Ricky Hatton's dream of emulating his sport's transatlantic greats moved closer to reality after he overcame another cuts nightmare to unify the world lightwelterweight titles with a ninth-round knockout of Carlos Maussa in Sheffield.
Arguably Hatton has never thrown a better punch than the crashing left hook which dumped the Colombian on to the canvas for the full ten count and enabled the ' Hitman' to add Maussa's WBA crown to the IBF belt he already owned.
But Hatton's gruelling victory came at a price with blood pouring from cuts above both his eyes by the end of the second round, forcing him to skip the post-fight press conference for an all-too-familiar rendezvous with a plastic surgeon at a local hospital.
Hatton's injury ought not to unduly delay his plans to head to the United States where he intends to enhance his status as the world's No 1 ten-stone fighter by luring another fellow champion such as Floyd Mayweather or possibly Miguel Cotto into the ring.
Hatton's trainer Billy Graham said: "I think Ricky will go to the States now and I want Floyd Mayweather for his next fight if the money can be sorted out.
"I think Mayweather is a great fighter but, like Ali needed Frazier and Leonard needed Hearns, you have got to go against the best.
"That is what we have talked about since Ricky was a young kid.
" The boxing world is screaming for the fight and if it was the next fight I would take it.
"And I would like it to be at Madison Square Garden where Ali fought Frazier in
Hatton found it hard to shine against the gangly Maussa, who upset Vivian Harris to claim his title in June and kept his pre-fight promise to use his unorthodox, jerky style to give the favourite all the trouble he could handle.
Unable to get inside and set up many of his trademark assaults to the body, Hatton
resorted to longer-range hooks which to his mounting frustration he found seldom seemed to trouble his granitechinned challenger.
Hatton said afterwards: "I'll have to watch the tape again but I thought I was miles in front, but not boxing to my full potential.
"He was very awkward, he was swaying back from the punches and that made it very difficult to nail him.
"I also think I was trying too hard but the top and bottom of it is that Vivian Harris couldn't do that to him and neither could Miguel Cotto.
" So if that's a bad performance what will happen when I'm on song again."
In fact Hatton has plenty of reasons to rate his victory over Maussa as one of the most satisfying of his career, particularly given the prefight legal problems which plagued the build-up to his first fight since his split with Frank Warren.
Hatton began with a playful jab towards his former promoter by beginning his ring-walk with a blast of Viola Wills' classic 70S disco cover of the 1950s track, Gonna Get Along Without You Now.
Watched by stars like Naseem Hamed and Marco Antonio Barrera at ringside, Hatton's bid to quickly get down to business was hampered by his first severelooking cut, apparently from an accidental head clash, within the first 30 seconds.
A similar wound before the end of the second had expert cuts man Mick Williamson working overtime to successfully stem the flow of a blood from wounds which seemed for a time to threaten the continuation of the contest.
"Mick is a fantastic cuts man, he makes me feel at ease and as long as he wants to he will be working with me until I retire which will be a long time," added Graham.
Hatton, well used to the kind of injury which blighted much of his early career, continued untroubled but clearly taking precautions to avoid the kind of wild, lunging punches of his opponent which had so spectacularly seen off Harris.
Maussa too was soon bleeding from an eye wound but was admirably sucking up the majority of Hatton's singlepunch assaults in what was becoming a markedly different contest to the one which saw Hatton sweep irresistibly to victory over Kostya Tszyu about five months ago.
Hatton's breakthrough finally came at the end of round eight when Maussa began to look troubled by his opponent's punches for the first time.
One minute and ten seconds into the following round, Hatton lunged in to end the contest in dramatic fashion.
Graham added: "Ricky has had a hard year and a hard fight with Kostya Tszyu and all the other problems.
"He needs to rest and relax for a while now and enjoy what he is - the undisputed light-welterweight champion of the world."