Did you see heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko Saturday? Then you very well might have been bored! Maybe you saw lightweight Terence Crawford, and were more bored by him instead. Maybe you were bored by neither. All of these outcomes are possible.
That's because not all "boring" fighters are created equal. And not all viewers perceive them as such. From time to time, you'll hear someone say, "Boring Andre Ward can get a big paycheck by HBO, but boring Guillermo Rigondeaux can't? DOUBLE STANDARD." But then comes a night like Saturday where you'll have people offer up things like "Terence Crawford-Andrey Klimov made Wladimir Klitschko-Alexander Povetkin look like Gatti-Ward" or the exact opposite — "After Klitschko-Povetkin, Crawford-Klimov looks like Gatti-Ward."
Different allegedly boring fighters are allegedly more boring than others to other people; "boring is boring is boring" doesn't hold any water.
The men on the list below are only allegedly boring. They're top-10 ranked fighters in their divisions or even the champions who've merely been thwacked with the boring label more often than others. Presumably if Klitschko is drawing 35,000 people in Moscow like he did Saturday, there are some people who find something un-boring about him. Presumably if Floyd Mayweather is selling 2.2 million pay-per-view units for his last fight, there are some people who find him un-boring. In fact, a handful of these men are the most popular fighters in the sport, by one measure or the other.
This is merely my ranking of them, from least boring to most. My opinion. No one else's.
Floyd Mayweather (junior middleweight)
How boring is he?: Mayweather has many of the traits most common to allegedly boring fighters: He's a natural counterpuncher; his defense is excellent; and he doesn't punch that hard. He's also rarely in against anyone who has a chance, although at his peak the same was true for, say, Manny Pacquiao, and his fights were never considered boring. That said, when you can predict a routine 12-round unanimous decision every time out — bizarre majority decision in his last fight aside — it can get old. Mayweather doesn't bore me, though, because even his one-sided fights are so virtuosic that they sustain my interest. He'll also lead at times if it makes sense, and he's had a few moments of drama over the last several years, such as a difficult outing against Miguel Cotto or a rough 2nd round against Shane Mosley; Mayweather's ability to adjust in those fights was pretty interesting, too. His outside-the-ring schtick fascinates some people; it bores me to tears, however.
Want to see his fights?: Absolutely. His displays of pure boxing are brilliant. If you can appreciate or enjoy good defense, and I can, Mayweather is near magical. My degree of interest is proportional, however, to how (relatively) competitive his opponent might be on paper.
Anselmo Moreno (bantamweight)
How boring is he?: This one always confused me, because I see next to nothing boring about Moreno. Yet still he gets the label sometimes. He has a certain calculating demeanor, a kind of passion-free boxing robot quality. But if you're an admirer of high-level practitioners of violence, how can you not enjoy what he did to Vic Darchinyan? Despite his skill level, he's also not totally unbeatable, as the Abner Mares fight showed or his four split decision wins in 2009 and 2010 demonstrated. That said, I guess he's got that counterpunching/defense/power deficit trio going for him.
Want to see his fights?: Without question.
Andre Ward (super middleweight)
How boring is he?: It kind of varies from performance to performance. When he was developing from a prospect into a contender, pretty boring — mainly because of lack of power. But then he demolished Edison Miranda and Mikkel Kessler in one-sided performances, and there was a jolt of "holy shit this guy is for real" that gave those two fights energy. Then came a few fights where his inside game went from mildly rule-breaking to a bit excessive, culminating in the eyesore foulfest against Sakio Bika, mutual as it was. Against Chad Dawson, he did very little holding and hitting or head butting, and scored knockdowns and a knockout, but still some labeled it boring. Even his most boring fights have held some interest for me, though, because I like watching him use his varied abilities to wrest control of the bout, although that too can bore people, to watch him take over and dominate.
Want to see his fights?: Yes, especially if he's going to fight more like he did against Dawson going forward, which I think he will when he can. He's going to do whatever he thinks it takes to win, including some rules violations, and that's my least favorite aspect of what he does, even if I think it's overblown how much he does it. But if he thinks he can win in a more marketable way in any given bout, he probably will seize the chance.
