(Reuters) - Ricky Hatton's comeback after a 3-1/2 year absence from the ring ended in a ninth-round knockout defeat by Ukrainian welterweight Vyacheslav Senchenko in Manchester, England on Saturday.
Britain's 34-year-old two-weight former world champion had lost 4-1/2 stone in preparation for the fight and 20,000 fans turned up at the MEN Arena to see his return in his home city.
He seemed to heading for a points win but began to tire in the later rounds and the 35-year-old Senchenko, himself a former world champion, unleashed a fierce left hook to the body.
Hatton hit the canvas and failed to beat the count leaving the Ukrainian, who only lost his world title to American Paulie Malignaggi in April, as the only man to beat him in England.
"I thought I was maybe four rounds up but there were clear signs of ring rust," a tearful Hatton said on Primetime TV. "I hurt him a few times, and I was winning.
"It was a good shot, I should have realised he was looking for that."
Former WBA world welterweight champion Senchenko, who has now lost just once in 34 fights, winning 22 by knockout, was a stern test for Hatton who must now decide whether to fight on.
"I suppose that is what three-and-a-half years out of the ring does. I think I did alright - this guy only lost his unbeaten record in his last fight," Hatton added.
"I don't want to make any hasty decisions but I am really heartbroken. I am just gutted. I am not a failure, that is not how my career should end but I have to have a good think about it now."
Britain's former welterweight and light-welterweight world champion, who had quit after a devastating two-round knockout by Manny Pacquiao in May 2009, has now lost three of his 48 fights.
His best performance came in 2005 when he stopped Australia's Kostya Tszyu to add the IBF light-welterweight title to the WBU belt he already held.
He had a perfect 43-0 record until he was floored by Floyd Mayweather Jr in Las Vegas in 2007 and was never the same again.
Unconvincing victories followed against Juan Lazcano and Malignaggi but he was outclassed by Pacquiao and after a long period of inactivity he retired in July last year.
(Writing by Ken Ferris; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)
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