What Boxing's Top Stars Should Wish for This Christmas
A very Happy Holidays to all of you boxing fans out there!
Boxing is more than a sport for a lot of us. It's a hobby, a livelihood and, in many cases, a passion.
And we've been lucky enough to be gifted with an exciting and dramatic 2013 that provided us with more than its fair share of surprises. And as we count down the days until the end of the year, and with the holidays upon us, we look to the future for what's next.
In the spirit of the season, we look at each star of the fight game and the thing he should be hoping appears under his Christmas tree after Santa makes his run around the world.
So join us for a mix of laughs, analysis and good fun, as we explore what each top fighter wants/needs the most for Christmas!
Gennady Golovkin: A Top Middleweight with the Guts to Fight Him
Being Gennady Golovkin is both good and bad.
First the good: He's one of the fastest rising stars in boxing and the current WBO middleweight champion, and he'll never have to face Gennady Golovkin.
Then comes the bad: Nobody else wants to face him, either.
GGG has had a tough time securing meaningful fights since he burst onto the American scene late in 2012 with a fifth-round demolition of Gregorz Proksa on HBO. His style is best described as highly violent—an interesting description given the sport is boxing—and has been a turnoff for most fighters who value their health and well-being.
You'll find a fair amount of people who already believe that Golovkin is the best 160-pound fighter in the world, despite the continued presence of division kingpin Sergio Martinez at the top.
The Argentine has showed zero willingness thus far to fight the Kazakh and instead is likely headed for a showdown with junior middleweight Miguel Cotto in June.
That puts Golovkin in a bind, and at least for the time being, it means he'll have to continue feasting on the Curtis Stevens, Matthew Macklin and Osumanu Adama (his reported next victim) type fighters in the world.
So, more than anything, GGG wants a top-level middleweight to show the guts and take the plunge to fight him.
Danny Garcia: A Muzzle for His Dad
Danny Garcia is about as nice and likable a fellow as you'll ever meet in boxing. He's personable and confident (but not over the top) and scored two very impressive victories this year over foes that were, if not elite, highly dangerous.
But the 25-year-old junior welterweight champion does have a problem. His dad Angel, who trains him and does a heck of a job at it, has been known in the past to make some incendiary, crazy and racist comments toward his son's opponents.
Before Danny's fight against Lucas Matthysse in September, the elder Garcia took to the podium at a press conference to spew an epic rant about Argentine fighters and promised to cut off his own head if his son lost.
But that doesn't even rate on the crazy/racist meter that measures Angel's words on a daily basis.
In the lead-up to Danny's unification bout with Amir Khan—a British-born Muslim of Pakistani descent—Angel lobbed some very unflattering and racially based comments that many felt were cringe-worthy and unnecessary.
Now, all that said, it's clear that Angel is a tremendous trainer, and he has a special relationship with his son that allows him to get the most out of him as a fighter. But if you think he's going to stop talking and pushing the envelope, you don't know him.
That's why Danny is hoping to get a muzzle from Santa this year—so he can keep his father from saying anything else to get him in trouble.
Wladimir Klitschko: 11 More Anonymous European Heavyweight Challengers
Wladimir Klitschko collected wins No. 60 and 61 this past year and in the process has now defended his heavyweight championship 15 consecutive times.
That's an impressive run, and as of earlier this year, the younger Klitschko is now the second longest reigning heavyweight champion in boxing history.
Wlad is closing in on eight years with at least one of the heavyweight straps (he captured the IBF title from Chris Byrd in April 2006). He now stands just 10 behind Joe Louis' record of 25 consecutive title defenses.
With his 38th birthday approaching (he'll reach that magic number in April), Wlad may have a long shot of breaking that record, but without any overly threatening challengers on the horizon, it's possible.
If he keeps up his current average of fights per year (he fought twice in 2013 and three times in 2012), he would need about four more years to reach the 10 fights to tie the record. Given the current crop of heavyweight contenders and his technical, low-risk style, is it not feasible to think he could still be the heavyweight champion into his early 40s?
His older brother Vitali did it, and his style made him much more willing to open up and take risks.
In the absence of a compelling challenger bursting onto the scene—call me when Deontay Wilder beats someone of note—all Wlad wants for Christmas this year is 11 more anonymous European heavyweight challengers to pummel on to break the record.
You know, the Francesco Pianetas and Jean-Marc Mormecks of the world.