Terence Crawford (lightweight)
How boring is he?: The biggest knock on Crawford Saturday was that he could've done more. That's true. But Klimov did almost nothing for eight rounds, and while Crawford, as the A-side, has a certain responsibility to carry the fight that Klimov did not, it's easy enough to pinpoint the blame for who really made the fight boring when it was — Klimov, Klimov, Klimov. He busted up the aggressive Breidis Prescott and stopped the similarly aggressive Alejandro Sanabria, so we know he's capable of being more exciting than he was against Klimov. As it was, Crawford was the aggressor against Klimov throughout, he landed the hardest punches and he did so despite being able to get away with the exact same decision victory result doing far less than he did. Not unlike Moreno, he has a passionless demeanor, and not unlike Mayweather and Ward, he is good defensively and has dominated his fights. The issue with Crawford, I think, is that he teases us with the ability to do more — he has more natural power than Mayweather and Ward, for instance, is more comfortable leading than either of them, in a second instance, and he showed in the last 20 seconds of his fight with Klimov that he was capable of hurting him.
Want to see his fights?: Yes, definitely. That said, at this point the match-up matters. Crawford has been much more watchable against opponents who want to initiate, and I'd like to see him in against an elite lightweight to bring an element of challenge to the table. Oh, and Crawford-Klimov was a million times more watchable for me than Klitschko-Povetkin, btw. We'll get to the whys later, but I'd rather sit through Crawford-Klimov five more times than have to watch Klitschko-Povetkin even once.
Guillermo Rigondeaux (junior featherweight)
How boring is he?: Counterpunching, check; defense, check. He has even more power than Crawford, though, and his tendency to get dropped or hurt makes him more dramatic by nature. The main problem is how willing he is to stink out the joint with his movement and feints if he gets in any trouble or even sniffs it in the air. So he'll knock out a guy like Rico Ramos or Teon Kennedy (even though Kennedy hurt him a little) and spend almost the whole fight running away from Nonito Donaire or Ricardo Cordoba. Mayweather and Ward tend to stay right in punching range, ready to hit and get hit, however often they don't actually get hit. At least there's a possibility with them in range. With Rigo running around, the chances of anything happening are nil.
Want to watch his fights?: Yes, although it's more of a "maybe" depending on what version of Rigo shows up. The version who fought Donaire was far too disinterested in contact for my liking. The version who fought Ramos or Kennedy — that guy's pretty cool. As for the double standard mentioned above — sometimes two "boring" fighters get two different opportunities because of varying degrees of marketability outside the ring. Think what you will of Ward's personality, but an African-American U.S. Olympic gold medalist with vocal Christian beliefs is going to have a bigger demographic than a Cuban Olympic gold medalist with no discernible personality traits that make him either lovable or hate-able. That's one of the reasons HBO might throw more money at Ward than Rigo, besides the different ways in which they are allegedly boring.
Devon Alexander (welterweight)
How boring is he?: Was a time when Alexander was poised to arrive as an exciting fighter, right after he scored a Knockout of the Year candidate against Juan Urango. Didn't last long. Two fights later he avoided both contact and throwing any punches against Timothy Bradley, and then hid as best he could against big puncher Randall Bailey. When he's at his worst, he's nearly invisible offensively and the only evidence of him being in the ring is all that barking he does. I once wrote, "There's nothing worse than a bad Alexander fight." But he'll be more offensive-minded out of nowhere, such as against Lucas Matthysse or Marcos Maidana.
Want to watch his fights?: Another maybe. Are we talking about the guy who fought Bradley and Bailey, or the guy who fought Matthysse and Maidana? I was intrigued by Alexander-Amir Khan, but that fight now looks like it won't be a go. Instead it could be Luis Collazo (ick — he, too, can be entertaining enough in the right match-up, but that isn't Alexander) or Shawn Porter (yeah).
Chad Dawson (light heavyweight)
How boring is he?: For a while, Dawson caught a bad rap in my book for being boring — his fights with Jean Pascal and Glen Johnson the first time were plenty fun, for starters. Those are now a long time ago. When he wants to, he can lean back and jab from distance and fight like he's as bored as he makes us. His latest results were not boring, although neither were because of anything he did.
Want to watch his fights?: Less all the time, but not so much because they're boring. There's nothing boring about getting knocked out savagely by Adonis Stevenson or the pummeling he took from Ward, as happened in his last two bouts, but the cumulative effect of those outcomes is enough to make me think his time as an elite fighter is done, therefore my interest is low.
