EVER since being put flat on his back by Floyd Mayweather Jr, there has been a sea of negativity surrounding the career of Ricky Hatton.
Having followed up the defeat up by labouring to a points win in front of his adoring Mancunian public against Juan Lazcano, all the talk was of the Hitman reaching a pivotal crossroads.
He certainly had to perform against Paulie Malignaggi in Las Vegas and he did just that, systematically dispatching the Magic Man in what was his best Stateside display other than the fourth round knockout of Jose Luis Castillo.
But there is still an asterisk next to Hatton’s name despite the fact his only defeat in 46 fights came against the very, very best.
Well, he proved on Saturday night he is back on the straight and narrow again and while the avenues now open to him present enormous risks, if the two-weight world champion tackles them in the right way there is no reason why he cannot still achieve the mantle of best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet.
Ideally, of course, Hatton would love another crack at Mayweather Jr but in the short term his only conqueror seems content with retirement.
That means he will almost certainly take on the winner of next month’s Oscar De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao super-fight.
Such a fight would immediately put Hatton back on the cusp of greatness.
Pacquiao would be an ideal opponent. The Filipino is a world title winner in four weight classes - five if he beats De La Hoya.
The Pacman would present Hatton with another challenge in a light-welterweight division which he had seemingly exhausted and give himself a chance to become the top man at a staggering six weights.
First though, jumping up two divisions to take on De La Hoya will be some ordeal, with many already calling it a physical mismatch.
The same could be said of a proposed De La Hoya-Hatton bout if the Golden Boy is victorious on December 6, but the fanfare and prestige of the two most popular men in the sport locking horns at Wembley stadium is simply irresistible.
Hatton has looked uncomfortable fighting at welterweight, but you couldn’t write him off against a man whose priorities lie on the promotional side of the fence rather than in the ring these days.
Already Hatton holds the cards in terms of his next outing and should he achieve the remarkable feat of beating either of the two modern-day legends, what next?
The likes of the awkward but beatable Antonio Margarita or powerful, slick and undefeated youngster Andre Berto would surely be calling him out.
All of this is hypothetical and Hatton would have to step up his schooling under new mentor Floyd Mayweather Sr as well as curbing his fun-loving lifestyle.
If he succeeds it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the Hitman could propel himself to the top of that coveted pound-for-pound list or even among the best Britain has ever seen.
SPEAKING of sportsmen needing to curb their lifestyle, step into the headmaster’s office Mr Danny Cipriani.
Only a handful of senior rugby internationals under his belt and the England fly-half was already flaunting the playboy lifestyle we’ve come to associate with his counterparts in the oval-ball game.
South Africa head coach Jake White was clearly far from impressed.
Before the Springboks’ pummelling of England at Twickenham on Saturday, the World Cup winning boss claimed to have read more about Cipriani’s antics in the West End than on the rugby field.
Who knows whether that was a genuinely held belief or just an attempt to unsettle Cipriani.
But given the Wasps player’s calamity at the weekend, it has to be said White makes a valid a point.