The former two-division world champion, who will be 34 in October, announced on Friday he will return to boxing after an absence of three years in Manchester on 24 November against an opponent yet to be named.
Clearly, there is still good money to be made in the Hatton industry – his second career, as manager and promoter, has been financially tough – and there is little question he needs a TV deal to bolster a promotional career that took a hit when Sky did not renew his deal earlier this year.
But he knows this fight will draw, no matter who the opponent. British boxing has never had a ticket-seller like the Hitman. Yet it is impossible to separate the business from the many other issues, his health being paramount.
"Too many miles on the clock," was Hatton's assessment after Manny Pacquiao knocked him unconscious inside two rounds in Las Vegas in May 2009. "Right thing to do," he said of his decision to quit, "rather than lead the fans up the garden path."
Hatton sees no discrepancy in insisting he now wants "British boxing to be proud of me again. The only way to convince everyone I'm back is by flattening someone. It's not about money, it's not about winning a world title".
In the next breath, he says: "I don't want to be fighting at four- or six-round levels – I want to fight for world titles." The confusion is obvious.
Hatton strikes a more credible note when he says: "It's more than a comeback. I'm fighting to redeem myself."
But all of these are the wrong reasons for a former champion to fight again. This plainly is about ego and pride, shrugging off the monkey that has been on his back, the monkey that drove him to the depths of despair over the past couple of years.
Comebacks happen because fighters spend even their good years telling themselves little lies. And the biggest lie is that they never grow old. If Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali could not defy time, why does Hatton imagine he can? The answer: there are not enough wise voices around him to tell him otherwise.
And this is what sets the alarm bells ringing, the confusion. If Hatton wants redemption over money, he is in the wrong business. He must know the only way he can restore his lustre is to do again what he did then. And then was a long time ago. It is not going to happen. There is not the time and there are too many good, young fighters out there, with sharper reflexes and colder eyes.
"People say nice things about me," he says, "but they don't know what's been going on between my ears."
People do say nice things about Ricky. Whatever his failings – perhaps because of them – they love the guy. He has always been someone hardcore boxing fans and the people of Manchester can identify with. It was that blind love that dragged up to 30,000 of them to Las Vegas to watch his finest nights – and his worst.
Barry McGuigan supports his return; so does Nathan Cleverly. They are two intelligent voices at either end of the boxing spectrum, the retired world champion and the young fighter with his career in front of him. But I can't agree with them.
Hatton has only recently got back into decent shape after a honeymoon of relaxation, during which he has come through the trauma of alcohol and drug use, considered suicide and, to his great credit, kept his promotional career on track despite significant pressures. If getting fit has done some good, it has restored his self-respect.
Standing outside the ropes, or even banging out a few rounds of sparring, was never going to "scratch the itch" as he put it. Hanging around fighters in the gym was always going to stir his old instincts. He is the sort of retired boxer who punctuates every conversation with little shadow-box shifts and twitches.
He misses the sport desperately, so he takes up the skipping rope. He hits the heavy bag. He cuts down on the booze. He gets on the treadmill. But he has no rating, just a wonderful past. Now he has to find the hunger to undertake the far more rigorous training needed to compete at the highest level.
It is said he wants to fight Paulie Malignaggi, the WBA welterweight champion whom he stopped in 11 rounds nearly four years ago. He looked good in that fight, which was the second after being laid out by Floyd Mayweather Jr — and the last before he got in the ring with Pacquiao.
Hatton may see the light-punching Malignaggi as a soft touch and that is revelatory in itself; he does not want to risk another night like the Pacquiao disaster. Nonetheless, the boxing landscape has shifted markedly since he fought Malignaggi, who has had eight fights in that time. He has a defence of his world title lined up against Pablo César Cano in New York next month and Hatton could be closer to 35 by the time he puts himself in contention for a title shot. So, who will need whom more, by then?
"We saw the best of Ricky when he beat Kostya Tszyu," his one-time promoter Frank Warren said. Unless anyone has forgotten, the date of that fight was June 2005. Hatton was 26.
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