Much is different about Canelo Alvarez's defence of his WBC light-middleweight belt tonight, the sixth of what's been, to date, a somewhat dubious reign. In the opposite corner, there's an opponent that's neither the wrong side of forty-years-old (Mosley), undersized (Lopez, Hatton), nor there on questionable merit (Cintron, Gomez). What is constant, though, as has been the case for every single one of his 42 professional bouts, is that Alvarez will go into the fight as a firm odds-on betting favourite.
Alvarez (41-0-1, 30 KOs) is a general two-to-one (-200) fancy with the layers, currently a touch higher on some exchanges, and as short as -275 with some more cautious books. A favourite he may be, but it's a world away from what we've seen in recent fights, with the -600 against Mosley and -1600 versus Lopez both forecasting the inevitable landslides that were to follow. But can he be backed at the price?
Austin Trout (26-0, 14 KOs) is no stranger to an underdog tag, and, in betting terms, he finds himself in a familiar position to his last contest. That fight -an accomplished, impressive, outpointing of Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden - marked his arrival at elite level, and the New Mexico man made a mockery of the market-best +200 quotes he was given before the bell sounded. Such was the support to Trout going into that bout, he closed as short as +160 pre-fight, and, despite what appeared to many to be a controlled, composed performance throughout, it was a price that refused to drop in-running until fairly late, regardless of what the incomplete scorecards may have read at the time.
Trout backers will find their man in a similar kind of ballpark here. Again, at best, there's +200 on the underdog to pull the upset, but the line in the region of +175, is more widely available, barring late, heavy, support for the favourite - or, indeed, opposition against.
This, undoubtedly, is a fascinating match-up. Stylistically, Trout presents a challenge, and level of opposition, that Canelo simply hasn't been faced with thus far. The first southpaw Alvarez will have confronted since Rhodes, Trout is also slightly taller, possesses a slight reach advantage and a good, solid jab, and is, remarkably, the youngest man Canelo has been matched with since beating Antonio Fitch in January 2009.
In the build-up to this fight, though, it's arguable that Canelo - already quite the polarising figure - has been somewhat underplayed in comparison to his opponent. It's hard to dislike Trout the fighter, who built his career at the top level largely on the road, notching wins in boxing outposts such as Panama and Canada, before a minor upset over tonight's opponent's elder brother earned him an alphabet strap and, finally, some leverage. But is his record really any deeper than Canelo's here?
For all his plaudits, Frank LoPorto, David Lopez and Rigoberto Alvarez hardly represent formidable opposition, true light-middles though they all may be. Trout's win over Delvin Rodriguez, while credible, was as deserved as it was dull, but that in itself wasn't any more impressive than the ease with which Alvarez dispatched Rhodes, a top-fifteen 154lber at worst. Cotto, of course, is the yardstick on which Trout's reputation rests but, though a better win than anything either man had seen before, it's difficult to argue that the Puerto Rican is both small for the division and hasn't seen better days.
So how does Trout get the job done here? The layers seem fairly decided. Canelo's yet to be really tested in terms of his chin, but it'd seem that the underdog - not known for his power - isn't likely to be the man to do so. 14 KOs in 26 doesn't suggest he'll force a stoppage and the quotes for an early night for Trout say much the same, priced up as high as +1400 in places, but a more general +900 is on offer. The disparity between a Trout win and an upset decision - a result that would make it five from his last six - is, of course, much smaller, and while +220 is at the stingier end of the market, Trout backers would do well do take the +300 instead.
Much has been made of Trout being the away fighter here - the majority of that sell-out 38,000 crowd are likely to be vocifer ous in their support of the Mexican - and many have expressed fears that Trout's unlikely to get a fair shake should the fight go the distance. Canelo's as short as even money to claim a decision, with +150 available elsewhere.
In contrast to that UD-heavy Trout run, the trend for Alvarez - the more aggressive, come-forward of the two men - is one of forcing the stoppage and, mirroring Trout's formline, another win inside here would be the fifth in six for Canelo. Should that power translate when in against a legit opponent, and one as big at the weight as Trout is, it's possible, then, that the +250 for a Canelo stoppage is a touch too big. Five from six is also the ratio with which another trend appears to be emerging in terms of exactly when Alvarez finishes the job - all but one of Canelo's last half-dozen KOs have taken place in either the fifth or sixth round. Those looking to put faith wholly in the statistics could, then, do worse than take the +600 on offer for Alvarez to once more close the show anywhere between 5-8 inclusive.
Also this weekend:
Tyson Fury (-500) vs Steve Cunningham (+475),
Nathan Cleverly (-450) vs Robin Krasniqi (+550)
Cristian Mijares (-120) vs Victor Terrazas (+120)
Dereck Chisora (-3300) vs Hector Avila +1400)