Boxing's true superfights - and make no mistake, this is as legitimate as any we've seen for many years - capture the imagination of the sporting world like few other events can. Everyone suddenly has an opinion, a conviction formed from hearsay, hype or, in the case of those who are boxing fans for the other 364 days of the year, perhaps something substantive.
Boxing's true superfights - in this era, those almost invariably left to play out from the neon heart of the gambling capital of the world, are inextricably as much an enormous betting event as much a pure sporting occasion. As loud as the tills will ring with news of record gate receipts and monstrous PPV revenue, the sportsbooks of Vegas will swell with those ready to put their money where their mouth is.
Since the announcement of the fight back at the end of May, there's been some movement in the lines, and by and large, it's been one-way traffic. After opening at a general -225/-250, whatever the bookmakers' PR Spin will tell you otherwise, the money has been for Money Mayweather, and win #45 would be by far their worst result of the evening worldwide.
A cursory glance across the board shows us that, while a best-priced -275 is still available in places, the consensus quote is that Mayweather is around a 1/3 (-300) shot, with not much change given. There are a few exceptions - British bookie Stan James goes as short as -400, Ladbrokes -300, but it's highly unlikely we'll see much north of that at this stage, despite the late volume that's still to come.
Much of the late volume, of course, will likely be for Canelo Alvarez, who, after opening at a general +240, has been pushed out marginally over the course of the summer. There's plenty of the +240 still around, but anything up to +270 is available for those happy to shop around. The price may be clipped in slightly with last-minute flutters on the underdog, but it may well be the case that Mayweather is a favourite that the bookies will only ever want to keep onside as best they can, and it seems unlikely we'll see anything approaching a general -250 across the sportsbooks, although a handful may oblige.
Yet anything even a couple of ticks closer to even money than the above benchmark is surely going to start to look very generous indeed. Should Mayweather go off at -250, it'd be approaching the price he went off at against Oscar De La Hoya in 2007 - the fight that ‘The One' has in its sights in terms of revenue - and the quotes we saw for him against Ricky Hatton later that year.
Unlike either of the above, it's only in Canelo that Mayweather will concede a real edge in physicality to, that 13-year age gap and already-established Latin American superstar status prompting so many to ask ‘what if?'.
Looking more closely at the odds, that -300 on Mayweather implies that, mathematically, he has a 75% chance of winning the fight, by any means, when pricing to 100%, +240 on Canelo infers just over 29% probability.
What's really interesting, then, is how much this differs from the general fan opinion across the web. This site's own reader poll, currently available on the homepage, shows us that, at time of writing, from 2,050 votes - a reasonable sample size, given the likely demographic - only 52% predict a Mayweather victory. That would be a remarkable statistic in its own right, but when you convert that figure into betting odds, a mere 52% win probability would mean quotes of -108 or thereabouts - in other words, classic pick ‘em territory, and a price on Mayweather that's closer to even money than at any point offered throughout the lifetime of the fantasy Mayweather-Pacquiao market offered by the books.
Elsewhere, at time of writing, a poll on ESPN.com has Mayweather polling at 66% (roughly -200), with The Ring's own ballot showing Mayweather with a consolidated 56% to win by any method (roughly -125). There are a few obvious explanations to explain these discrepancies - the most obvious would be that the support for Canelo is such that he's accrued more votes as a result of people simply wanting him to win more than they do Mayweather - but certainly it seems scarcely believable that what the layers are telling us is the actual probability is so far off the mark.
As with any Mayweather fight, it's the decision route that seems the most likely method of victory - should ‘Money' prevail - and perhaps never more has it been an logical choice than when presented against a much bigger, sturdier, likely stronger, man, one that most assume will be the toughest physical test that the Grand Rapids native has come up against in some time. Add in an inevitable concession in weight and a pair of famously-fragile hands that might rule out the stoppage (+600), and it's the obvious bet, right? Well, yes, but for those who may have worked through their own Eureka moment, it's a play that offers scant value. Backed in as short as -200 (-175 or so more generally, or 63%), the Mayweather decision looks a solid choice for those happy to bet at firm odds-on, but it's a touch on the skinny side.
For the quotes on Canelo, it's much less clear cut- not only do they not fancy his chances of the win, but they've really no preference in how he'd go about it. It's a best-priced +600 that he turns the boxing world on its head by not only beating, but stopping Floyd Mayweather. There's some considerable disagreement across the market on the chances of Alvarez forcing a win on the cards - from this viewpoint, if Canelo wins, this is how - with the erroneous-looking +800 offered by Sportingbet looking at odds (ahem) with the more general +550 or so with most firms.
This hardly needs to be iterated, but don't rule out controversy. This will likely the biggest night of the three judges' careers and, in a pressure-cooker, pro-Canelo MGM Grand, it's likely that those investing a Mayweather waltz to the scorecards - which would appear to be the consensus from most I've spoken to - could be made to sweat more than they'd like - and that's in the event that it's a one-sided contest at all.
In reality, it would be a surprise if the scorecards came out much wider than four or five points apart, irrespective of how it looks in the ring, and a competitive, physical contest, fought out on the inside and with no decisive knockdowns to sway the judges (Hi, Raymundo Beltran!) could really bring any outcome into play. Backing Mayweather to emerge with a split-decision - shades of the De La Hoya fight - can be done at +1100, with Canelo at +1800, and either by majority decision bigger still. Finally, the draw (+2500) will no doubt be the cynics' favourite bet of the weekend, with both unbeaten records emerging intact, and with the option to start the whole, incredibly lucrative, proceedings all over again.
On the undercard:
Confusion all round as Carlos Molina opens as short as a -400 favourite (best-priced -275) to beat Mayweather Promotions' Ishe Smith (+300).
Confusion all round as Pablo Cesar Cano opens as short as -225 (best-priced -200) to beat Mayweather Promotions' Ashley Theophane (+175).
Danny Garcia (+250) vs. Lucas Matthysse (-225): Click here for full preview.
Follow Tom Craze on Twitter @ Box_Bet