Sergio Martinez: A Year Without Injuries
It's been a rough year and change for middleweight champion Sergio Martinez.
Near the end of 2012, he dominated and defeated Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in one of the biggest blowouts of a high-profile fight you'll ever see. Until the final 90 seconds, Martinez owned his foe, but then he got caught, knocked down and suffered an injury that put him on the shelf until April of this year.
Finally fulfilling his dream of putting on a major title fight in his native Argentina, Martinez struggled in a water-slogged Buenos Aires soccer stadium to defeat the game Martin Murray by unanimous decision. Again, he needed to overcome a knockdown and suffered injuries that forced him out of the sport for what will be more than a year.
Next up for the middleweight kingpin appears to be multi-weight division world champion Miguel Cotto, who will be making his first leap to 160 pounds in the hopes of securing a title in a fourth weight class.
The fight has not been finalized but has tentatively been set for June 7 at a venue in the New York City area. Madison Square Garden, for so long a second home for Cotto, and MetLife Stadium in nearby East Rutherford, N.J., have been prominently mentioned as potential sites.
That's a compelling and high-profile bout, and it's one that Martinez definitely has the stuff to win. But he's hoping Santa will bring him something this year that has been in all-too-short supply for him of late.
Nearing 39 years old, the Argentine was boxing's ultimate late-bloomer, but he doesn't have a ton of time left near the top. He needs to remain healthy to finally cash in on some of the lucrative fights that escaped him when he toiled for years in relative obscurity.
Guillermo Rigondeaux: Someone to Televise His Fights
Let's just put it right out there: Guillermo Rigondeaux is the best technical boxer in the sport.
He has an uncanny ability to hit, not get hit and frustrate the hell out of his opponents.
But his style does not and cannot sell to a mainstream audience. Now that's bound to offend many boxing purists out there, and that's not to say they're wrong for appreciating his subtle mastery, but even they need to acknowledge that boxing is a business.
Networks televise the sport primarily to make money. And they want to showcase fighters who provide action, drama and some bang for the buck.
And Rigo doesn't do that.
His performance against Nonito Donaire earlier this year was nothing short of a technical masterpiece. Short of one hiccup in the 10th round, it was an opus, and Rigo got a much deserved victory.
But his follow-up against Joseph Agbeko in early December was one of the worst fights you'll ever see.
Now, it's true that a lot of that had to do with an opponent who had zero intention of fighting.
Agbeko completely mailed it in, and he should be criticized for his performance or lack thereof. But the onus for a great show was never on his shoulders. It was Rigo who came in under the specter of having to do something spectacular to justify his slot on HBO.
And he had a foe in front of him who was ripe for the taking, and he never let his hands go to get him out of there and make a statement.
That fight was so universally panned, that it wouldn't be surprising at all to find Rigo looking for someone to televise his fights in the future. HBO was skeptical of putting him back on after the Donaire fight, and the low ratings from the Agbeko affair have called his continued presence into question.
Manny Pacquiao: A Good Tax Lawyer
If you believe everything you see and hear, Manny Pacquiao owes more money than most of us will ever be able to comprehend.
The former pound-for-pound king has apparently run afoul of the taxman in two separate countries—the United States and the Philippines—and will need a good tax lawyer to pull him from the fire.
Earlier in December, the United States Internal Revenue Service hit him with a tax lien of $18.3 million for unpaid taxes resulting from fight earnings in 2008 and 2009. That came quickly on the heels of the seizure of Pacquiao's assets by the Filipino government for what it claims was $50 million in unpaid taxes.
Both Pacquiao and his promoter Bob Arum have been forceful in their denial of the charges and claim that he will be vindicated.
The tax troubles in the United States appear to have more teeth. As Forbes has reported, by the time a tax lien comes into play, many other things have already gone wrong. This could be anything from notices that went without reply, and the IRS could target basically any of the Filipino icon's assets.
Generally speaking, tax liens are rarely wrong, and even in the occasional case when they are, it's hard to skate away without having to pay something.
This is a time-consuming and often very—forgive the pun—taxing process. That's why Pacquiao is hoping Santa leaves a great tax lawyer under his tree this Christmas.
Juan Manuel Marquez: His Very Own Judge
Juan Manuel Marquez is one of the best fighters of his era, and he might just be the best fighter to come out of Mexico in the post-Julio Cesar Chavez era.
But he has a tendency to lose close fights and then complain ad nauseum about how the judges took another win away from him.
