IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston unearths the betting value in tonight’s fascinating WBO middleweight title clash between champion Demetrius Andrade and Welshman Liam Williams, as well as Jake Paul’s bout with former UFC fighter Ben Askren.
In the most intriguing fight of the weekend, Demetrius Andrade is the favourite but Liam Williams is a very live underdog in Saturday’s middleweight title bout at Hollywood, Florida.
Welsh challenger Williams seems to have new-found power as he’s blasted through opponents since moving up to 160 pounds. He looks unbelievably strong compared to the fighter who twice lost to Liam Smith at 154 pounds.
Andrade is unbeaten and he has the awkward, southpaw style that makes him difficult to beat — and, frankly, unexciting to watch. The question is whether Williams will be able to close the distance, get to Andrade with heavy shots, hurt him and keep hurting him.
Williams looked devastating when knocking out the long and lanky Alantez Fox in five rounds. The same Alantez Fox easily went 12 rounds with Andrade, two years before losing to Williams. But comparisons such as this can be misleading. Years ago in Britain, Bunny Sterling struggled to an unimpressive win over New Yorker Tom Bethea but Lancashire big hitter Phil Matthews blew away the US boxer in three rounds. On this form, one had to favour Matthews to beat Sterling. But Sterling easily defeated Matthews in five rounds when they met for the British middleweight title. Different styles, different fights.
There is no doubt, however, that Williams is the puncher in tonight’s big fight, and while Andrade is a tricky type of boxer it’s not as if he is a defensive genius. Andrade can be caught cleanly and he can be dropped. Vanes Martirosyan knocked him down in the first round, although Andrade fought back to win a split decision. Jack Culcay was able to catch Andrade with right hands in their fight in Germany, and one of the judges had Culcay winning. (Andrade suffered a flash knockdown in the win over Fox but it was more a matter of tripping over his opponent’s foot than a punch connecting.)
However, Andrade has shown moments of real talent, making opponents miss and catching them with counters. He will sometimes switch to the orthodox stance and he fights well in this posture. Andrade isn’t considered much of a puncher, but when he really lets his hands go he can put some hurt on the other man. (For instance, Andrade very nearly knocked out Luke Keeler in the first two rounds of their bout in January 2020 although he seemed to take his foot off the gas before ending the fight in the ninth.)
Williams will be the most dangerous opponent Andrade has faced. But Williams has never met anyone as slick and crafty as Andrade. It’s a fight that could go either way.
As a straight pick I’d go with Andrade but the price of around 1/3 (-300) isn’t appealing. I see the fight as much closer than the price offered. If you like Williams’ chances, you can get him for a nice price of 12/5 (+240) at Betfred.
In theory, if Andrade wins it will be by outboxing and outsmarting Williams over the full distance. And Andrade to win by decision if offered at around even money, which the bookies see as the most likely outcome.
However, I see a possibility of Andrade winning by stoppage if he can catch Williams with a sneaky-powerful punch from an unexpected angle — such as the right uppercut from Andrade’s southpaw stance.
And Williams by decision isn’t the craziest bet in the world at 10/1 (+1000). I could visualise Williams crowding Andrade, hurting him to the body and perhaps knocking him down, with the champion nevertheless summoning the grit and fighting pride to see out the 12 rounds. And if you like the idea of the bout going all 12 rounds, “fight to go the distance” is offered at 8/11 (+138) at Betfred.
The “Distance — No” proposition has seen some action. This proposition is offered at 11/10 (+110) at Betfred. And out of all the propositions, this one is my preferred bet. Why? Well, we know Williams will be taking the fight to Andrade and looking to bully him and grind him down. And, frankly, I don’t think Andrade is going to be able to box, move, shuck and jive and mess Williams around for 12 rounds. I think we will see Andrade obliged to dig in and let his hands go simply to stop Williams from running right over him. So, I just get the sense that this fight won’t make it to the final bell.
The other big event on Saturday is a novelty attraction, with “digital sensation” Jake Paul meeting former UFC star Ben Askren in an eight-round cruiserweight PPV event in Atlanta, Georgia.
Askren’s wrestling prowess is beyond dispute but in UFC matches he was never considered much of a puncher (or “striker” as they say in MMA circles).
Paul has only had two boxing bouts, both KO wins in what traditional fight fans would consider circus-type affairs against celebrity novices. But I’m given to believe that Paul takes boxing seriously. By all accounts, he trains diligently. He’s 24 years old. Askren, meanwhile, is 36 and he had a hip replacement procedure last year. Paul looked in excellent shape at the weigh-in; Askren looked soft in the body.
Odds have see-sawed. Paul started as a fairly heavy favourite at around 2/5 (-250). Then money came in on Askren and the odds tightened, with Paul as low as 8/10 (-125). In the last 24 hours, though, money has shown for Paul. As of early Saturday morning UK time Paul was sitting at 8/13 (-160) at Betfred.
I am going with Paul. He’s younger, more athletic and better-trained from a boxing perspective. (I believe he’s been sparring with professional boxers for around two years.) Askren will no doubt try to get in close, maul Paul around and make it an ugly fight, but out in the middle of the ring I think Paul can tee off on the older, slower man. Indeed, I wouldn’t be shocked if Paul got a KO win.
Main image: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom USA.