(Reuters) - Britain's Ricky Hatton announced his retirement from boxing for a second time after his comeback 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 his first fight in 3-1/2 years and 20,000 raucous fans turned up at the MEN Arena to see his return to the ring 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 needed one more fight to see if I had still got it - and I haven't," Hatton told a post-fight news conference. "I found out tonight it isn't there no more.
"I can look at myself in the mirror and tell myself I did my best, but there is always an excuse to find.
"I got in the best shape I possibly could but if I hadn't been hit with that body shot I would have just scraped over the line with a points win and I honestly think I would still be telling you all the same thing.
"A fighter knows and I know it isn't there any more. I got the opportunity and I got the answers and, no matter how upsetting it is, I have got to be a man and say it is the end of Ricky Hatton," he added.
Former WBA world welterweight champion Senchenko, who has lost just once in 34 fights, winning 22 by knockout, was a stern test for Hatton whose hopes of another world title fight were left in tatters by the defeat.
"I thought I was maybe four rounds up but there were clear signs of ring rust," a tearful Hatton said just after the fight 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.
"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.
Britain's former welterweight and light-welterweight world champion, who had quit after a devastating two-round knockout by Manny Pacquiao in May 2009, 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 wins followed over Juan Lazcano and Malignaggi but he was outclassed by Pacquiao and after a long period of inactivity retired for the first time in July last year.
(Writing by Ken Ferris; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)