Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE
Adrien Broner is an incredibly wide favorite tonight against Gavin Rees, who is being given little to no chance by oddsmakers.
What do you get when you pit two fighters together, when one of the two is significantly quicker, stronger, considerably taller, younger, and technically superior? One who, both on paper and to all observers - educated or otherwise - would appear to hold all the aces in every possible way? That's right - it's this weekend's HBO main event!
It's also, in betting terms, a recipe for a 50-to-1 favourite, which is precisely what Adrien Broner (25-0, 21 KOs) is at the time of writing across a number of books going into the first defense of his WBC lightweight title against Gavin Rees (37-1-1, 18 KOs). There's been a little bit of jostling among the layers - at least those in the UK and Europe - throughout the week and Broner, from a general opening 1/33 (-3300) is likely to go at 1/20 with a clutch of marginally-more-adventurous firms at the first bell.
Conventional wisdom suggests it probably won't matter all that much. Here's the conundrum: Gavin Rees is pretty much qualified to be here or, at least, in the position of a title challenger at 135lbs. It's just that, from what we've seen of the man in the opposite corner, the Welshman - an excellent pressure fighter, a man with a tremendous in-ring work ethic and heart, and a former WBA beltholder at 140 - looks out of his depth. Rees, a massive 15-1 underdog here - last seen in this column getting the job done inside the distance against the capable Derry Mathews - would attract money from backers against those also at the top of the division. There's little doubt he would see support in the market - even at a significantly shorter price - were he paired against the previous incumbent of Broner's strap, Antonio DeMarco. He'd likely be a shorter price again should an all-British clash with WBO titlist Ricky Burns be made. The difference here is that this match-up offers not only a large disparity in natural talent, but also a pairing of styles that would appear to present Rees with a challenge so big that it appears to be insurmountable. Certainly, in major fights alone, should Rees pull the unthinkable, it's arguable that there would have been no bigger upset since Sonny Boy Jaro's shocker over Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, BLH's upset of the year for 2012.
The Newport native, a legitimate top-ten lightweight, would appear to have been chosen, in part, because he simply has the aggressive kind of style to make Adrien Broner look good. It may turn out that he looks even better than that. The only name on Broner's ledger we've seen him struggle with so far is Daniel Ponce de Leon and, looking at the names at lightweight, it'd really appear that only Miguel Vazquez or, perhaps, Richard Abril could present him with the same kind of awkwardness. Rees is as far removed from those cuter, more cautious operators as it's possible to get. In the same way we saw DeMarco's somewhat baffling tactic of standing largely stationary in front of Broner for the duration backfire spectacularly, Rees' likely busy, come-forward work may ultimately end up being little more than an annoyance to the Cincinnati man. It's for this reason that, remarkably, a Broner stoppage win is priced up as short as -1400, although as big - using that word in the loosest possible sense in this context - as -600 or thereabouts in places.
In truth, it's difficult to imagine a scenario here that would result in the Rees upset. As if he didn't have enough piled against him, he is, of course, the away fighter, and against the more polished, slicker Broner, it seems hugely unlikely that he'd emerge victorious should he attempt to outbox him in the hope of landing a win on the cards. Putting his threats of a knockout aside, Rees, you'd imagine, will attempt to bank the rounds - particularly in the early part of the fight - on sheer activity alone. Could he sustain any early success for the full twelve rounds? The huge +3400 for a Rees decision suggests it's highly unlikely. In short, it would appear Rees has the classic puncher's chance. 18 stoppages in 37 wins - although, it must be noted, four from the last six against largely quality European and domestic-level opposition - doesn't inspire much confidence either, particularly with Rees being a fighter who favours going to the body. Against Broner's tightly-held guard - whichever way you slice this, it's a huge, huge ask.
Instead, there's more appeal in looking at alternative angles to side with the landslide favourite, given that neither the outright odds or indeed straight KO can be backed. Broner, in search of a sixth straight stoppage win, a sequence that began with that first-round demolition of Jason Litzau, has gone more than eight rounds only once in his career, in that contentious decision nod over Ponce de Leon. It's a best-priced -200 that this fight goes more than that again on the over/under 8.5 line, but the stats give enough credence to a bolder selection. In the five-KO streak currently enjoyed by Broner, the average duration of of each fight comes to just 4.2 rounds. Looking back further still, in all 21 of Broner's stoppage wins, the mean round total comes to just 2.9. He is, if there was any lingering doubt, not a man who likes to hang around for longer than is necessary. Using the numbers alone, some more interesting markets come into play: the unders at 4.5 can be backed at +200; 3.5 at +333, and 2.5 at +550. All of which, crucially, fit the brackets already mentioned, and those looking to side with the Broner stoppage could do worse than back what has been a fairly solid trend to continue. The most attractive play at a slightly shorter price, however, is the Broner win anywhere from rounds 1-6 inclusive, at a shade at under even money. With 20 of his 21 stoppages fitting the same description - DeMarco being the lone exception - the numbers, like everything else would appear stacked against the Welshman.
Vicente Escobedo, last seen being manhandled by an oversized Broner, is favoured at -333 to see off Edner Cherry (+275). In the chief support to the main event, there's another heavy favourite, with Sakio Bika, at best, a -800 shot over Nikola Sjekloca (+600).