his father embarked on a comeback in 2012 against Vyacheslav Senchenko – he began to be gripped with excitement about following in his footsteps.
‘As a a kid I could always remember being in the gym,’ he tells me. ‘My dad and Matt would stick some boxing gloves on and I’d have a little fight with them at five years old! But I could never remember being at the fights because I was too young.
Campbell was inspired to put on the gloves after watching Ricky’s comeback fight in 2012
Hatton lost his final fight against Vyacheslav Senchenko, but the excitement in the build up was enough to convince Campbell he wanted to follow in his footsteps
‘[The Senchenko fight] was the first one where I could see everything that was going on in the build up and that’s what sparked my interest. It was around the same time as when my mum let me go down to the local amateur gym.’
Campbell will live through that memory again this November when his dad picks up the glove once more in an exhibition bout against Marc Antonio Barrera in aid of mental health. He admits he was initially reluctant about Ricky fighting again, but has come around to the idea – largely after seeing the incredible shape he has got himself in.
Ricky has stunned fans on social media after revealing his trimmed down figure. He’s lost around 40lbs since his comeback was announced earlier this year and his son believes he’s ‘still got it’ after the pair enjoyed a competitive spar.
‘At first I was in two minds with how I felt about it, but he told me it’s just an exhibition and it’s for a mental health charity, it’s just a night of entertainment,’ he adds. ‘[After that] I was well behind it, especially when I saw how he was doing with his weight loss and getting back fit – I don’t think that does anyone any harm.
He has hailed his dad’s stunning transformation ahead of his second comeback in November – with ‘Hitman’ losing around 40lbs after announcing an exhibition vs Marc Antonio Barrera
‘He’s looking really good. He’s got loads of weight off – looking healthy and fit. We had a little spar and I was surprised how fit he was to be honest. I knew that sharpness would never leave him and the boxing brain is something that will stay with you until the day you die. I gave it everything across six rounds and he was feeling it towards the end. He’s still got it – definitely.’
So what’s the secret to Ricky’s transformation?
‘It’s just that mindset,’ Campbell says. ‘He did it throughout his career where he’d have to whip a few stone off in the lead up to a fight and he’s done it again. Outside the ring he likes to have a beer and he likes his food, and he’s at a stage in his life where he’s worked hard and achieved everything that he set out to and he’s entitled to do those things.
‘But he got that motivation for doing the exhibition and he’s flipped that switch. For all the stick he got for putting the weight on and getting called ‘Ricky Fatton’, you won’t find anyone more disciplined when he was in that camp. When he flipped the switch, there was no cutting corners.’
Campbell says his dad has ‘still got it’ and said he had taught him to be disciplined and not cut corners in his career
Conor Benn – who is also the son of a legendary fighter in Nigel – has servd as an inspiration for Campbell after visiting his gym in Essex
Having Ricky Hatton to give you guidance from an early age would be the envy of most boxers and Campbell is grateful for his counsel – but feels most of his help has come outside of the ring to ground him with discipline.
‘I’ve had the benefit of learning from the strengths he had as a fighter, but outside [of that] he’s given me a lot of advice about the weaknesses. We are very similar – I like my food after a fight and to have a few beers – but I know that’s not how things work and my dad is a one-off.
‘I try to keep it professional between fights so I don’t balloon up. I can still enjoy myself because you don’t get time off often – but it’s about staying strict and not going mad with it.’
Campbell insists he is a work in progress and calls himself a ‘slow burn’. He’s been training with Conor Benn – who is also trying to carve his own path after following on from his legendary father Nigel. He looks up to Conor and sees similarities in their paths.
‘I think my career will be a bit like Conor Benn’s,’ he explains. ‘More gradual, we have learning to do and we have plenty of time. I’m only 21 so I want to keep improving and try to pick that experience up as I go. I think it will be a bit of a slow burn with me not having that experience, but as long as I keep listening and working hard and improving eventually I will get there – that’s the end goal. But I’m in no rush.
The 21-year-old is desperate to be known in his own right – instead of being called ‘Ricky’s son’
‘I’ve got great people around me. My dad and Matthew have been there and done it as fighters. Conor has given me loads of advice and invited me down to training in Essex. He’s a big inspiration for me. I’ve got Anthony Joshua on board too. I’ve got all these people with experience and knowledge, all I’ve got to do is listen and work hard in the gym.’
First and foremost, before there is any talks of world titles, Campbell’s goal is to ensure people remember him for his own qualities and not because of his dad.
‘I want people to look back and say he was entertaining and always give you value for money and always in a big fight and make a name for myself in my own right.
‘I don’t want people to look back and say ‘Ricky Hatton’s son’, I want them to say Campbell Hatton.’
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