Boxing: What Each Top 10 Fighter Has to Be Thankful for This Thanksgiving

Kevin McRae@@McRaeWritesFeatured ColumnistNovember 22, 2012

Boxing: What Each Top 10 Fighter Has to Be Thankful for This Thanksgiving

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    A very Happy Thanksgiving to all you bleacher creatures out there. Hopefully your, holiday is full of all the right things: turkey, family, sports and giving thanks for all the good things in your life. 

    As a boxing fan, we have had much to be thankful for this year. We've seen great fights, great upsets and great young stars emerge. 

    But what are the fighters themselves thankful for? Each of the top 10 best fighters in the sport has to be thankful for something.

    Here, we attempt to solve the question by figuring out what the best fighters in all of boxing are thankful for this year.

Abner Mares: Bad Referees

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    There is no doubt that Abner Mares is a tremendously talented fighter. His resume speaks for itself, as do his wins over Anselmo Moreno, Joseph Agbeko and Vic Darchinyan. 

    But the book on Mares is that he's a dirty fighter who seldom gets penalized for his rough stuff. This was again true in his recent bout against Moreno, where he was warned several times for various infractions without any point deductions.

    In fact, it was Moreno who had a point taken in the fight.

    Mares, in fact, committed virtually every infraction in the book. He hit Moreno low, hit him in the back, used his head and even cracked the poor guy upside the head with a sock full of quarters.

    OK, that last part is an obvious exaggeration, but his dirty style is not. And it's begun to get ridiculous. 

    For further proof, see his first fight with Joseph Agbeko.

    So, this Thanksgiving, Abner Mares can be thankful for bad referees.

Vitali Klitschko: Ukrainian Politics

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    In recent months, the speculation has been that WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko is more concerned with politics in his native Ukraine than boxing. 

    And it's understandable. Ukrainian politics are often more rough and tumble than anything you find inside a boxing ring. 

    This is something Vitali should be thankful for, as it provides a bigger challenge than any of his recent or foreseeable opponents. 

Timothy Bradley: Judges CJ Ross and Duane Ford

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    When the scorecards were read on June 9 and Timothy Bradley was declared the winner over Manny Pacquiao, shock and awe were appropriate reactions. 

    Shock that two seasoned, experienced judges could get it so wrong. 

    Awe that there were two people, outside of Bradley and his team, that managed to find a way to score a majority of rounds for him.

    It was a win that was widely ridiculed by virtually everyone in the boxing and general sports media. But a win is a win in the record books.

    And Timothy Bradley can be thankful that he can tell his children and grandchildren he beat a future Hall of Famer.

Wladimir Klitschko: Emanuel Steward

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    Wladimir Klitschko often, rightfully, credits Emanuel Steward with turning his career around after losing his world title in a stunning second-round knockout against Corrie Sanders. 

    Steward took the reigns in Wladimir's corner for his April 2004 fight with Lamon Brewster. It was another stunning knockout loss for Klitschko, who dominated the early rounds, but punched himself out and was stopped in the fifth. 

    It was the last fight Klitschko would lose under Steward's tutelage. Emanuel Steward had previously turned around the career of another tall but chin-suspect world champion in Lennox Lewis.

    His methods worked with Wladimir as well, teaching him to work behind his long jab and tie-up on the inside, forcing his weight down onto his opponent. 

    Klitschko would win his next 16 fights under Steward and become the recognized heavyweight champion. 

Juan Manuel Marquez: Manny Pacquiao

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    Juan Manuel Marquez has fought Manny Pacquiao three times and will see him again on Dec. 8. 

    Forgetting the boxing for a second and focusing just on the economics, this is a great thing for Juan Manuel. 

    Fighting Manny Pacquiao is one of boxing's lottery tickets, and while this may not have been true of their first two fights, where both were still on the rise and not at the top, may not have been as lucrative the last will certainly have been.

    Even though Marquez has yet to crack through with a win against the Pac-Man, he has made a ton of money fighting him.

Nonito Donaire: Fighting at a Weight Where There Are Big Fights

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    Nonito Donaire will return to the ring in December for his fourth fight of 2012 against Mexican warrior and former champion Jorge Arce. 

    Assuming he can get by Arce, there are great fights in his own weight class and the ones right above and below him. 

    The biggest, of course, is a bout with fellow super-bantamweight champion Abner Mares, but the Golden Boy/Top Rank war could prevent this from happening.

    If it doesn't, there are big fights available, with stiff challengers ranging from Guillermo Rigondeaux, Leo Santa Cruz and Anselmo Moreno.

    If Donaire wants to become the next Manny Pacquiao, the fights are certainly out there for him to do it.

Sergio Martinez: Being a Late Bloomer

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    Sergio Martinez is proof positive that fighters can emerge later in their careers and become superstars. 

    Martinez is widely considered, at worst, the fourth-best fighter in the world, and his emergence at this point in time has put him squarely into the picture for huge fights to close out his career.

    These include potentially lucrative showdowns with Floyd Mayweather, Saul Alvarez or Miguel Cotto or a rematch with Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. who he beat in September.

    In this sense, Martinez is lucky that he peaked now, as this is a great time to fight between 154-168 pounds.

Andre Ward: The Light Heavyweight Division

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    Andre Ward is so good that there are virtually no challenges out there for him in his weight class. He's beaten Carl Froch, Mikkel Kessler and Arthur Abraham. 

    Other than rematches, there is literally nobody for him to fight at that weight.

    Add to that the fact that he's already beaten the recognized light-heavyweight champion, Chad Dawson, decisively, and you have quite a dilemma.

    Ward's best bet is a move to light-heavyweight, where he can face Dawson at his natural weight and find potentially good matchups with fighters like Jean Pascal and Tavoris Cloud.

    Ward would likely be favored in all these matches too, but at least they'll be new ground.

Manny Pacquiao: Bob Arum

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    Love him of hate him, Manny Pacquiao should be thankful for Uncle Bob. 

    Arum has turned Pacquiao into a boxing and international superstar with money-making capability surpassed by virtually nobody in the sport.

    And he's also, in many eyes, helped Pacquiao steer clear of his biggest challenge in the sport, Floyd Mayweather, who refuses to work with Arum due to bad blood from their own relationship.

    In many eyes, Arum's intransigence is intentional and aimed at ensuring his money-making machine doesn't step foot in the ring with Mayweather, at least while he's still a top draw. 

    While boxing fans shouldn't be thankful for that, Manny should be thankful for Bob and all the money they've made together.

Floyd Mayweather, Jr.: Bob Arum

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    Floyd Mayweather, Jr. should also be happy for Bob Arum. 

    After all, it's Arum who has served as the convenient scapegoat that has allowed Mayweather to avoid facing Manny Pacquiao. 

    Now, before the army of Mayweather partisans get their noses in a tizzy, allow me to explain.

    Mayweather has legitimate points when he argues that Arum is preventing the fight. He isn't 100 percent correct, but he has valid arguments.

    Like everything else, the fans of both sides feel they are completely right, and the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

    But Arum's presence has certainly done Floyd a favor. It gives him a convenient target to deflect all his why haven't you fought Manny Pacquiao questions. And he should be thankful for that.