Four years in the making, Carl Frampton vs Scott Quigg is one of those rare treats: a meeting between two men in their (or fast approaching) their prime, both undefeated, both hovering around the very top of their weight class. Add to that a long-held personal rivalry, together with an all-British dynamic, and you have a highly combustible combination.
It's not much of a stretch, then, to say that this has all the hallmarks of a potential classic. Only the third time that two Brits have squared off in a world title unification (the first two being Benn-Eubank II and Haye-Maccarinelli - this certainly feels a bigger fight than the latter), it's a fight that's come at the right time.
Months of tough negotiations, demands, contractual jostling and publicity stunts have passed, and it's a wonder, really, that we ever made it this far in the first place. In boxing, c.2016, make no mistake - this is a bout that could have very easily slipped away, and it's fair to say that many, amidst all the excitement, will breathe a sigh of relief once the opening bell rings on Saturday night.
There are many people who'll tell you that this is a 50/50 fight. As well matched and stylistically fascinating as it is, though, the bookmakers disagree. Ever since the first odds went up - where Bwin went up with a quote of -162 (8/13) - it's Carl Frampton (21-0, 14 KOs) who's been the favourite and it's been a slow burn from then. At time of writing, the absolute best price available on the Belfast man is -150 (Marathon Bet), but across the industry it's that same -162 that you'll see offered more than any other. It's perhaps surprising that there's been so little movement - Coral's -187 is the most Frampton-averse position out there.
What's less surprising, of course, is that the layers figure that this is Frampton's toughest test yet, and the same applies to Quigg. Prior to this, the biggest price we've seen on the Irishman was a still-lopsided -500 against Kiko Martinez, with quotes just south of that (-550) for what turned out to be a very easy night's work against Steve Molitor.
Meanwhile, for Quigg (31-0-2, 23 KOs), this is the first time he's assumed the role of betting underdog. He can be backed at +150 (Coral, Bet Victor) to pull off - for all the pick ‘em talk - what would be a slight upset, but is as tight as +125 with a host of other firms who rate his chances higher.
Unlike Frampton, whether as a result of a perceived lower ceiling, tougher matchmaking, or a combination of both, Quigg has been seen at eminently more backable prices throughout his ascendancy, and though he was highly fancied to deal with Martinez as clearly as Frampton did (Quigg -450), he's been listed as only a slight -150 favourite against Rendall Munroe first time out and 220 in the rematch. The Bury resident hasn't obliged for backers without fail, though - a fortunate majority draw against Yoandris Salinas saw him go winless as a -500 favourite, in addition to the early technical draw in the initial Munroe clash.
Betting markets are often a simple gauge of how big a fight is, or is likely to be, and the oddsmakers wasted little time in putting up the side, prop, and novelty markets to capitalise on the public interest. Irish firm Paddy Power even offered odds in response to an ongoing spat between the camps on which fighter would occupy the ‘home' dressing room at the Manchester Arena - a market that was quickly suspended in response to the fast-developing situation, but not before Quigg was backed in rapidly.
There's no real stance from the layers on whether the fight will go the distance, and in a contest that could be as cagey as it could be a war straight out of the starting blocks, you couldn't blame them. It's -110 that we won't see all twelve completed rounds but, depending on where you shop, there's anything from -125 to +110 available that says we will. Only three of Frampton's 11 career 12-rounders have gone to the judges (27%), but it's worth noting that none of those opponents have been as good as the present day Scott Quigg is. Looking at the same 12-rounder criteria, Quigg's only gone the 12 on three occasions - once with the aforementioned Salinas, and winning the other two.
Any claim to home advantage that Quigg has will be neutralised by the noise from the travelling fans from Belfast and beyond, and so if anyone's likely to benefit from the judges being swayed by the crowd, it'll be Frampton, particularly as Quigg's yet to attract the same kind of hardened regional support as others in his promotional stable. Frampton's +187 to win a decision here - a price dictated more than the perceived edge in ability he holds more than outside influences, with a Quigg decision figured to be by far the least likely of the major methods of victory at a best-priced +600.
It's Quigg, though, who comes into this fight in the more eye-catching form, and a two-round blowout of Martinez was exactly the kind of boost he'd have wanted on the same night as Frampton was toiling away unimpressively as a -3300 favourite over in Texas.
Since the Salinas draw in October 2013, Quigg has stopped four opponents from five, and has dispatched them in no more than three rounds: Diego Silva (2), Tshifhiwa Munyai (3), Stephane Jamoye (2), Martinez (2). Many expect him to start quickly on Saturday night, and +275 is available for Quigg backers who fancy their man to make it five KOs from six, with +800 for him to end it anywhere in the first half. Those who fancy Quigg to extend what's an impressively economical sequence of violence can bet on him at +1600 to finish Frampton anywhere in the opening three.
Somewhat fittingly, then, for a fight that seems like it could catch fire at any given moment, a Frampton KO win is priced almost identically to the same outcome for Quigg (+275), with +650 on offer for a first-half Frampton victory, and an outside +2000 for anywhere in the first nine minutes.
For those in search of controversy, a draw is +2800 and far from the worst bet around this weekend. It's +1600 that Quigg prevails by split decision (Frampton +800), +3300 by majority call (Frampton +2000) and +1000 for all three judges to see it in his favour (Frampton +275).
To Germany, where they just love a good tetralogy. That said, Marco Huck (-187) and Ola Afolabi (+190) just keep making for damn good fights, no matter for now the gradual decline of each contest's relevance. Huck's won two - at least officially - both by razor-thin decisions, either side of a majority draw.
A little pushing and shoving at a final press conference might have delighted the Vine makers on Twitter, but this week's HBO card looks like a complete dud. A Terence Crawford win is, unsurprisingly, heavily odds-on at -1900 (Hank Lundy +1850), and short-price backers won't be put off by the -220 on the likelihood of a fourth successive stoppage for the Omaha native. Felix Verdejo, Top Rank's Puerto Rican Bright Young Thing, gets a run-out against William Silva (+1800) in what looks like another squash match prior to that, and is -3300, at best, to do what everyone expects him to do.
Over on Showtime, Leo Santa Cruz (-1000) takes on Kiko Martinez (+800). It's hard to believe that the gnarled Spaniard - beaten a combined three times by Messrs Frampton and Quigg (count ‘em) - is still only 29, but here he is, ready for what looks like another tough shift. In the grand scheme of things, with Showtime also airing Frampton-Quigg this weekend, it is, at the very least, an opportunity for Santa Cruz to keep his place in the conversation about who'll the winner. On the undercard, and Julio Ceja (-150) rematches Hugo Ruiz (+160) in a follow-up to their August clash, which Ceja won in five. To the winner, the WBC strap at 122lbs, but few would argue that this is anything other than the flimsiest piece of the super-bantamweight alphabet jigsaw.
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