There may be two big cards in both L.A. and Atlantic City this Saturday night, each headlined by world-class talent in significant, legitimate fights with potentially far-reaching consequences, but the boxing weekend's biggest attraction will take to the stage in Nottingham, England several hours prior.
Carl Froch (29-2, 21 KOs), the best super-middleweight in the world not named Andre Ward, makes the first defence of his IBF belt with what, on paper, should be a fairly straightforward stay-busy in Yusaf Mack (31-4-2, 17 KOs). The safest wager of all this weekend, though, is that the near-10,000, typically-vocal, pro-Froch fans in attendance will provide a feverish atmosphere inside the Capital FM Arena unlike that for any other tune-up you'll have seen recently.
It's hard to buy too much into the pre-fight talk that this could be Froch's last fight in his native city - win or lose against Bute, Kessler, Ward, or whoever else may follow, in bouts in Canada, Denmark or beyond - but fans of the sport, particularly those in the UK, should hope it's little more than a ticket-selling hook. At home, Froch is a genuine crowd-puller, a true main eventer - and while the buzz he creates doesn't feel quite on a par with Hatton, Manchester, 2005 (and, certainly, November 2012), it's more than just reward for a fighter whose top-level career looked on course to be hampered by both a lack of television exposure, and the British media attention he was due, only a few years ago.
Mack isn't the bum that some might have you believe, but he doesn't appear to be well-positioned to spoil the party here, either. A +1400 underdog tag tells the story of how much the layers expect him to contribute, which, in short, isn't much. Having seemingly settled at light-heavy for what has now been ten fights - where, realistically, he would have been a more legit contender for Nathan Cleverly's WBO strap than Karpency et al - the Philadelphian drops back to 168 for the first time since 2007 and a TKO loss to a then-prime Librado Andrade. For many, Mack - who's only lost to a decent enough bunch in Cloud, Glen Johnson, Andrade and Berrio - would be considered reasonable opposition. For Froch, on the back of Ward, Bute, Kessler, Dirrell, Pascal and co, it's been called an ‘easy fight', a respite from the divisional elite.
The curse of the tune-up, particularly the type put together as specific preparation for an all-but-confirmed money fight in the near future, has been well-documented, but if there's an ideal model of a boxer that's best placed to nullify an upset like that, it'd look a lot like Carl Froch. Iron-chinned - down just once in his career -with a determination as steely as any around, and fighting at home off the back of a career-best performance, there aren't the glints of fragility about the Nottingham man that could be found in those other high-profile victims of the ‘easy fight' in 2012. It's very difficult to get excited about the -2000 (and being offered at shorter in places across the market) being offered for the Froch win, but then, it's very difficult to make a convincing case against it, too.
That doesn't mean there aren't any angles to be found. A key observation here is that while Mack has avoided defeat to anyone other than world titleholders or one-time contenders (and Froch is, obviously, at least one notch above, at least, three of those four names), the nature of each loss is consistent. On each occasion, he's been stopped by TKO - and, interestingly, there's a clear trend in when.
Under sustained pressure and punishment, Mack has folded every time at around the halfway stage of a scheduled twelve rounds: to Berrio (76% KO ratio) in 6, Andrade (65%) in 7, Johnson (50%) in 6, and Cloud (79%) in 8. Not only does Froch (67%) have comparable power to those in that list, but a recent sequence of just one stoppage in his last six can largely be discounted when you consider both the murderer's row of talent the Super Six served up and the five rounds in which he dismantled the best fighter not in that tournament last time out.
Not known for his one-punch power, Froch - one of the best pressure fighters in the game - more often beats guys by relentlessly grinding them down with both output and sheer work rate. This doesn't bode well for Mack, who - at least in that four-fight loss sample - only lasts so long before caving in, a prisoner to a questionable chin and some long-established stamina issues. All the evidence, then, points to a second consecutive stoppage win for the home favourite, but the -450, while understandably short, holds little appeal either.
So, how best to approach it? Taking the Mack round average for KO defeats of 6.75 is a starting point. The equivalent for Froch - the mean of his 21 stoppages, used cautiously as it's skewed by a string of early first- and second-round wins against lower-grade fare - is 5.04 rounds - coincidentally the same total seen in the Bute fight last time out. Looking at the grouped round betting, for those who fancy Froch to quickly wrap things up, there's -110 on offer that he finishes off Mack in the first half of the fight (rounds 1-6 inclusive). Based on the stats, there are worse bets, but it perhaps both underestimates Mack's technical ability and Froch's tendency to end matters early. For the second half of the fight to see a Froch win-by-stoppage, it's +200, but goes above both averages already mentioned.
More appealing, perhaps - at least for those who give any credence to figures like this - is aiming the dart somewhere in between. Taking on the 5-8 grouping sadly reduces the window by a couple of rounds, but does tick both boxes in terms of each guy's respective record. In every fight he's lost, Mack has never it past the eighth, but never been blown out any earlier than the minimum required target; in a combined 21 Froch fights ending by KO, only four have gone beyond the latter end of the 5-8 bracket. It's a 2/1 shot (+200) that the pattern continues, with the compilers happy to lay the Froch decision at +450.
Mack fans will find some solace in the fact that they'll be paid out handsomely if their man gets the job done, but, as Mack himself has said, there's no chance he gets a close decision on the road here (+3300). As such, underdog backers would do well to side with the +1600 for the KO, instead of the +1400 outright, and it's a sizeable +3500 for what would be an unlikely draw.
Broner vs. DeMarco is a classic example of one of those frequently-seen fights that's considered to be 50/50, or fairly close to that mark, by many fans going into the fight, but is dramatically lopsided with the books. At -700 (at worst -1200), Broner's odds not only shed this misconception - a win for DeMarco, the +650 outsider, would be a considerably-sized betting upset to say the least - but they speak volumes about the perceived level of talent the Cincinnati man possesses.
So, who's got it wrong? The current prices on Broner vary so much that even the bookmakers look undecided as to just how big the gap between the two fighters really is. For a fighter stepping up in both weight - not that weight has ever been much of a concern for Broner - and level of opposition to face the consensus #1 at 135, his odds perhaps look a little shorter than they might have been. Broner has won his last four fights by KO, and all four have been within five rounds. It's -125 he wins inside the distance here, and a best-priced +275 to do so inside the first half.
The difference is that Antonio DeMarco is a cut (or several) above the likes of Litzau, Rodriguez and Perez that Broner has been steamrollering his way through of late, and better, too, than a severely-weight-disadvantaged Escobedo. There are several reasons to think that this fight might go more the way of the Ponce de Leon contest, which was the first - and last - time we've seen Broner look anything other than entirely comfortable. Should Broner adopt the same kind of cautious approach here against another southpaw - he hasn't faced one since that Ponce de Leon fight - the +200 that he takes a decision may begin to look big, but against a blood-and-guts type of scrapper like DeMarco there's every chance this could be all action. The Mexican is a rank outsider at +1600 to claim the points nod, while there's anything from +700 to +1400 available for him to claim his 22nd career stoppage win.
Brian Viloria (-225) vs. Tyson Marquez (+175) is this weekend's second instalment of ‘Surely they should be closer than that?', while there's a clutch of other notable names in action against largely-unfancied opponents, with Tony Bellew (-800), Roman Gonzalez (-900) and Seth Mitchell (-450) making up the numbers for Saturday's short-priced crowd.