Carlos Molina (junior middleweight)
How boring is he?: Molina often initiates contact, one of the main prerequisites of not being boring. Against James Kirkland, that wasn't the case — he wanted very little to do with Kirkland's power and held on for dear life. Against Ishe Smith, he was the one doing all the initiating, so I blame Smith more than Molina for the lack of fireworks, but then again, Molina also held and head butted a plenty.
Want to watch his fights?: Reluctantly. Like I said, I don't think he was the one most to blame for the Smith fight's lack of appeal, but he certainly contributed. He presents a difficult style puzzle that makes him competitive for most anyone at 154, so there's potential drama in that.
Bernard Hopkins (light heavyweight)
How boring is he?: Hopkins has been in four moderately entertaining bouts since 2006 — Kelly Pavlik, Antonio Tarver, Pascal twice — and the rest is pure garbage going back to the end of 2004 and in some cases well before. He potshots, moves, holds, head butts, low blows, holds and hits, exaggerates the rules abuses of his opponent like a soccer player, etc. Some of his fights are among the all-time worst of this decade, like the rematches with Chad Dawson or Roy Jones, Jr.
Want to watch his fights?: Not because of his fighting style, at least. Part of me remains interested in his boxing career because he's nearing 50 and I want to find out if he can keep pulling it off, which puts me in the company that keeps making him a TV ratings earner. The rest of me hasn't eagerly anticipated a Bernard Hopkins fight ever.
Wladimir Klitschko (heavyweight)
How boring is he?: To his credit, more than anyone on this list, he gets the knockouts, just because he hits so hard, not because it's a priority for him. Here's why I hate Klitschko fights so much more than that of his fellow most prominent "boring" fighters: Klitschko wins the same way ever single time, twisting every match-up to his monotonous rhythm, plus he gets away with nearly as much cheating as Hopkins. This is every single Klitschko fight you've ever seen: jab jab hold jab jab hold jab right cross hold jab left hook hold jab hold jab hold jab hold repeat. It's a math formula, artless. I honestly never care whether the knockouts come. You have to endure so much of that to get to that point that the knockout as employed by Klitschko goes from "one of the most electric moments in sports" to "that thing that brings relief that we don't have to watch any more rounds." And the cheating. It reached a new low against Povetkin, and he suffered a rare point penalty because of it, too late in the fight though it was to make a difference. He holds; he sticks his left hand out illegally; he pushes opponents down all the time with that same left hand; he leans down on his held opponent's neck; and against Povetkin, he worked in some holding and hitting.
Want to watch his fights?: No. I once got excited for a Klitschko fight when David Haye was on the other side of the ring, only Haye wasn't able to bring his usual excitement. The first live fight I covered was Klitschko-Sultan Ibragimov and it's a wonder it didn't turn me off of every wanting to cover a bout in person again. Like a lot of these "boring" fighters, he's working with what he's got — it would be dangerous to Klitschko to do more than he does with his math formula, because he got exposed as a weak-chinned heavyweight long ago. I just despise his bouts.
Richard Abril (lightweight)
How boring is he?: Not watching it live, I expected worse from Abril-Brandon Rios as far as spoiling goes, based on the grumbling on social media. Abril held a ton, yes, but maybe not to point penalty level. But by the time he fought Sharif Bogere, the spoiling had reached a new level, probably abetted by Bogere not being Rios in the action department. Abril's style works for him — throw a single shot, hold — well enough to win close decisions sometimes and lose them others, which ought to make him rethink it, if the fact that only about 30 people were on hand for his fight against Bogere doesn't.
Want to watch his fights?: Not after two in a row like Rios/Bogere.
Miguel Vazquez (lightweight)
How boring is he?: There is no fighter with as ugly a two-fight streak as Marvin Quintero and Mercito Gesta, not even Abril. Both Vazquez-Quintero and Vazquez-Gesta were leading contenders for worst fight of 2012. The whole idea in both fights was to run away and peck with the bare minimum number of punches required to win rounds, although Gesta did more than his share of making that one suck. Vazquez wasn't as boring pre-Quintero/Gesta as all that, but he never thrilled, exactly. Even getting back to that previous level of boringish vs. pure undistilled boring would be an accomplishment.
Want to watch his fights?: Not even remotely. Not until he hands in a couple performances in a row that aren't aesthetic nightmares.