Boxing continues its busy spring schedule tonight with another packed evening of big-name fights, but - at least if are the bookies are to believed - from a betting perspective, the three star attractions are all but foregone conclusions. But are they right?
Sergio Martinez vs. Martin Murray
This, Sergio Martinez's first fight in his native Argentina for over 11 years, would appear to many to be a straightforward enough task, but there's some interesting disagreement across a variety of bookmakers. As short as a ten-to-one favourite (-1000) in places, Martinez is just half that (-500) elsewhere, and there's a point where that could look like value, if not necessarily backable outright because of the short price.
Murray (25-0-1, 11 KOs) - a +550 underdog here - a debatable, but creditable, draw against Felix Sturm aside, has a record that's paper-thin and wins against the likes of Karim Achour and a painfully-limited Jorge Navarro last time out, do little to qualify the man from St Helens as belonging in the same company as Martinez, the lineal ruler at 160lbs since that twelve-round upset of Kelly Pavlik just over three years ago. Since then, Martinez has dispatched top-ten middleweight after top-ten middleweight (and an alphabet, if over-matched, beltholder at 154), largely in impressive style and, for the most part, with consummate ease. Sturm aside, Murray's faced nobody even on the fringes of that kind of quality.
In Buenos Aires, in front of 40,000 vocal Martinez fans, you'd have to think a Murray decision is unimaginable - at +1600, it's the rank outsider in the bookies' method of victory markets, but arguably could be twice or three times that price. Murray - who looked physically the bigger, stronger man at the weigh-in - will surely look to pressure and exploit any vulnerabilities in the 38-year-old Martinez, in his first fight since knee surgery. A stoppage win for Murray - which would be a forerunner for the upset of the year - is a best-priced +900, and as short as +600, which looks lean given Murray's modest KO ratio. A Martinez stoppage - the eventual outcome of four of his last six - opened at a stand-out -125, but has since been backed in slightly and is now available at -137, with -150 more widely offered. It's +225 for the home decision, and a second successive Martinez points nod.
Danny Garcia vs. Zab Judah
Though Garcia-Judah - after an initial postponement - is arguably the most-awaited fight of the weekend for many, it's not figured to be particularly close by the odds compilers. At -500 (and as short as -800 elsewhere) Garcia (25-0, 16 KOs), unbeaten and at the head of most 140lb rankings, is a heavy, if not overwhelming against the enduringly-disappointing Judah (42-7, 29 KOs), a +500 underdog.
Those looking to side with Zab will be boosted by the fact that the layers seem to have made little of the fact that Garcia, who won't be without some support of his own, is essentially the road fighter here. Combine that factor with the fact that, on paper, Judah has the edge in speed, is technically more refined, and matches up well in terms of power, and there is a case for the Brooklyn man here.
An -800 shot getting turned over requires a considerable shock beforehand, and though some would disagree, that's exactly what a Zab Judah win would be here. The layers don't fancy his chances overall, and there's little to choose from in terms of exactly how he gets the job done, too. A decision nod is available at a best-priced +900, and the quotes across the market for the upset KO win vary considerably - as short as +800 in places, as big as +1400 in others. A Garcia decision on the cards is +380, but it's a stoppage for the Philadelphia man that's most favoured, at anything between -225 and -275.
Amir Khan vs. Julio Diaz
In what looks, to all intents and purposes, a bit of a mismatch, Khan (27-3, 19 KOs) continues his rebuilding process against 33-year-old Diaz (40-7-1, 29 KOs), who's better known for competing at lightweight than as high as this, a 143lb-catchweight.
Inevitably, then, it's Khan - tested at the very highest level at 140, albeit with varying results - who's the massive favourite at -1000 and, in truth, it's difficult to argue why he should be anything else. Diaz, coming off a draw - and it's likely he wouldn't be here otherwise - against prospect Shawn Porter, is an +800 shot here, but in truth, he's got the proverbial puncher's chance and more. Against Khan though, a puncher has more of a chance than he probably should. Diaz is available at +1000 to inflict the third KO defeat in four of Khan.
