Bad Left Hook welcomes a new contributor this morning, as Tom Craze will be taking a look at weekend fights from a betting perspective every Friday. This week, he sizes up the Showtime card, headlined by Victor Ortiz and Josesito Lopez
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This Saturday, as part of the big Showtime main event at the Staples Center, California, Victor Ortiz (29-3-2, 22 KOs) assumes the mantle of a position that's become increasingly unfamiliar to him over the past 14 months: that of the overwhelming betting favourite.
After successive challenges against Andre Berto and Floyd Mayweather Jr - challenges he came through with wildly varying degrees of success - the lines are reversed as late stand-in Josesito Lopez (29-4, 17 KOs) steps up a level in what is, by far, his toughest assignment to date, for some vacant WBC trinket or other.
Nine months ago, Ortiz, this week priced up across the board as an -800 lock (up to -1000, or 1/10 European, in places), found himself up against similarly formidable quotes for the Mayweather fight. Five months prior, he'd pulled off one of the betting upsets of the year, in one of the consensus fights of the year, in his stunning back-and-forth decision with Berto, and making a mockery of his tag as +300 underdog in the process.
Some fighters you can consider a sure thing, one way or another, in betting terms. Victor Ortiz is not of those fighters. Throughout what's essentially still a young career, he's been a consistent source of frustration to punters: lacking the mental strength and maturity to justify his status as a -300 favourite over Marcos Maidana, and falling short when favoured to a similar degree by the oddsmakers against Lamont Peterson. Granted, Ortiz obliged when odds-on against a faded Nate Campbell (a generous -180, in hindsight), and heavily so against a barely-there Vivian Harris, but the fact remains that he's a guy that's hard to trust in betting terms, and a guy that frequently raises more questions than provides answers.
When weighing up the pricing for the Lopez, there are several key considerations. The first is that, effectively, Ortiz has been in training for this fight - any fight - since January. A postponement, and, subsequent cancellation, of the Berto rematch mean that Ortiz has been in the gym for the best part of six months. Camps have been disrupted, schedules adjusted, late substitutes drafted. How has this affected Ortiz? Has he over-trained?
The more recent development that a September fight with Canelo Alvarez has been all-but-confirmed raises further doubt. There's a good deal of assumption that has gone into the making of that contest - as exciting a prospect as it is - and it's an arrangement that can both distract Ortiz and motivate Lopez. Does Ortiz take his eye off the ball here?
This isn't a bad fight. Lopez is relatively green, but he's been gradually stepping up and mixing with the likes of Jessie Vargas, and a fairly impressive stoppage of Mike Dallas Jr, will do him no harm at all. That said, at 27 he's no longer really a prospect and comparing his resumé to that of Ortiz, at two years his junior, puts their varying levels into perspective. Indeed, it's hard to see how he troubles Ortiz from an orthodox stance with a modest degree of ability and middling power. Ortiz holds all the cards here: southpaw, huge at the weight and brings main-event experience. The hunch is that an Ortiz running at even 80% of the version he brought to the Berto fight has enough to get the job done.
At time of writing, prices vary quite considerably - anywhere from a solid-looking +110 down to around -175 - for Ortiz to impress and, for once, not fluff his lines when expected to deliver. It's not unreasonable to think that Lopez proves awkward enough to last the distance here, but at anything close to even money, look for Ortiz to wear down and ultimately overpower him somewhere around the 9th.
The prospect of Humberto Soto (best-priced +175) actually stepping into a ring with Lucas Matthysse (-150) - and outside of Mexico - is the type of fight you'd swore you'd only believe when you saw it, but we're close enough to think that this one might actually take place.
There's reason enough here, too, to think that, at odds-against, Soto represents the value pick. Granted, he's newer to the weight and Matthysse has two losses on his record that almost might as well not be there, but the Argentine looks a little short at the price. The assignment here is for Soto to stay out of harm's way - the Matthysse stoppage +333 holds plenty of appeal and will likely be a popular call this weekend. That said, one stoppage defeat in seven, albeit against patchy opposition, suggests that he well might. Soto has plenty of doubters, but he's a fine technician and can eke out a decision win here. A Soto win and a Soto win on the cards feel like one and the same here, so take the +225 for the latter at the more attractive price.
Finally, at -500, Jermell Charlo - who's been winning well but little more - looks very short indeed against a Denis Douglin coming off a string of two get-well wins, including a decision nod over an evenly-matched Steve Martinez last time out. Another prospect-check could await here.