Tom Craze is back again today with a look at some of the betting odds out there for this weekend's boxing action.
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With busy weekends in boxing, such as this one, when first starting out in sports betting there's the temptation to look at extravagant ways of maximizing potential profit by combining picks and loading them into one, or manifold, multiples.
Whether it's accumulators, trixies, Lucky 31s, or their umpteen - increasingly complex - variants, stringing together numerous combinations of winners might promise the occasional jackpot, but in the long run, as any serious sports bettor will tell you, it's the fast route to the poor house. Disclipined, well-researched single plays are where any long-time, knowledgeable fan of their sport - particularly one so frequently overlooked by the mainstream as our own - can begin to get an edge on the oddsmakers. Which is what this column strives to be all about, really.
Instead, then, the focus here is not to wrench a bet from every one of the many fights taking place this Saturday night, but look for opportunities and pricing errors among the crowded line-up. Indeed, the busier the boxing schedule, the greater the workload on the compiler, and subsequently the higher the probability that something gets overlooked.
The chief support bout in Sheffield looks like one of the most interesting of the lot, as Gavin Rees (-350) and Derry Mathews (+350) try again to find a winner between them, following the technical draw called after three rounds of their first attempt last October. Unusually, perhaps, both men's records have altered fairly significantly since then. Rees, on an impressive ten-fight unbeaten streak since being stopped by Andriy Kotelnik over four years ago, was last seen on the road in March, blitzing Anthony Mezaache in seven, and adding another notch to his growing number of European lightweight title defences. Mathews, on the other hand, has been almost predictably unpredictable in the meantime: first, outgunned and outclassed by the unfancied +225 underdog, Emiliano Marsili, then upsetting the books as a +400 dog himself, stopping Anthony Crolla in a war back in April. The feeling going into that fight was that Mathews was a finished man, having failed to ever capitalise on his early prospect status, following a number of increasingly-catastrophic defeats.
Rees, then, goes into this fight priced in much the same way as Crolla was then. The price looks about right. Comparing the two, it feels like Rees is the more deserving of the four-on tag. Crolla's best win was the stoppage of John Watson - and a good win it was too - and his resumé looks a little flimsier than that of Rees, especially when you consider that Rees dispatched of Watson in a similarly impressive fashion. Following his loss to Gary Sykes, Crolla took on a clutch of - let's face it - bad fighters, including three with losing records (4-43, 8-14, 7-102). Decision nods over Juan Montiel and Willie Limond followed, but it was really primarily the Watson breakthrough, together with the continual downward spiral of Mathews, that saw him start so short that night. Rees has more quality to underwrite his price - M'Baye, Lynes, Cook, Bami and Andy Murray aren't world beaters, but at domestic to European level Rees has, in succession and largely impressive style, been putting away the type of fighters that Crolla had not, at least not in such great number. Mathews' win over was a shock, no doubt, but factor in the fact that a heavy cut was involved (in Mathews' favour) and the relative records of his opponent then and now, and suddenly those two separate -350 quotes look very different.
Maybe, though, the Crolla fight was where, following disappointment after disappointment, it all clicked into place for Mathews. He has the talent and was more than happy to stand and trade with Crolla. Perhaps he's ready to go to war with Rees too. Let's flip that around though - he earned plaudits for the Crolla fight, and rightly so, but against a guy with just 9 KOs from 23, he should have hardly have been discouraged from doing so. Likewise, Mathews has respectable power, but he can be walked down and walked through. Rees himself doesn't have vaunted power - 17 KOs from 36 wins - but what he does possess is a style that's made for walking guys down, together with a grit and sheer persistence that's unmatched by many, at any level. At 5'7 he is - as he is always - the shorter man, but Mathews, at just over 5'8, doesn't have enough of an advantage in reach to keep Rees at distance. Rees will come to attack the body, move forward, and keep attacking the body, in the same relentless manner that overwhelmed Murray, Watson and Mezaache. He just keeps on going, and is hard to deter. It's unlikely Mathews has the power to dissuade him from doing so. Mathews should bring the fight to Rees - he's +700 to get the stoppage himself, which backers may feel is the most likely route of victory. It's improbable he'll match the flurry of punches and overall workrate of Rees over the distance to sufficiently convince for the decision nod, and the chances of him standing off and picking his shots in an attempt to outbox him for the points win seem slim. It's not a bad bet.
But here's the money shot. Every time Mathews has lost, he's lost badly. In each of his six career defeats, he's been stopped, and each and every time it's been inside nine. He hasn't fought gallantly only to lose on a split-nod and doesn't get outboxed over the distance. Instead, he - or at least Mathews pre-Crolla - collapses and wilts under the pressure. Tomorrow night he faces the best pressure fighter he'll have fought.
The pick here, then, is for Rees to do what he does best, and there's a momentum with the champion that's hard to ignore. Mathews can win tomorrow night - and he well might - but coming over a career-best win, as he is, can make it easy for previews such as this to paper over the cracks that may well still remain. The fragility of Mathews and a questionable mind-set, which many have questioned him of since that devastating loss to Tseveenpurev, doesn't get shaken off with one night. Rees presents a challenge that's as much about performance as mental toughness, and his sustained attacks on the inside might well be enough for Mathews to starting doubting himself again tomorrow night. There's a disparity about the price for a Rees stoppage - varying from odds-on at -120 to a more attractive +120 that suggests this is a tough fight to call. It also tells us that at least one book has got it very much wrong. Look for Rees to pound his way to a stoppage against the ropes over a game but ultimately exhausted Mathews, possibly early, but likely between eight and ten.
Dave Oakes' excellent preview of the Kell Brook-Carson Jones IBF welterweight eliminator - the main event of an impressive Matchroom card, which doubles up as the former's first defence of a bauble labelled the IBF International title - saves much the same information being repeated here. Brook is as short as a -1000 favourite to get the job done, and a -150 shot to do so inside the distance, with Jones a +600 shot to get a win of any kind. Those looking for the upset would be wise to take the +1100 about him getting the stoppage, given Brook's eye-catching style and hometown advantage, but it's hard to see any case for it, given how impressive and, indeed, entirely untroubled, the Sheffield man has looked for quite some time.
Those looking for a big price with a little more substance could do worse than look at Kerry Hope, a +300 shot against Grzegorz Proksa, the same guy he was ruled to have outpointed in a majority decision back in March, when Proksa was an incredible -3300 to win. It's unlikely to end up top of most of December's shock-of-the-year polls, but in pure betting terms it's quite possible there won't be a bigger upset in 2012. The feeling here was that Proksa actually did enough to get the nod first time around though, and while the -350 this weekend is can't be backed, it is at least marginally more palatable.
The -3300 label this weekend falls on the far more deserving Wladimir Klitschko who, as ever, provides little more than a high interest bank account rate for the big rollers looking to buy some easy money. Tony Thompson (+1600) might put up more of a fight than most, if his last effort is anything to go by, and for those brave enough to put any faith in the 40 year-old - who'll at least turn up in some kind of shape - it's +400 that he lasts the distance, with Wlad roughly around -500 to score KO #51.
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