Former Belfast boxer Eamonn Magee says the punch that knocked down Ricky Hatton in their high-profile 2002 fight was the worst of his career.
Magee, a former Commonwealth champion, fought Hatton – just 22 years old at the time – in Manchester with Hatton’s WBU super-lightweight title on the line.
Hatton eventually won a close fought fight on all three of the judges’ scorecards, despite Magee flooring the ‘Hitman’ with a right hook in the first round – the first time the Mancunian tasted the canvas in his pro career.
It proved to be a crossroads fight for both men, with the older Magee going on to lose three of his final seven professional bouts, while Hatton famously went on to become a two-weight world champion, headlining Las Vegas on numerous occasions.
Speaking exclusively to World Boxing News, Magee reflected on the career-defining night, saying: “Going into the fight, I was confident and had a good idea how Ricky fought and how I would counter him.
“I was about ten years older than Ricky and in my eyes he was pretty much a child just coming out of school. Because I had the more experience I wanted to get under his skin, fighters do whatever they can to get an advantage.”
“I had studied Ricky before and knew how he fought, bullying people on the ropes. I knew how to win.
“Unfortunately though, I hit Ricky with a right hook in the first round and it was the worst punch I ever threw in my life – one I always regret. If I had landed that punch in rounds six or seven, I guarantee that he wouldn’t have got up.
“Instead he got up like a springboard and I didn’t feel I could jump on him, I didn’t catch him well enough.”
Magee, 45, Is now back as a trainer at Belfast’s Breen Gym passing on his knowledge and expertise to younger boxers coming through.
While he knows victory over Hatton – now one of his good friends – would have proved significant, Magee harbours no regrets over how his career eventually played out.
He said: “I get on great with Ricky now, he is a gentleman and a scholar and I tip my hat to him.
“Whoever won our fight was going to go on and have a good career much like Ricky did, but I have no regrets. When I reflect, I had an unbelievable and tremendous time in the ring. I still think I won that fight by a couple of rounds, but that’s how boxing goes.
“Being back at the Breen gym is fantastic and we’ve produced so many champions. I love sharing my knowledge and pushing my education on to other fighters. Until I retire or until my heart stops I will carry on training, it’s in my blood and I don’t know anything else.”
Growing up on the troubled streets of Belfast, Magee’s story is a harrowing one and ‘The Terminator’ will share all in a new book, written by Paul Gibson.
“This book will be a story of my life, it isn’t a boxing book but a look at all the troubles I went through from when I was just a baby.
“I went through great hardship growing up, I was shot in the leg, shot in the chest, stabbed in the neck and kidnapped. Despite all that, I wouldn’t be kept down and l still managed to be successful. I want to show that if I can do it then anyone can.
“I can’t quite believe how much I’ve done in my life, the good, the bad and the ugly – How did I fit it all in? It’s an honest book and it will have things that some people may hate and others may love.”
Matt Horan is lead writer for WBN. Follow on Twitter @mhoran123