Mikey Garcia is a heavy betting favourite going into Saturday's WBO featherweight title defence against Juan Manuel Lopez, but is the short price a reflection of his apparent superiority, or more an indictment of how far his opponent is perceived to have fallen?
Garcia (31-0, 26 KOs), throughout his eye-catching ascent from blue-chip prospect to divisional top dog, hasn't really put so much as a foot wrong so far, and he's firmly favoured to hold onto the belt he took from Orlando Salido earlier this year. The oddsmakers, at their most cautious, make the Oxnard man a 1/7 shot (-700) to see off the challenge of the Puerto Rican (+450), although the 1/5 is still available elsewhere.
Triangle theories in boxing are generally unreliable barometers of a fighter's true odds - styles make fights, and various other clichés, tell us otherwise - but, if this one is to be believed, then the odds do, at least, make some kind of logical sense. Still with me?
The -1400 about Garcia for his eight-round win over Jonathan Victor Barrios - the fight that, arguably, announced his arrival at world level, was fairly indicative of the way in which he crunched through the fringes at 126 before his title shot, with eight straight stoppages between Salido and Pedro Navarrete over three years ago. Despite Salido's two sensational wins over Lopez, Garcia still went off as favourite there, too - but not by much. At around -225, he was expected to do enough to get by the Mexican and, via a technical decision that concluded a bout he dominated, that's exactly what he did.
Lopez (33-2, 30 KOs), of course, presents an altogether different kind of obstacle for Garcia than Salido did: he's quicker, younger, technically better, a southpaw, and so on - but even so, it'd take a fairly audacious stance for Garcia to be a bigger price than he is here, given that Salido win, and the two stoppages the Mexican forced against Lopez.
It goes without saying, of course, that a few years ago, Juan Manuel Lopez being up against a 1/5 favourite in the other corner - at featherweight - would be an unthinkable scenario. During his streak through the division, prior to ever meeting Salido, there were similar prices on Juanma - 1/3 against Marquez, 1/6 against Concepcion, 1/5 against Luevano, and again odds-on for both the first meeting with Salido and the rematch, with the stout Mexican showing an impressively scant regard for the way this sort of thing is meant to work on both occasions. Lopez has fought twice since that rematch, winning both easily, but it's difficult to read anything much into get-well fights, particularly when his last opponent has nearly as many losses on his ledger as Garcia does stoppage wins.
In a fight that promises action, there's every reason, statistically, to think it delivers. In a combined 66 contests, only eight have gone the distance. It's reflected in the odds, and it's just 1/3 (-333) that we don't see the full twelve rounds on Saturday, with +240 that it goes to the judges. Using some somewhat clunky mathematics, 8 from 66 equates to a mere 12% - in other words, a +700 shot - that it does, but clearly this is a misnomer when you consider that both men's records have been built against opponents with a much more modest skill set, and too, that it's quite possible neither has ever fought a guy quite as good as they're about to here. Garcia is listed at +400 to get the job done on the cards, with Lopez not figured to be a threat in terms of outpointing him, at quotes ranging from +1200 to +1600. It's highly debatable that there's that kind of disparity in terms of their boxing ability alone, though, and with no massive home advantage, should a focused, in-form Lopez be that kind of price? Those keeping faith in the Puerto Rican would have some weight to their argument that says he shouldn't.
It's a best-priced -225 (as short as -350) that Garcia gets stoppage #27, and given that 2/2 Lopez defeats have come early, it's the outcome that the layers expect with some degree of confidence. It's a market-best +750 that Lopez wins in the same manner, which - on paper - is a considerable price considering that 91% of his wins have been forced inside the distance. The hitch being, of course, that we've not seen Garcia really troubled by power - which Lopez undoubtedly has - including against Salido.
On the over/under lines, there's some appeal in the 8.5 line for those happy to back at odds-on. Each of Garcia's last five stoppages has come under (a sixth fight could be added to this sequence if you count the Salido TD), while four from Lopez's last five KO wins would have also obliged, with only his rebound win - immediately post-Salido II - going over, and just one round, at that.