Now, that's not to say that he doesn't have legitimate gripes and reasons for feeling that way. All of his first three fights with Manny Pacquiao were extremely close and competitive. With the exception of Round 1 of their first bout—when Marquez was dropped three times and nearly stopped—virtually all of their 35 rounds before their last fight could've been scored either way.
Close doesn't necessarily equate to robbery, but you'd have a hard time understanding that if you listen to "Dinamita."
A perfect example came after his October fight against Timothy Bradley for the WBO Welterweight Championship. At the post-fight press conference, Marquez was again clear about whom he felt beat him, and it wasn't the fighter across the ring.
"I came to win, I felt I did win but the judges took it away from me," Marquez said, via Leighton Ginn of USA Today. "I've been robbed six times in my career."
That statement flies in the face of what actually happened in the ring. The overwhelming consensus amongst boxing media was that Bradley had done more than enough to secure the victory. In a survey of boxing media scorecards after the fight, only four of 89 media members felt Marquez deserved to win.
That's why, under his tree this year, Marquez hopes to find something that might be eminently useful: his very own judge. That way, if he loses, he'll only have himself to blame.
Timothy Bradley: A Big Bag of Respect
Timothy Bradley is probably the most disrespected top-three fighter in the history of boxing. After his bogus gift decision win over Manny Pacquiao in June of 2012, it seems that nothing "Desert Storm" does is enough to get him the one thing he craves over all others.
Go to war with Ruslan Provodnikov, fight well outside your comfort zone and survive a final round knockdown to get a win, and what do they say? That you got lucky.
Thoroughly outbox one of the greatest fighters of this generation in Juan Manuel Marquez, receiving a decision that was all-too-close, and what do they say? That you got lucky.
It seems that nothing will do in order to quell the lingering anger over a victory he didn't deserve. It has resulted in him not getting enough credit for two wins that he did deserve and did earn.
If Bradley had his way, what he'd receive this Christmas is a big, heaping bag of respect. And the best way for him to earn that could be by "avenging" his victory over Pacquiao some time next year.
Andre Ward: A Compelling Opponent
Andre Ward returned from a 14-month layoff to outpoint a completely overmatched Edwin Rodriguez in November. With the win, he showed absolutely no ring rust and reminded everyone why he's light years ahead of every other super middleweight.
The ease with which he has run through quality opponents is a double-edged sword for him. It has established him as one of the best fighters on the planet, but it has done little to enhance his marketability as a star with crossover appeal.
What Ward needs more than anything is a fighter who will bring out the best in him. Someone who will challenge him, make him respond to adversity and enhance his stock amongst the masses.
The hardcore boxing community—which includes media and fans alike—is already on board.
What he needs is someone who can help him make that leap into the consciousness of people who are casual observers of the sport.
Could that be someone like Gennady Golovkin, should he move up from middleweight, or Adonis Stevenson or Sergey Kovalev at light heavyweight?
Now, personally I'd be terrified if I woke up Christmas morning and found Golovkin or Kovalev under my tree, but one of them might be just what Ward needs.
Floyd Mayweather: A Legacy-Defining Win
Floyd Mayweather has done basically everything there is to do in boxing. He's won eight world championships in five weight divisions. He has won the lineal championship in three weight classes and is boxing's top pound-for-pound fighter and its top box office draw by a mile.
This past year, he easily defeated a pair of tough fighters at welterweight—Robert Guerrero and junior middleweight—Saul "Canelo" Alvarez—to once again prove he's the best in the game.
He—possibly quite literally—has everything there is to have. A multi-millionaire many times over, Mayweather never hesitates to flaunt his wealth on social media through his Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
So what do you get for the main who has everything?
The one thing that might be missing from his resume—which has earned him the distinctions of best fighter of his era, surefire Hall of Famer and all-time great—is a signature win.
That's not to say that he hasn't defeated a slew of very good and some great fighters. Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, Diego Corrales and the late Genaro Hernandez—among others—are not to be dismissed.
But he doesn't have a Sugar Ray Leonard on his record like Roberto Duran does. Or a Duran, Marvin Hagler and Tommy Hearns like Leonard does.
What "Money" really wants—or at least should—is that all-time win that would elevate his career into legitimate discussion amongst the best of the best from any era.
Is that to be found in Manny Pacquiao? At this point, that fight remains unlikely, and it remains to be seen.
That's why Mayweather, more than anything else, has to be hoping to receive for Christmas this year a foe who will fill that hole on his resume.