IBHOF inductee and boxing betting expert Graham Houston looks ahead to the weekend’s action from a gambling perspective, focusing on title fights involving Jamel Herring, Alex Dilmaghani and Yordenis Ugas.

It’s slim pickings for bettors seeking value this weekend. I thought Samir Ziani was value at 2/1 (+200) against Alex Dilmaghani but the opening odds are no longer available. Ziani is the defending champion in tonight’s European 130lbs title fight. He won the title in Spain and he has also won in Donetsk and boxed in Denmark (where he fought Richard Commey close). So boxing in a studio setting in the UK shouldn’t bother the French fighter. 

Dilmaghani has the height and reach advantages and he’s the house fighter on the Mick Hennessy show (UK TV coverage on Channel 5). This all-southpaw fight should be fast-paced and fun to watch. Both men throw a lot of punches. It looks nailed on to go the full 12 rounds, as reflected  by the odds (1/7 or -700 for the fight to go the distance).

French boxers have pulled off upsets in the UK in the recent past (Anthony Mezaache outscoring Jon Thaxton, Malik Bouziane defeating Ian Napa). The Dilmaghani faction will be hoping that Ziani doesn’t turn out to be another Guy Gracia, the 1950s “destroyer of British lightweights”. I’m giving Ziani a good chance here but it’s a toss-up, a real “survival of the fittest” type of contest.

In the US, in the early hours of Sunday morning UK time, Jamel Herring defends his junior lightweight title against Jonathan Oquendo. There might be some value in Oquendo at odds of 7/1 (+700). Although Oquendo is 37, he looked as good as he has ever done when he won a unanimous decision over once-promising Charles Huerta in his last fight. Herring contracted Covid-19 two times in July, twice causing the postponement of this bout from its original dates. Could there be any lingering effects? There is still much that is unknown about this virus.

Herring has the height and reach advantages, he’s a southpaw, and he’s the house fighter on the Top Rank show (which takes place inside the “bubble” at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas). Form points to a win for Herring because he defeated Lamont Roach, who holds a win over Oquendo. But Roach wobbled Herring in the 11th round of that fight: He landed a right hand and Herring’s legs “went”. Herring had the smarts to hold on, then box and move for the remainder of the bout, but it was a scary moment for Herring backers. And Herring is getting up there a bit in age (35 next month).

If Herring gets past Oquendo he is due to defend the title against Carl Frampton. But the Oquendo fight could be what British bettors call a “banana skin” — there could be a slip-up. Oquendo is a tough veteran who has boxed at a high level and he hasn’t lost a fight by stoppage in almost eight years. Yes, logically Herring wins this fight, but the odds of 16/1 (-1600) look inflated. The Herring by decision proposition comes with a negative number of -200 (lay two to win one).

On Sunday evening, Cuba’s Yordenis Ugas gets his second chance to become welterweight champion when he meets Arizona’s Abel Ramos in Los Angeles. Ugas is a lopsided favourite at 16/1 (-1600). He really does look a level above Ramos, though. Ugas might have been unlucky to lose a split decision against Shawn Porter in his previous title shot. What looked like a knockdown scored by Ugas was ruled a slip. It was a judgement call, but it was costly for Ugas on the scorecards.

Ramos is tough and gritty. He has boxing skills and he hits hard enough to get respect. In his last fight, though, Ramos was losing practically every round before pulling out a “miracle” last-round stoppage against the long and lanky southpaw Bryant Perrella. And Ugas stopped Perrella in four rounds.

The main interest for bettors in the Ugas vs Ramos fight is in the “method of victory” market. Ugas by KO TKO DQ is priced at 11/8 (+138) while the decision proposition is offered at 4/6 (-150). Fight to go the distance “yes” is priced at 4/7 (-175). 

On paper, the fight is likely to go the full 12 rounds. It is very difficult to stop a boxer who has determination, some skills, self belief, a punch that can get the attention of an opponent and who will be well prepared and has zero quit in him. And Ramos ticks all those boxes. And Ugas isn’t known to be a seriously hard puncher (12 KOs in his 25-4 record). 

I did a quick check on 12-round bouts that have taken place since boxing started up again after the Covid-19 shutdown. In 12-rounders where betting lines were offered, 16 went the distance and nine ended inside 12 rounds. (This includes fights that were virtually a lock to go the distance such as Sunny Edwards vs Thomas Essomba and Akeem Ennis-Brown vs Philip Bowes, plus a scheduled 12-rounder that was never going to go the distance — Daniel Dubois vs Ricardo Snijders — and a couple that were very unlikely to see the final bell: Felix Cash vs Jason Welborn and Vergil Ortiz vs Samuel Vargas. 

Ugas vs Ramos has the look of a distance fight. A bet on Ugas by decision at -150 could be the way to go although I wouldn’t necessarily call it a “safe” bet. But how many bets are “safe” these days?

Some weeks it’s probably best just to sit back and enjoy the fights, make notes for future reference and wait for better spots. This looks like one of those weeks.

Latest boxing odds available here at BetFred.

Main image: Herring and Oquendo face-off ahead of their WBO 130lbs title fight at ‘The Bubble’ on Saturday. Photo: Mikey Williams, Top Rank.