There’s an intriguing – and potentially action-packed weekend in store, with a big fight on both sides of the Atlantic. But how do the bookies see them, and where does the value lie?
Keith Thurman vs. Danny Garcia
There are two big match-ups this Saturday, but, really, only one of them has any kind of real significance for now, and that’s Thurman-Garcia. While the promotional blurb hinting that this bout determines the planet’s number one welterweight falls someway short of, you know, actually being true – that’s still Manny Pacquiao, until proven otherwise - this is a meaningful, entirely relevant, actual unification being two actual world-class fighters very much in their athletic prime. Which, really, is all anyone can ask for.
Welterweight’s a division that’s very much in the process of shaking itself out at the moment and, given that Brook-Spence Jr, together with, reportedly, Pacquiao-Khan – and hell, even Porter-Berto, there’s every reason to be optimistic that a clear picture at 147lb will form by year end, with further unifications to come. The Thurman-Garcia winner won’t assume the position at the front of the pack just yet, but he’ll have a very strong case to be considered #2 or #3.
It’s Thurman (27-0, 22 KOs) who’ll go into the fight as the betting favourite and while he’s a long way from being a strong fancy, that’s been very much the case throughout the build-up. That could mean a number of things: one, that there hasn’t been a move on either man; two, that there hasn’t been much volume on the bout full stop, and three (and three will suffice for now), that the layers are fairly confident they’ve got their man.
At time of writing, Thurman is a firm(ish) -187 (8/15) favourite at best, and it’s a line that’s moved intermittently since the first prices were posted back in November, having opened at -250 (2/5). There have been an few interesting discrepancies – at one time, ‘One Time’ (ahem) was as slim at 4/11 (-275), a quote that’s since drifted back out to a general industry price that flits between -225 (4/9) and -200 (1/2). That’s the largest price on Thurman since what was arguably his breakthrough contest against Carlos Quintana in late 2012, when the Florida native was, again, a -200 (1/2) favourite. Thurman’s last out, that entertaining win over Shawn Porter last June, saw him again justify his favouritism by obliging at odds of around -250 (2/5).
Post-Quintana, and throughout an eight-bout win streak that’s seen Thurman establish himself as one of the main men at 147lb, it’s Porter – perhaps a top-five, top-six welter at a push – who’s been by far the toughest test. Thurman’s fought just two undefeated fighters since November 2012 – one being the painfully crude Diego Chaves, the other being a stubborn Leonard Bundu (Thurman a -1700 favourite, Bundu +1100) who gave the A-side some rounds, but not much else.
In Danny Garcia (33-0, 19 KOs), Thurman has been matched against one of the sport’s most obstinate winners, a man who just gets on getting the job done. He’s perhaps been fortunate, on occasion – there’s a real argument he lost to at least one of Lamont Peterson and Mauricio Herrera – but nonetheless, Garcia is just a damned tough nut to crack. What’s more, it’s quite possible, given he’s a very easy character for fans to dislike – patchy cherry-picked opposition, abrasive cornerman, to name but two offences – that the Philadelphian is being hugely overlooked here.
Critics – of which there are more than a handful – will point to his resume at welterweight to date as being poor, and while that’s possibly a little harsh, wins over 2016 versions of Paul Malignaggi and Robert Guerrero (Garcia -900 and -800 respectively), proved little other than Garcia’s will, which was never really in question anyway.
Here’s the rub. What the fight promotion does have right is that Garcia-Thurman isn't far off a 50/50 fight. At 2/1 (+200), the odds say Garcia – here the underdog for the first time since he outpointed Lucas Matthysse in September 2013 as a +180 (9/5) shot - has just a 33% chance of success on Saturday night. He may well not win, that goes without saying – this is a tremendously well-matched fight - but the pragmatic viewpoint is that it’s a price that’s all wrong – and therefore relatively easy to support. The general price across the industry falls just below that +200, with +175 (7/4) most widely available for those unwilling, or simply unable, to shop around.
Many will point to Thurman being the bigger, more powerful man of the two, but the ‘One Time’ moniker has faltered in its accuracy of late. Indeed, it appears that the ferocious knockout merchant we were sold in the formative stages of his career isn’t quite who we thought he might be. That’s no bad thing, of course – Thurman has developed well, and both his left hook and right hand are potent threats – but it would be a real surprise if he notched his 23rd stoppage win (+250, 5/2) against an opponent as stubborn as Garcia, who’s a hefty +550 (11/2) to add to his own KO tally. This looks a clash that’s likely to require the judges, and -150 (4/6) that we see 12 completed rounds is far from the worst bet around this weekend. It’s +137 (11/8) that Thurman triumphs on the cards, with Garcia a generous-looking +400 (4/1) to earn the decision.\
On the undercard:
- Andrzej Fonfara (-300, 1/3) vs. Chad Dawson (10/3, +333)
- Erickson Lubin (-800, 1/8) vs. Jorge Cota (+600, 6/1)
David Haye vs. Tony Bellew
Meanwhile, at the O2 Arena in London, England, the circus comes to town. Haye-Bellew isn’t a big fight in a global sense – indeed, it joins a long line of all-British grudge matches that barely register a ripple elsewhere – but on UK shores, this is a genuine heavyweight jamboree, fuelled by a tempestuous, bad-natured build-up punctuated by some of the most vitriolic trash talk in recent years. It remains to be seen, of course, just how much of it is genuine, but it’s a tried-and-tested recipe for a sure-fire PPV hit all the same.
The problem with this particular heavyweight extravaganza – in the works ever since the hapless BJ Flores was used as a stooge for Bellew (28-2-1, 18 KOs) to routinely dispatch, prior to confronting Haye, conveniently working that night on the Sky Sports commentary team at ringside – is that it only involves one heavyweight. Bellew is a very fine cruiserweight indeed, and a gutsy, determined fighter, but there appears little reason to figure here that he’ll be anything but hopelessly outgunned against a man who, for all his flaws, is as explosive and dangerous a heavyweight as anyone in the division today.
Since ending his hiatus early in 2016, Haye (28-2, 26 KOs) has rivalled anyone in the sport for sheer risk-to-reward extortion, and this – while likely to be entertaining for as long as it lasts – has done little to silence the critics who brand the comeback as a cynical cash grab. Both men here, though, can sell a fight as good as any, and the end result is a betting market that’s really much tighter than it should be.
Haye is as big as -450 (2/9) on the outrights (as short as -700, 1/7 elsewhere), and while that won’t be the type of price to appeal to many, it still represents considerable value.
There’s more than one way to skin this particular cat, though, and it’s hard to dissuade those from being more creative with a look at the prop markets: it’s a standout -150 (4/6) that Haye wins anywhere in the first six rounds, and +200 (2/1) that he bombs out the Bomber inside the first three. If Haye’s talk is to be believed – caveat emptor – this could make Haye’s demolition of Dereck Chisora, his last notable opponent, look like a drawn-out, cagey affair. It’s -450 (2/9) that Bellew hits the canvas (+333, 10/3 for Haye to do the same) and +450 (9/2) that we hear the final bell.
On the undercard:
- Sam Eggington (-175, 4/7) vs. Paul Malignaggi (+190, 19/10)
- Ohara Davies (-500, 1/5) vs. Derry Mathews (+600, 6/1)