Hatton doc part of production company’s summer slate airing across Sky, BBC, and Channel 4


Ricky Hatton is back on screens this month, with the former boxer opening up to Noah Media Group for the aptly named film, Hatton.

Premiering on Sky Documentaries on 31 August, Hatton looks at Hatton’s life inside and outside the ring, speaking to those who are closest to him, or have been, to get the real story behind an athlete who has never been far from the headlines. 

Director Dan Dewsbury and executive producer John McKenna spoke to Broadcast Sport about how the documentary was brought together - and how they created a fresh look at a well-documented athlete’s life.

A key aspect to this new angle is Hatton’s turbulent relationship with his family, which McKenna revealed Noah had been looking at from the start: “We knew that Ricky had been open about the struggles he’d had outside the ring with his mental health and other elements. We knew there was a scenario with his family – that they had broken apart, but that had been repaired as far as we knew. No one had ever really spoken about that, so we had to have a conversation with all sides about being able to go and do that.”


This was after the production company had already pinpointed the former light welterweight and welterweight world champion as their next project - following the F1 documentary film Villeneuve Peroni. “I had lots of conversations with the Sky Studios team and the Sky UK team about the type of film they wanted. We were looking for a sports star with a story that was bigger than the sport and with elements that hadn’t been told yet. Ricky, for all sides, fit the bill.

“I approached them via an old friend of mine who I used to work with at ITV, Gary Newbon, who knew their camp. He introduced me and we went up to meet them. They’d seen the films we’ve made previously and felt they would do this with us – and Ricky felt like he had things he wanted to say.”

Despite having Hatton on board from the start, there was the entire cast of his life to also get involved with the documentary. After a history of tabloid interest and experiences with the media, it was a process that took some time. Seven-time BAFTA nominated Dewsbury became involved after the first contact, and explained what drew him to the story: “The perspective I really liked, that Noah had, was that they wanted to be really empathetic to this situation. They wanted it to be more than just a sports film. They wanted it to push into this idea of what happens when all these elements of your life, which have been previously huge anchors, start breaking apart.”


His first job was getting the key contributors on board. “Dan spent a long time with Billy Graham and a long time with Jen Dooley, Ricky’s former partner, both of whom hadn’t said no, but also hadn’t said yes. That needed to land and Sky were willing to take a leap of faith that we could get them,” McKenna said. “When Dan went up to [Hatton’s former trainer] Billy [Graham]’s house for the 800th time and and this time he was on camera and you got a couple of grabs from it you knew this was going to be really, really special.”

Dewsbury, who noted that his own working class background helped him to connect with some of the participants, added, “The most important thing was that they knew when they came on board they were going to have the opportunity to tell the full story, and hopefully felt comfortable with the idea that I and Noah would treat it with the utmost integrity.

“They’ve had experiences before with media, and that’s probably why they were very wary. I think that also probably can be said of Ricky, too. We included in the documentary how his relationship with the tabloids had been very up and down. I certainly think it’s a different process with making a documentary. Every step of the way you’re being honest about that process. You’re building trust. You’re not hiding from the difficult things, but approaching them in an open handed way.”


That can include using some unusual tactics, such as the set piece boxing ring set up in a council estate that features in the film. “People give you a more honest answer when they’re focused on something else. So the boxing was also to distract him with something that he knows how to do very well and then ask questions in that moment.”

McKenna added, “When you get Ricky talking about boxing, it’s almost like his mind goes back there.”

In addition to the interviews, archive footage tells the story of Hatton’s life in boxing and outside, with the hunt to find unseen video taking the team to some unusual places. Hatton was one of the first boxers of the age of ubiquitous mobile phones filming large events, and this meant that there were endless routes to finding more content. “There were 50,000 people at these things. I could see loads of people on mobile phones. That means there is potentially better archive somewhere that someone might have on a phone. That kept me up at night!” Dewsbury exclaimed. 

The search went to some length to find the best it could, “We found out that someone had been filming him throughout his early training sessions, a guy called Big Al. I actually did’t know what his proper name is, he was just called Big Al. We tracked him down to Manchester somewhere and up in his attic he had all these tapes. It’s not hours and hours of footage, but what it does do is provide different textures to the film. Ricky has been filmed a lot in his life…and what I really like about some parts of the film is that you’ve got this really personal side that you don’t see that often.”


Hatton is part of Noah’s Autumn slate that also includes Adam Hills: Grow Another Foot, which follows the comedian and presenter as he plays rugby league at international leve, and Amputating Alice, which follows Paralympian Alice Tai as she recovers from major surgery to compete again, on Channel 4, and Made Of Steel - which is part of the BBC’s Storyville series and examines the rivalry between the England and France teams at the recent Wheelchair Rugby World Cup.

McKenna believes that all four films are tied together by the kinds of questions they ask: “What’s the driving force? What’s the other level? What else is going on in this life? [For Amputating Alice] there’s this incredible young woman and who’s studying, who’s in a rock band. It’s trying to get all the ingredients to tell a story that’s more than just that story. When people come in with a great idea of achieving this one thing, that’s layer one of the story. But what are layers two, three and four that’s really going to make this appeal and interest and audience?”

Hatton airs on Sky Documentaries and NOW on Thursday 31 August.