Trying to convince boxing fans they should embrace former Cuban amateur Guillermo Rigondeaux has become something of a personal crusade for me. He's got a great backstory and unbelievable boxing skill.
But I meet more resistance in this than for any other single opinion I assert about boxing. Rigo is boring, many fans complain.
In their mind, Rigondeaux's wizard-like dismantling of Nonito Donaire's normally dangerous offense last April wasn't an amazing accomplishment; it was some kind of ripoff.
To a degree, I get it. I like a thrilling stand-and-trade war as much as any fan does. Fights like that have an immediate emotional appeal that doesn't require any kind of deep thinking or extra knowledge about the sport.
I know a lot of casual fans who don't understand much about boxing and don't especially follow it most of the time but who light up the minute you mention 1980s-era Mike Tyson or Arturo Gatti's three-fight rivalry with Micky Ward.
One reader recently accused me of doing the sports equivalent of trying to force people to like classical music. I think the metaphor is somewhat accurate but a bit imprecise.
When it comes to music, you can listen to simple pop music with basic chord structures and be perfectly content to enjoy it while never bothering to understand music well enough to appreciate the likes of Mozart of Thelonious Monk. You can keep your radio permanently tuned to the top-40 station.
But prizefighting is a sport, not an art form like music with discreet genres. And since it's a sport, whoever executes most effectively within the established rules deserves to win.
So as long as the sweet science endures, there are going to be boxers who manage to beat the best in the world based on defensive acumen. If it's going to be a legitimate sport where the best in the world really do fight the best in the world, you can't simply dump the technical masters on public radio for the aficionados.
So in order to truly enjoy the sport as a fan, it's worthwhile to learn to appreciate the defensive specialists, too, and to understand how incredibly difficult it is to do the things they do.
Boxing is a dangerous sport. A fighter enters an enclosed area where another highly trained athlete attempts to batter him into unconsciousness with his fists. A fighter who can navigate that danger as smoothly as a cat skipping across a rooftop should be celebrated.