IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston examines recent fights where seemingly safe proposition bets went awry to the anguish of seasoned bettors.

With odds on, obvious favourites inflated as never before, a bettor seeking some wagering action is tempted to look at the proposition markets. That is to say, a “total rounds” proposition (or “under/over” as they say in the States), or a proposition of whether a fight will or will not go the distance. Or whether one of the contestants will win by decision or by KO, TKO or DQ. 

The advantage of playing a proposition bet is that often the odds are close to or better than evens. The downside is that a proposition bet can be darned tricky to get right. And in this strange and disconcerting year, the strangeness seems to have extended to boxing.

Of course, there are always going to be results that few expected. Then there are the sort results where almost everyone admits: “I never saw that coming!”

We had two of those results this past weekend.

In Germany, underdog Robin Krasniqi knocked out Dominic Boesel in the third round of an all-Germany light-heavyweight title fight. And in Caen, France, local tough-guy middleweight Maxime Beaussire went out like a light in the second round of his European middleweight title challenge against Italy’s Matteo Signani. 

It wasn’t such a shock that Krasniqi and Signani won their fights. But the manner of their victories was simply shocking.

Krasniqi had only just moved back to the light-heavy division after campaigning at 168 pounds. He has never been known as a seriously hard puncher. 

Some might remember Nathan Cleverly winning a widely scored decision over Krasniqi at Wembley Arena in 2013. Two of the judges gave Cleverly every round.

In a second try at a world light-heavy title, two years later, Krasniqi found Juergen Braehmer altogether too much for him. Krasniqi was pulled out by his corner after nine rounds. Krasniqi was very game and he was in the fight for the first seven rounds — two of the judges had Braehmer ahead by just one point heading into the eighth round. But then Braehmer pulled right away from him, landing heavy left hands from out of his southpaw stance. 

Krasniqi was given an eight count in the ninth round when a right hook sent him into the ropes. He had an ugly, vertical cut on his upper lip. It was absolutely the correct decision to withdraw him from the contest.

In 2017, now boxing in the super middleweight division, Krasniqi gave another gutsy performance but lost a unanimous decision to the more powerful former world champion Arthur Abraham. Krasniqi went on to win and lose the European title at 168lbs.

For the fight with Boesel, which was for the WBA interim and IBO titles, the Kosovo-born Krasniqi talked positively about becoming a world champ at the third attempt, how his “indomitable will” would see him through.

Boesel was deservedly the favourite at 5/2 on. Like just about everyone, the oddsmaker saw this as a distance fight. Krasniqi had stopped only 18 opponents in 56 fights. He was 33 and it looked as if we had seen the best of him by now. The betting line was 9/2 on that the fight would go the full 12 rounds. 

If you fancied a flier on the fight ending inside the distance you could have got odds of 3/1 (+300 in American odds). Krasniqi by KO? If you had taken a stab at that, you would have done very well indeed. The Krasniqi KO proposition was priced at 10/1 (or +1000 in US odds). 

So, Krasniqi to win by KO was considered the least likely result. But it happened. Boesel had seemed overly confident heading into the fight. He dismissed Krasniqi’s punching power as not being all that. And for two rounds things were working out fine for Boesel. He used the jab effectively and backed up Krasniqi a couple of times. Boesel won the first two rounds on all three judges’ cards. 

Krasniqi was clever, though. He seemed to be trying to time Boesel for a sneaky right uppercut, only to catch him by surprise him with an overhand right in the third. The referee waved “no knockdown” — likely because of a Krasniqi shoulder nudge. But Boesel was “gone” and a huge right hand absolutely flattened him. It was truly a sensational result. When had Krasniqi ever won a fight in such a manner?

No-one saw the Krasniqi KO coming – least of all Boesel.

Signani, meanwhile, is a 41-year-old who has been boxing professionally for 13 years. I don’t think it’s being too cruel to say that he was considered capable but unexceptional. Signani was 4-2 in his first six bouts. He won the Italian middleweight title, lost it and then regained it. In December 2016, he lost a very close, split decision to compatriot Emanuele Blandamura in a European title fight. 

But Signani persevered and last October, at the age of 41, he captured the then-vacant European title with a split decision win over the Netherlands-based Armenian, Gevorg Khatchikian.

Signani was making his first title defence when he faced Beaussire and he did so in his opponent’s hometown of Caen in northern France. Beaussire is nothing out of the ordinary as a boxer but he is strong and willing and prior to this bout had always shown an excellent chin (never stopped in 32 bouts).

The fight was set up for Beaussire to win. He had home advantage, and he was 12 years the younger man. His promoter even arranged for a free internet stream of the bout. The oddsmaker left the fight alone. No betting line was offered. Beaussire’s technical shortcomings were well known but he was on home ground, meeting a 41-year-old champion. If ever Beaussire was going to win a European title, this was surely the time. But things have a habit of not going according to plan.

Beaussire didn’t look “right” in the opening round. Signani was catching him too easily with the right hand. The French fighter even looked a bit unsteady. But there were 11 rounds to go and Beaussire had youth on his side. His supporters still had reason for hope. And then it was all over, just like that, in the second round. Signani landed surely the best left hook he has ever thrown and Beaussire went down hard. Although Beaussire got up, he was out on his feet and referee Daniel Van de Wiele waved the finish.

Signani stuns the usually resilient Beaussire.

Who could have expected a result like that? I don’t believe Beaussire had ever been knocked down before. Signani had stopped only 10 opponents in 37 bouts. He was not considered a very hard hitter. Maybe the oddsmaker just had a kind of sixth sense that something totally unexpected was going to happen in this contest.

The Krasniqi and Signani KO wins showed us — as if we needed reminding — that nothing should be taken for granted in this business. This is especially so if a sporting type has money riding on the outcome.

Proposition wagers can be fun but they can be fraught with frustration. 

Take the non-title bout between featherweight champion Shakur Stevenson and Puerto Rican Felix Caballero in June. The over/under had been set for 5.5 rounds. Officially, Stevenson got the stoppage at 1:31 of the sixth round, meaning the “over 5.5 rounds” came home by one second. But, unless I am very much mistaken, the on-screen timer showed the referee actually waving the finish at 1:28 of the round, meaning anyone betting the “under” would have won by two seconds — except that the sportsbooks go by the official result in these matters.

The exact timing of Stevenson’s KO win was hotly debated.

And it’s even possible to lose when you win with a proposition wager. This happened in September when Jamel Herring was declared winner by disqualification after eight rounds against Jonathan Oquendo in their junior lightweight title fight. As you may recall, referee Tony Weeks ruled that Oquendo had deliberately butted Oquendo, causing a cut over the champion’s eye. The fight was stopped when Herring complained he couldn’t see. 

Referee Weeks told the Nevada commissioner that the result should be a DQ. However, according to the Association of Boxing Commission rules, the fight should have gone to the scorecards. And Herring was way ahead on points.

So, officially Herring won by DQ, which was great for the “KO TKO DQ” players — but tough luck for bettors who had Herring to win by decision or technical decision.

Main image: Stevenson KOs Caraballo with a body shot in June. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank.