THIS Saturday (April 1) Ricky Hatton was in Crystal Palace, guiding his heavyweight, Nathan Gorman, to victory over Dominc Akinlade. It’s a venue Hatton is a familiar with, he used to train at the sports centre when he was England amateur team-mates with, and men of the moment, Tony Bellew and David Haye.

“I met them through the amateurs and I’ve been mates with them ever since,” Hatton told Boxing News. “It’s never nice in boxing. You always have rival trainers or rival promoters, rival TV companies or whatever but we are a family.

“When you get Tony and David who have been mates of mine for years fighting each other, when people ask you who you think is going to win, it’s never an easy question to answer. I didn’t think Tony had that performance in him. He’d been stopped by [Adonis] Stevenson, he’d been down several times at cruiserweight. When you look at David and some of the men that he’s fought and knocked and shook up, like Valuev, John Ruiz, people like that. Purely on size difference, he’s light years from the size of Tony Bellew. It just shows. Nothing should really surprise you in this game. Nobody gave me a chance against Kostya Tszyu. It happens, doesn’t it? There’s always the chance of an upset, my hat off to Tony. I’ve never been more proud of being proved wrong.”

He continued, “On his [Haye’s] padwork it looked like he was just going for the knockout. Explosive. But sometimes the punches that they see coming are the ones you don’t get them with. It’s about setting that big one up. Maybe David was looking for too many big ones. In doing that, Tony was able to use his size, his smaller size and speed to pop David and pick him off. Fantastic performance. When they stood next to each other the size difference was a little bit frightening. I think David took that on board too much.”

The former champion is enjoying great success as a trainer. His Kazakh fighter Zhanat “ZZ” Zhakiyanov toppled Rau’shee Warren in America to become a world champion. “Brilliant feeling. I said many times, he’s nobody in many ways, not being disrespectful, when I say nobody, he’d not had the amateur pedigree and wasn’t a former Olympian. He wasn’t a ready made champion. It took a lot of work and effort from myself and the team to get him to that stage. Nobody gave him a chance against Warren, he was a massive underdog. I knew. I knew how he trained, how fit he is, just the whole package. He reminds me very much of myself in the gym. He smashes every obstacle you put in front of him. I actually said before the fight you’ll have to nail him to the floor and he nearly did! When you saw how he came back, I was right in what I said. It’s great really and the confidence has gone throughout the gym,” Hatton said.

“Loads of big fights out there for him, there’s the likes of Jamies McDonnell and Ryan Burnett, Paul Butler. It doesn’t matter what nationality we are, we love exciting fighters and you look at that fight, you can see he’s a fighter’s fighter… There’s opportunities now. I think he’s only the third world champion that Kazakhstan’s ever had. So it’s a fantastic achievement.”

One of those three Kazakh world titlists is none other than Gennady Golovkin. Hatton would like see a homecoming event for the two champions in their homeland. “The teams could get together to try to put a homecoming for the two of them,” he said. “I think I speak for Gennady and for Zhanat, I think that would be a dream they never thought would happen.”