Last week, it was slim pickings on the betting front, thankfully, bettors have a lot more to choose from today.
Let’s see if we can find some winners.
In the next 24 hours, there are over 20 fights taking place which have betting lines available, but all eyes are on the big one; the rematch between Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua. In their first meeting, the Ukrainian made a mockery of the pre-fight speculation that he was too small to compete at heavyweight.
The narrative ahead of their clash in Jeddah is different, but may prove to similarly ridiculous. Eleven months ago, Joshua’s performance received a lot of criticism for being too passive. However, I actually feel that from a technical standpoint, it was the most complete display of the Londoner’s career. He lost a chess match to a Grandmaster, there is no shame in that. Yet, the general consensus in the aftermath was that AJ needs to be more aggressive and to utilise his size and power. It is a line of thinking that Joshua appears to have bought into; replacing Rob McCracken with Robert Garcia as head trainer. Garcia has built his reputation on training smart, come-forward fighters. That is a clear indication of what the London 2012 Olympic gold medallist envisages Joshua 3.0 to be.
As such, I can see why some people are drawn to backing Joshua to win by knockout, however, it is not a bet I am going near. Joshua claims he never considered attempting to hurt Usyk at Wembley and that he will go in search of the stoppage this time. That is easier said, than done; just ask the former undisputed cruiserweight champion’s 18 previous opponents. Who knows, maybe they did not attempt tot hurt him either, he is a nice man, after all.
As the right fighter won, the scorecards in their initial clash received little scrutiny, but if you dig a little deeper, Joshua received the benefit in the doubt in any round where that was possible. This time, Joshua will not have a partisan crowd behind him, perhaps, the score cards will be fairer. Yet, I am sceptical. A sport with a long history of moral ambiguity being staged in a country headed up by an oppressive regime which is looking to use boxing to cleanse its tarnished reputation, what could go wrong?
When a fight goes the scheduled distance, you can never be certain of the outcome. Each week, there is at least one bizarre score card handed in around the world. This fight feels a prime candidate for such an outcome. Remember, the judges gave Dereck Chisora too much credit for his ineffective pressure when the faced Usyk. Chisora had never won a major fight on points (at the time), yet came very close to being handed a win over Usyk. ‘Del Boy’ has had a complex relationship with the British public over the years, having spent a long time playing the villain. Joshua’s popularity and marketability far exceed that of Chisora. If AJ has marginally more success and is still on his feet at the end (that is a big if) then I would not be surprised to see him become the beneficiary of a controversial verdict. As a result, I feel it is worth backing Joshua by split decision at 25/1.
Above, I have stated the case for Joshua and I maintain, at those odds, the split decision represents value. However, the most likely outcome, in my opinion, is that Usyk halts Joshua. If AJ is more aggressive, he will exert more energy and leave himself open to counters. Usyk has a fantastic engine and will likely be able to fight for 12 rounds at a high pace, the same cannot be said for Joshua. The former champion was almost out on his feet in the 12th round of their first bout. The pick here is Usyk to win in rounds 7-12 at 3/1.
On the undercard, Callum Smith faces Mathieu Bauderlique in a WBC light-heavyweight title eliminator, with the winner earning the right to face Artur Beterbiev; which does not sound like much of a prize! Smith looked impressive in his only fight to date at 175lbs, halting Gilbert Castillo Rivera in the second round, last year. The intervening months will have given the Liverpudlian an opportunity to become accustomed to the techniques of new trainer Buddy McGrit. The Frenchman is a solid test for the former WBA super-middleweight champion. Bauderlique is a well-schooled southpaw who won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics. I believe Smith will break down his opponent in the second half of the fight. Smith to win in rounds 7-12 is priced at 7/5
This week’s double is priced at over 8/1.
The chief support sees two unbeaten, heavy-handed, former elite amateurs face off in an IBF heavyweight title eliminator as Filip Hrgovic takes on Zhilei Zhang. A 6’6” southpaw that can punch sounds like a nightmare proposition for any heavyweight, but Zhang has his flaws; he is somewhat slow and easy to hit. Hrgovic is a smart pressure fighter who will likely expose those shortcomings. All bar one of Hrgovic’s stoppage victories have come in the first four rounds and I believe it will be the same again tonight. The Croatian to win in rounds 1-4 is the pick at 13/8.
If you like all three selections, this week’s treble is available at over 24/1.