Boxing is often at its best when a pair of sluggers stand in the middle of the ring and trade punches, like Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward did in 2002 and '03. Or when a skillful practitioner unleashes seamless combinations on a favored opponent, such as the night Buster Douglas upset Mike Tyson 16 years ago.
Boxing can be painful, too. Watching Shane Mosley fire shots at Fernando Vargas' grotesquely swollen eye back in February made viewers flinch. And who can forget the boulder atop Hasim Rahman's forehead versus Evander Holyfield four years ago?
That vision still produces goosebumps.
But real pain isn't watching a guy splatter blood all over the ring or some pug's system short-circuiting as the result of a home run punch. No, real pain is watching Chris Byrd fight.
There is no denying the Michigan native's skill. He is fast. He is well-schooled. He is talented. And he is a survivor. He has been on the elite scene for seven years now – much longer than anyone could have imagined.
He seems like a great guy outside of the ring. A family man with morals who fears the big guy upstairs.
But watching him fight is pure torture.
He dances. He blocks and feints. He jabs. And he often taunts – which, when it happens, is easily the most entertaining portion of his fights. He does throw punches, often times, a lot of punches. Only problem, his punch has the force of a mammoth cotton ball.
Therefore, he rarely stands and trades, preferring to parry punches and counter with all the bad intentions of a boy scout, from that maddening, wide-eyed defensive posture.
Oh, he's also southpaw, and amazingly quick, so rarely can ponderous heavyweights lay a glove on him – further frustrating the viewer.
So we're forced to sit through 12 rounds of slaphappy heavyweight tedium. By the end of it, Byrd's opponent is unmarked and frustrated. And, if not fast asleep, the boxing fan is wishing he were at a Don King press conference.
Okay, maybe Byrd's fights aren't that bad. But they're bad.
He is easily the most boring fighter in boxing today. Fight fans looking for a great battle should probably not watch Saturday when Byrd meets Wladimir Klitschko in a rematch of their 2000 meeting.
If you do, don't say you weren't warned.
But Byrd is hardly the only fighter to keep fans at bay like Larry Holmes jabbing Lucien Rodrigues. Here are some of the least entertaining fighters of the last few years.
*John Ruiz: At least Byrd is skillful. Ruiz is not, instead preferring to maul and grab his opponent with techniques that would make “Dirty” Dick Murdock green with envy. How unwatchable is Ruiz? He makes other mauler types like Vito Antuofermo and Mustafa Hamsho look like Willie Pep in comparison. Rarely does Ruiz throw punches. He'll throw a punch, miss, then fall into some weird, awkward clinch where arms and feet are tangled like an old extension cord. Then, with his opponent's back turned, Ruiz will probably nail him with a rabbit punch. Then the opponent will retaliate. Then they'll wrestle for a little bit before some senior citizen-aged ref pries them apart with the Jaws of Life. It happened against Evander Holyfield and Andrew Golota and Rahman.
His three fights with Holyfield were just ridiculous. Thirty-six rounds of nonsense within a 16-month period. Boxing fans who watched should be commended for their courage.
The world thought it rid itself of Ruiz last year, when James Toney beat him by decision, and the “Quietman” retired. Then Toney came up positive for steroid use, and Ruiz un-retired. He lost to Nikolay Valuev in his last fight. But the decision was just controversial enough to ensure a Ruiz return.
*Hector Camacho: There was a time when Camacho was one of the brightest stars in the boxing constellation, back in 1983 when he destroyed Bazooka Limon for the junior lightweight title. He seemingly had it all: furiously fast hands and feet, solid boxing skills, a great chin and, sometimes, a punch. His destruction of John Montes in '83 was a thing of beauty.
Then along came Edwin Rosario.
The Puerto Rican bomber was an underdog to Camacho in their June 13, 1986 shootout in New York's Madison Square Garden. Camacho was expected to dance circles around him. And, in the early rounds, he did. Then, in the seventh – crack! One of Rosario's bombs landed, and Camacho was hurt for the first time in his career. A few rounds later, in the 11th, “Macho” was staggered again. No embarrassment. Rosario was one of the hardest punching lightweights of his era. And Camacho, though the performance was unexpected, handled it well enough to earn a split decision.
But, from there, Camacho became gun-shy. He began to backpedal fulltime. It seemed he was reluctant to unleash the combinations that made him so dazzling in the early 1980s. He had a few more impressive wins, but by 1988, his new style had grown stale.
He still had some flash, but his performances were awful. Remember the Howard Davis fight in 1987?
Neither does anybody else.
Finally, in 1992, Julio Cesar Chavez gave boxing fans what they wanted. He dominated the helpless Camacho and proved that awkward, boring style a fraud.
Camacho always got attention after that, specifically for his knockout of an ancient Sugar Ray Leonard in 1997. But, against world-class opposition, Camacho was always a pain to watch.
And it was all because of a couple of power punches by the late, great Rosario.
*Naseem Hamed: Like Camacho, there was a time when the “Prince” was an exciting fighter. His showdown with Kevin Kelley in 1997 was one of the best featherweight brawls of the decade. And his long, heavily-produced ring walks made the atmosphere that much more exciting.
But something happened to Hamed right around the Wayne McCullough fight. Once faced with someone who was more than one-dimensional, it seemed the Prince ran out of ideas. And his horrible form was exposed.
Leading with right hands with his chin up in the air. Loading up on left hooks, missing, and doing a ballerina twirl. Leaning away from punches instead of moving away or blocking them with his gloves.
It all culminated with a 1999 fight so bad that it would make John Ruiz proud. Juarez, Mexico's Cesar Soto was an awkward brawler himself, and the two combined for one of the ugliest fights in featherweight history. There were multiple takedowns and body-slams, but very few clean punches landed. The fighters were on the canvas more often than not, and it became comical once the fight headed to the late rounds.
People just wanted it to end.
It finally did, and, after the Prince won a decision that no one cared about, Hamed fought twice in 2000 before being completely dominated by Marco Antonio Barrera. Since then, the Prince has fought once, a horribly lackluster decision over someone named Manuel Calvo.
There is talk of a comeback, but judging by Hamed's recent bloated appearance and trouble with the law in England, it doesn't appear that is likely. Which is just as well if Hamed fights as he did toward the end of his career.