Yet, while Diaz will, or at least should, come out - and likely go down - swinging (it's just -400 for a Khan stoppage), it's Khan who has all the pressure on him. In front of a sizeable crowd, he'll be keen to both showcase any stylistic adjustments he's picked up from Virgil Hunter, but is, surely, also aware of the need to impress if he's going to get himself back into the title picture later this year. The +110 on the over/under 6.5 rounds looks a reasonable option, and covers both a blow-out of the over-matched Diaz and, of course, an early upset.
Peter Quillin vs. Fernando Guerrero
It's no surprise to see Quillin (28-0, 20 KOs) listed as the heavy favourite here, and, for as long as he continues fighting guys like Guerrero, on the very periphery of the 160lb picture, it's a tag we might as well get used to seeing him hold. At a best-priced -800, but as short as -1200 elsewhere, it's difficult to see the talented, Chicago-born, Quillin - now residing in Brooklyn, and so the home fighter here - tripping up with a fighter like Guerrero (+650), especially given the way he dealt with Hassan N'Dam last time out, arguably a far more capable fighter.
Guerrero (25-1, 19 KOs) has won four straight since being upset by Grady Brewer, a +550 underdog, and has racked up three stoppages in that sequences. He's priced at +1100 to make that four from five, but inevitably it's the Quillin KO that the layers are doing their best to keep onside at -225. Should Quillin not close the show early, it's difficult to see the hometown man dropping a decision, and so the +350 for a points win could be worth a look, if you can look past those doubts over Guerrero's durability.
Deontay Wilder vs. Audley Harrison
It feels strange to read many talking up 41-year-old, +550 outsider Audley Harrison (31-6, 23 KOs) as having the best chance of pulling the upset across tonight's fights, but, much like Judah, he's a fighter that seems to somehow continue to inspire some faith in him, despite his otherwise questionable mental fortitude.
Nonetheless, it's difficult to argue that Harrison isn't in any way a step up for Wilder (27-0, 27 KOs) here, who's a firm -600 favourite. What is probable, though, is that says more about the level of Wilder's opposition so far than the legitimacy of Harrison as any kind of real threat on the heavyweight scene in 2013.
The problem for Harrison is that, at least in anything other than three-round Prizefighter sideshows, he's folded at the first sign of any resistance of late. Up against both David Haye - admittedly a fighter operating at least a few levels up from Harrison - and David Price, Audley gave us his best rabbit-in-a-headlights impression, and lasted a grand total of less than four rounds across both fights. While it's difficult to lend the 100% KO percentage Wilder holds too much weight, he, clearly can bang a bit. It's -450 that he makes it 28 in a row, with Harrison at +800 to get the stoppage of his own, and show everybody that this really is his time. No, really. What may be of interest to those looking to side with Wilder is that Harrison has lost 3/6 by stoppage. In those three losses - Haye, Price, and Michael Sprott in 2007 - he's last no longer than three rounds. With that in mind, the -187 for Wilder anywhere in the first five may appeal.
Chris Arreola vs. Bermane Stiverne
Arreola-Stiverne probably isn't the most anticipated near-500lb in-ring combination out there, but is recognised by the WBC for, well, something or other. This could be fun while it lasts - both guys have power - but, conversely, it could stink. Arreola (35-2, 30 KOs) is usually entertaining, and is the rightful favourite here at -450. Stiverne (22-1-1, 20 KOs) is probably best known for his thrill-a-minute win over a forty-something Ray Austin, a fight in which he struggled until eventually forcing a late stoppage. That bout, a WBC heavyweight eliminator saw Stiverne (a +450 outsider here) move on to the big prize he so rightly earned: an eight-rounder against 13-10-3 Willie Herring.
Priced at -250, it's the Arreola stoppage that looks most likely here (Stiverne +600), but it's too short to get too excited about. Stiverne's only loss saw him stopped in four, and when Arreola does finish guys, he tends to do so early. Five of Arreola's last six wins have come by way of stoppage, last on average three rounds exactly. It's +210 that he wins inside that bracket tonight and +1600 for Stiverne to do the same.
Also this weekend:
Luis Carlos Abregu (-450) vs. Antonin Decarie (+400)
Jhonny Gonzalez (-4100) vs. Akihiko Katagiri (+1200)
Mariana Juarez (-1900) vs. Riya Togo (+750)
Juergen Braehmer (-1000) vs. Tony Averlant (+850)