IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston looks for the betting value on a busy weekend of fight action featuring Vergil Ortiz vs Michael McKinson, Michael Conlan vs Miguel Marriaga, Dalton Smith vs Sam O’Maison and Tyrone McKenna vs Chris Jenkins.
We have a busy Saturday night with fights in Texas, Belfast and Sheffield. All these shows offer interesting match-ups but the biggest event from a world-level point of view is the welterweight bout between Vergil Ortiz Jr and Michael McKinson, which takes place on Ortiz’ home ground in Fort Worth.
Ortiz is obviously a huge favourite (1/20 at Betfred). He’s 18-0 with 18 KOs. The crowd will be urging Ortiz to make it 19 KOs in a row. But if you like the idea of Ortiz ending the bout inside the scheduled 12 rounds you’re looking at quite an expensive ticket price of 2/7 (general).
McKinson looks unlikely to win, of course, but can the Portsmouth underdog surprise the oddsmaker by taking the bout all the way to the final bell?
There are things to like about McKinson. Like Ortiz, he is undefeated (22-0). He’s a crafty, slippery southpaw, a pain in the neck to fight, and he’s full of confidence in his ability. And McKinson won comfortably in the States in his last fight when he easily outpointed slick fellow-lefty Alex Martin.
The downside with McKinson is that he doesn’t have a lot of power, with just two stoppage wins. He’s very good at making an opponent miss and popping him with quick counters, and he figures to have success in the early rounds against Ortiz while the bigger puncher perhaps struggles to get his distance and timing locked down.
However, Ortiz isn’t just a banger. He’s a smart fighter who knows how to cut the ring off and bring educated pressure. McKinson has never met anyone as talented or as powerful as Ortiz. It figures that, at some point in the proceedings, Ortiz is going to get to the British boxer with something telling.
Ortiz to win in rounds 7-12 is available at around 5/7 (-140) at some shops. I don’t mind that bet. If Ortiz gets McKinson out of there inside six rounds it will be a heck of a performance. And if you feel that McKinson has the grit and the guile to go all 12 rounds, “distance — yes” is offered at 5/2 (+250).
McKinson for the upset? I don’t see it, but if you feel it could happen you’ll like the 8/1 (+800) odds at Betfred.
Across the pond in Northern Ireland, Michael Conlan is back in action in his native Belfast when he meets durable veteran Miguel Marriaga in a featherweight 10-rounder. Conlan is unbettable at 1/12 (-1,200). He should be able to outspeed and outbox Marriaga but it has to be a concern that Conlan got knocked out in his last fight when Leigh Wood staged a strong finish. True, Conlan was boxing beautifully for much of the fight against Wood, buthe tired late and just “went” in the final round.
Still, Marriaga, while a tough customer, is 35 years old and looking a tad battle-worn. We saw him take a lot of punishment in two of his last three bouts, against Joet Gonzalez and Eduardo Ramirez respectively. In each of those bouts, there was a moment or two when it looked as if Marriaga might get stopped. The referee told himto “show me something” in the bout with Gonzalez, while a concerned ringside doctor checked up on Marriaga between rounds in the fight with Ramirez.
Conlan to win on points is the likely result but it looks a little too obvious at 4/11 (-275). Actually, I don’t think a stoppage win for Conlan is out of the question, bearing in mind that he dropped Wood heavily in the opening round. If he can catch Marriaga like that, before the veteran can get into the fight, who knows? So, “distance — No” at 12/5 (+240) might be something to consider.
Meanwhile, the heavy-handed and accomplished Dalton Smith is unsurprisingly a massive favourite to beat Sam O’Maison in their bout for the vacant British 140lbs title in Sheffield. It’s what we in Britain call a “local derby”, an all-Sheffield match-up although the exciting and dangerous Smith is the hometown attraction.
Smith looked in tremendous condition at the weigh-in. But then, so did O’Maison. There’s no question that Smith deserves to be the favourite, but 1/33 (-3,300) is a high admission price. And Smith to win inside the distance isn’t appealing at odds of 1/6.
However, there might be some value in the total-rounds proposition. The contest to go over 5.5 rounds is offered at even money at several outlets. I don’t think that’s a terrible look. O’Maison is a smart southpaw whose only stoppage defeat was five years ago in Spain. He will be well aware of Smith’s firepower and just might have the movement and savvy to take the bout into the middle rounds or even beyond.
A bet that caught my eye was “distance — no” in the 10-round welterweight bout between Tyrone McKenna and Chris Jenkins on the Conlan vs Marriaga show in Belfast. A move up in weight from 140lbs was probably overdue for the 6ft 1in McKenna, who assures the Irish media that he is feeling much stronger at 147.
McKenna is on home ground, he’s got the height and reach advantages, and he’s gutsy and eager to please — indeed, McKenna gives the impression that he is hoping for a crowd-pleasing war tonight. Jenkins has sound boxing ability and he’s as game as they come but his punch-resistance seems to be eroding. Both men have been susceptible to getting cut (those hard-bitten 1950s American writers would have cruelly referred to both McKenna and Jenkins as “bleeders”).
It could be that McKenna will look to box on the outside but it seems to me more likely that he will be looking to pressure Jenkins. Neither man is considered a very hard hitter, so on paper the bout should go the full 10 rounds, but my sense is that this one won’t reach the final bell. I like the “fight won’t go the distance” idea at odds of7/5 (+140).
Main image: Unbeaten 147-pounders Vergil Ortiz and Michael McKinson clash on Saturday night. Photo: Golden Boy Promotions.