So here we are. In the post-Floyd Mayweather era, at the tail end of 2015, this is what a super-fight looks like in boxing.
No matter now that both Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez were outhustled and outboxed by Mayweather respectively. No matter, too, that the lineal middleweight champion, the man who beat the man, vacated his WBC belt this week to ensure that - should he prevail on Saturday night - he will extend his streak without any silverware of which to speak. No matter, ultimately, the catchweight, nor the seemingly remarkably slim chance that either man moves on to challenge the de facto ruler at 160lb. Let's be clear: Cotto-Canelo isn't a great fight. That's not to say that it won't be a damn good one.
It's the challenger who starts the favourite. Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KOs), who opened at -275 (4/11) back in July with Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, has, as a general rule, seen the more of the support since then. At time of writing, the same layers quote him at a slightly-clipped-in -300, after wavering as far as -225 earlier in the month. There's been more movement elsewhere. UK firm 10Bet opened on Canelo with an initial -290. That, gradually, has been reined back to -400, but hit the -450 mark along the way. Setting aside the possibility of a late gamble, it now looks likely that -300 will be the price most widely available on Alvarez by the opening bell.
Excluding the Mayweather bout, for which Canelo was an obvious - and, it turned out, stingily-priced underdog - the -300 to beat Cotto pitches Saturday night as one of the Mexican's toughest. That alone is clearly not worthy of raising an eye to. That, in hindsight, both Erislandy Lara (-260 for Canelo) and Austin Trout were considered sterner tests to Alvarez might be. Somewhere between those, Canelo went off at -550 against Alfredo Angulo and -800 against James Kirkland, two similarly-styled sluggers who both failed to last the 12 rounds.
For Cotto (40-4, 33 KOs), the role of betting outsider is a little more familiar, having been a +450 shot against Mayweather in May 2012, and then slightly overlooked against Sergio Martinez, for which he was also available at just above even money (+150). Like Alvarez though, he's moved his way through some gimmes - he and Freddie Roach were given much credit for a three-round thrashing of Delvin Rodriguez but, at -600, Cotto should have delivered nothing less, and last time out he did much the same against Daniel Geale, again at the same price. Geale was a more qualified opponent than Rodriguez but, at a now-familiar Cotto catchweight, was clearly badly drained.
Leading the way on Cotto is UK firm Marathon Bet, who go +265 on the Puerto Rican, but, barring a couple of exceptions at +250, it's the lower +225 (9/4) that's the general price on offer. That feels about right - from this viewpoint Canelo was something skinnier, closer to the -400 than where he's settled, but it's not a considerable margin. Nonetheless, those out there who are Cotto backers may well feel that anything above two-to-one for their man has plenty of appeal.
There's an argument that's not the way to side with him, though. Cotto has, frankly, an outstanding KO record, and one that it's sometimes easy to forget. 33 stoppages from 40 wins is a tremendous return by virtually anyone's standards. Though some would say that's a figure padded by his beatdowns of opponents the calibre of Delvin Rodriguez and Yuri Foreman, the fact remains that Cotto's last six wins have all come inside the distance. You have to go back nearly six-and-a-half years, to June 2009 and the never-stopped Joshua Clottey, to find the last time when an opponent lost out to Cotto but survived to see the scorecards.
Canelo, of course, has never been halted, but the +750 on offer for Cotto to maintain a better-than 82% knockout rate - particularly with the body punching rediscovered under Roach's tutelage - looks more interesting than the +225 he gets the win by any means. It's +400 that he outpoints the Mexican, and +1000 with UK firm Ladbrokes that he does so with a unanimous decision from the judges.
It's Canelo, though, who holds the cards here, at least on paper. The naturally bigger man, he's taller, rangier, fresher, and - perhaps crucially - thrives when he's facing someone who's willing to stand in front of him and trade. When up against a more slippery, more risk-averse opponent, it'd be unfair to say that Alvarez struggles, but he's far from the irresistible force, the same destructive fighter we see against those happier to square up.
Recent form shows a fairly even split - knockout wins against Kirkland, Angulo, and Josesito Lopez and points nods over Lara and Trout mean that there's no obvious trend to side with, but it's hard to imagine Canelo will have to chase Cotto on Saturday night. On that note, the +300 (+225 general) that Canelo racks up a 33rd stoppage win is worth a look, but it's the decision win that's considered the most likely outcome at +125 (5/4). It's +175 (7/4) that all three judges score the fight in the favour of Alvarez, and +187 that we hear the final bell. The draw is a +2200 (22/1) shot.
Arthur Abraham (-116) vs. Martin Murray (130)
German's favourite adopted straight-up boxer fights Britain's oft-travelled Martin Murray - he of the repeated hard luck story on the road - and this looks set to go as many rounds as anyone would wish to schedule. Mercifully, the WBO have capped this at a maximum of twelve, and despite Abraham stopping Stieglitz last time out in their 17th encounter, and Murray's last three (and one defeat) all failing to go the distance, it's hard to see this going any other way.
This is Murray's first tilt at world honours in his new division at super-middleweight, as two wins in eight-rounders against George Beroshvili and Mirzet Bajrektarevic, and a follow-up stoppage over Jose Miguel Torres (who came into that fight off the back of a win over a guy with a 5-31 record) will get you these days. You'd be tough pushed to consider Murray a real underdog here - the myth of the dodgy German officiating feels like just that these days, particularly when compared with the UK and US - and, given the coin toss nature of the odds here, it's home advantage alone that separates them. Were the fight in Manchester, London - or certainly Liverpool - there's little doubt Murray would be a similar kind of odds-on price that Abraham is here.
Murray has a reasonable chance here, particularly given the German's economic levels of output and the fact that Abraham's not exactly the most fearsome of super-middles. A Murray stoppage, though, is a rank +900 outsider in the Method of Victory market, with Abraham available at +500 to end matters early.
This feels like a fight we've seen before though, and not only would you imagine it goes 12 rounds, but some controversy on the cards would be no surprise whatsoever. An Abraham decision can be backed at +150, with a Murray points win at +162. There could be some merit in looking the +2200 for the draw - which is as short as +1600 in places - and perhaps even the close decision wins - Abraham by split (+800), Murray by split (+800), and +1400 and +1600 for each man respectively to edge a majority decision feel well within the realms of possibility.
Takashi Miura (-110) vs. Francisco Vargas (-110)
This will likely come down to where you shop, but across the board, the bookies make this - the fifth defence of Miura's WBC 130lb strap - as not far from a pick ‘em. There's discrepancies right across the board. Vargas can be backed at even money with both UK stalwarts Ladbrokes and Coral, but is as short as -125 elsewhere - which is to say not very short at all. That evens is available with a few more firms for Miura backers, but the layers make this no more than a 55/45 fight, in either direction.
Guillermo Rigondeaux (-10000) vs. Drian Francisco (+1600)
Jayson Velez (-450) vs. Ronny Rios (+300)
Darleys Perez (157) vs. Anthony Crolla (-125)