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Giving thanks to boxing

Thanksgiving is an American holiday, and one always fun to celebrate. Family, friends, too much food, a Lions game (don't start about how you don't want to see the Lions -- we get one national game a year, it's tradition, live with it).

2009 has been a hell of a year for boxing, too, and there is plenty to be thankful for in the sweet science.

I'm thankful for Manny Pacquiao. Watching him develop from a bruising flyweight to a one-handed dynamo and finally the unbelievable, record-breaking fighter he's become has been brilliant.

Believe it or not, I'm also thankful for the return of Floyd Mayweather Jr., "Money" himself. Mayweather proved his value as a draw for the sport by doing a million homes on pay-per-view with Juan Manuel Marquez in September. For hardcore boxing fans, the bout was largely considered at best a dull rout with the perk of seeing Mayweather's exceptional skill back in action, and at worst a complete sham. But there's no denying that Mayweather spices up the sport of boxing. It doesn't die without him, but it sure as hell benefits from having him around.

I'm still thankful that Top Rank and Golden Boy buried the hatchet back in 2007. Without that happening, we never see Marquez-Pacquiao II, Pacquiao-Barrera II, Hatton-Pacquiao, Cotto-Mosley, Cotto-Margarito, Margarito-Mosley, Pavlik-Hopkins, de la Hoya-Pacquiao -- that's a lot of major fights that would have been missing from the schedule since 2007.

I'm thankful that Paul Williams and Sergio Martinez are both backing up their claims. Williams and Martinez both painted themselves as fighters nobody wanted to face. An opportunity came up for them to fight one another, and they went for it.

I'm thankful for Ken Hershman of Showtime Sports, who had the gutsy vision and drive to put together the compelling, groundbreaking Super Six World Boxing Classic. And to the fighters who all decided to take the risk. And to the promoters who all conceded a little bit (or a lot) to make this thing happen.

I'm thankful for Vitali Klitschko's return to boxing last October, because he's taken legit challenges every time out. He came back from years of retirement to brutalize Samuel Peter (who still hasn't recovered), beat Juan Carlos Gomez decisively, took a challenge from unbeaten young Mexican-American Cristobal Arreola in September, and now has turned right back around to accept another risk against another undefeated young American, Kevin "Kingpin" Johnson, on December 12. What more could we have possibly asked of Vitali?

I'm thankful for guys like Miguel Cotto, Jermain Taylor and Ricky Hatton. All three of them have suffered bad losses this year, but have been class acts in defeat.

As much as I might agree that it hasn't been a good year for Kelly Pavlik's reputation, I'm thankful for Pavlik, too. However you feel about him, Pavlik strikes me as one of the rare guys totally willing to always speak from the heart. It might make him look worse if you're already feeling down on him, but pro athletes are rarely as honest and heartfelt as Pavlik comes off, at least in my view. He seems genuinely hurt by the rumors, by the talk, and by the fact that he seems to be slowly realizing that he might have to leave his hometown for the good of his career.

Speaking of heartfelt, I'm thankful for Nate Campbell. This is a guy that missed weight for a title fight in February, and clearly felt terrible about it. As much as I tried to talk about Nate's situation the same as I would any other fighter, I just like the guy. He's as real as they come. There's not an ounce of fake about Nate Campbell.

I'm thankful for Tomasz Adamek, who shows a level of ambition and confidence that is usually accompanied by arrogance. Adamek has gone from light heavyweight titlist to cruiserweight world champion to what looks like a bona fide heavyweight contender. And in his case, the arrogance has never surfaced.

I'm thankful for warriors like Bernard Dunne, who leave everything in the ring, win or lose. Dunne's post-fight interview and the reception he received after losing to Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym in September will go down as one of my favorite "little" memories of the 2009 boxing year.

I'm thankful that both Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez are back in the ring.

I'm thankful that Nikolai Valuev no longer holds a heavyweight title belt.

I'm thankful for the great turnouts in non-Vegas locales this year in the U.S. and Canada. Lucian Bute and Jean Pascal have both proven to be strong draws north of the border, while Shane Mosley and Antonio Margarito set a Staples Center record back in January, and Juan Manuel Marquez and Juan Diaz broke the record in Texas for the largest ever live gate at a boxing show. Things like this ensure that you get some passion in your crowds, which can go a long way to making a good fight even better.

I'm thankful that boxing is not just alive and well, but thriving all over the world.

And I'm thankful to everyone here at Bad Left Hook for helping us grow so much this year. It's been an outstanding year for us, and I've had a great time doing what I do here. It wouldn't be nearly as much fun without all of you. Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving, and we'll get back to the grind tomorrow.