It's a busy Saturday night, with big cards on both HBO and Showtime. Where are the best bets?
Amir Khan vs Devon Alexander
In what's an intriguing Showtime main event - one that, really, is twelve months overdue - on paper it's Khan (29-3, 19 KOs) who appears to hold the majority of the aces, or at least in the most obvious of attributes. The -225 favorite here (+250 more generally available), it's hard to argue Khan, doesn't have an advantage in speed - despite the protests of Alexander (+225)- and probably power, too, but there's much in Alexander's favour here, for those looking for a mild upset.
Devon Alexander (26-2, 14 KOs) is a curious case, with a level of inconsistency that will forever to make him elude the label of a lock in the betting sense, and yet the talent that makes a would-be backer kick themselves for ever being put off on the occasions that he does deliver. Physically, Khan and Alexander - born just three months apart - match up well: both are 5'8'-something tall, with only an inch separating them in terms of reach (advantage Khan).
Since his arrival at any kind of world level, going back as far as Kotelnik in 2009, Khan has fared well against all three southpaws he's faced, which would seem to stymie any strategy from the Alexander camp based on stance alone. Indeed, last time out, Khan strolled past the challenge leftie Luis Collazo, and you'd have to sense that serves him well going into this contest.
Alexander is - from this standpoint - an intelligent, underrated, but incredibly frustrating fighter, and while he'd surely do well to steer clear of a gameplan that revolves around range-at-all-costs (let's all just ponder that Randall Bailey fight, shall we?) against a quicker, rangier man, as such it wouldn't be altogether surprising if that's exactly what he does. Despite Khan edging him elsewhere, however, it would be fair to say that the St Louis native is the superior inside fighter, and it's quite possible Alexander has never looked better than he did roughing up Marcos Maidana early in 2012.
Khan's vulnerabilities are well known - and at this point his chin is less of a question mark than a definitive weakness, period - and so it's at least worth a raise of an eyebrow to see that Alexander is slightly preferred by the layers to win on points (+450) than what would be a third Khan knockout loss from four defeats (+550). There's +350 available for Khan to inflict a first stoppage defeat on Alexander, which feels a little on the stingy side, while it's a Khan decision that's figured to be the most likely outcome at even money, or just shy of.
Keith Thurman vs Leonard Bundu
Bundu (31-0-2, 11 KOs) played the role of road dog to perfection last time out against Frankie Gavin, overturning his pre-fight quote of +275 in doing so, but the Italian has a far bigger task ahead of him against Thurman (23-0, 21 KOs), who's been one of the most impressive performers at 147 in last couple of years.
At a general -1000 (-900 best-priced), Thurman is in the same short-priced favourite territory that bettors will have become accustomed to. As short as -1750 last time out against Julio Diaz, Thurman has been, sequentially, a -900 (Zaveck), -450 (Soto Karass), and -550 (Chaves) shot, and each time he's given backers little cause for sweat, winning a shutout against Zaveck, and then stopping each of his next (or indeed, last) three with an-almost surgical kind of precision, not only making for an early night, but outboxing them in the process.
As far as credible European challengers go, Bundu's a good example, albeit at 40 years old, a squat 5'6, and having largely fought out of his native Italy - hardly Europe's boxing hotbed - not the most fashionable. At the bookmakers' most generous, he's an +850 shot to win on Saturday night by any means, and there's some hefty prices available for those willing to specify the nature of what would be a fairly sizeable shock: Bundu's available at +2000 to win on the scorecards, and +1600 for the stoppage. In Thurman's case, the layers are fairly evenly split - they're fairly certain he wins, but they don't know how, with -200 for the stoppage and a market-best of -260 for the decision.
Timothy Bradley vs Diego Chaves
Chaves (23-2, 19 KOs), frankly, can count himself lucky to be invited back onto a major network's main event after a horrible DQ loss to Brandon Rios back in August (deliberate elbow and points lost for head-butting and holding, to spare you the second viewing). It feels like a push to say there's much desire to watch him mix again at this level - at least from this viewpoint - but if there's one thing this bout is, it's that it's a decent clash of styles.
Bradley (31-1, 12 KOs) is better than having to prove himself against fighters like this, really, but this is what he's got. At the market's most generous, the Californian is a -600 fancy (BWIN), but that could well fall in line with the -700 more readily available across firms before the opening bell. For Chaves - the +550 underdog - the chance to bait the Bradley, Provodnikov model, is surely there. The Argentinian can bang, and an 83% KO-to-win ratio suggests there could be some logic in Chaves backers opting for the +900 stoppage rather than the straight win.
All of that said, while Chaves can be ground down and hurt - ask Keith Thurman - the simple formula of dirty, rugged, brawler plus vastly technically superior boxer with knockouts in only 39% of his victories means that all of this points to... points. "I got Bradley decision," [sic] I hear you cry! Sure, but the layers are way ahead of you. Irish firm Boylesports go -187 for Bradley over the distance, but it's more likely you're looking at -225 for what's likely to be either (a) a clinic, or (b) another life-and-death, but fairly clear, decision.
Matt Korobov vs Andy Lee
Thankfully there's more value to be found further down the card. Sure, 2014's been a fine year for Eastern European punchers, but Korobov (24-0, 14 KOs) simply hasn't looked anything like being on the same level as his contemporaries in the professional ranks, and it's the Russian - a firm -333 betting favorite - who's making the jump in class here, not Andy Lee.
The Irishman (33-2, 23 KOs) - now under the sharp stewardship of the excellent Adam Booth - is, however, as big as the 3/1 (+300) outsider here. That has plenty of appeal, and while Korobov's pressure might fold Lee inside the distance, as with both of Lee's previous losses to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr and Bryan Vera, there's reason in the prices to think he's being underrated. The five straight wins with Booth in his corner haven't all been plain sailing - Lee needed a majority decision against the obscure Frank Haroche Horta in Denmark, before being dropped and struggling early last time out against John Jackson, before a picture-book Lee right hand settled matters in the fifth.
Korobov, meanwhile, has been moved along at a snail's pace - his four 2013 opponents had a sum of 40 losses between them, and against a fellow southpaw (Lee has fought two lefties in his past three) could find the going much tougher than the layers expect. Lee, the taller man of the two, has been mercurial in recent years, but when he's good, he's likely a legitimate threat to at least the bottom half of the top-ten types at 160lb, which in this book makes 3/1 looks a touch generous.
Mauricio Herrera vs Jose Benavidez
Not much up in the way of odds for this yet, other than Paddy Power testing the straight win market with Herrera (21-4, 7 KOs) the marginal -150 favorite to Benavidez' +120. This is, their compiler says, not far off a pick ‘em, and it's more a case of what you look for.
Benavidez (21-0, 15 KOs), a much-fancied prospect, could represent slight value at odds-against, but forming a solid opinion on exactly whether he's ready for the crafty Herrera - who's absolutely no gatekeeper-type here - is difficult when the five most recent opponents of Benavidez have an aggregate of 37 defeats. Guessers rejoice.