Boxing betting expert and IBHOF inductee Graham Houston looks for the value in tonight’s potentially explosive light-heavyweight unification clash between WBC and IBF champion Artur Beterbiev and WBO king Joe Smith.
Russia’s Montreal-based Beterbiev is obviously the big favourite (1/8 at Betfred). He has the world-class amateur background and simply looks the more complete fighter. However, I do give Smith a chance. He’s a rugged guy, he can punch and he has a good workrate. It’s a home fight for Long Island’s Smith; the New York crowd will be right behind him.
If you feel that Smith can pull off the shock result, Betfred offers him at an attractive price of 5/1 (+500).
One thing that concerns me about Beterbiev is his age. He’s 37, and although Beterbiev has a perfect 17-0 (17 KOs) slate as a pro there have been signs that he could be slowing down. Callum Johnson knocked Beterbiev down, while huge underdog Adam Deines hung in there for 10 rounds.
Also, the southpaw Marcus Browne started well against Beterbiev, winning the first three rounds on two judges’ cards, although he wilted under Beterbiev’s onslaught after a head clash left both men bloodied.
Oleksandr Gvozdyk was doing well for four rounds before Beterbiev’s greater strength and clubbing power took over. And although it doesn’t show on his record, Beterbiev suffered a first-round knockdown against a limited boxer from Kansas named Jeff Page back in 2014.
So we know that Beterbiev can be caught and hurt, he can be extended into the later rounds and he can be outscored in the early rounds. He is a formidable fighting machine, no question, but it’s not as if he’s unbeatable.
Smith is the younger man by five years. He’s a big, strong 175-pounder. And Smith showed a relentless quality in his wins over Jesse Hart and Eleider Alvarez, fights in which he kept the punches flowing and wouldn’t be denied.
While Smith struggled against the veteran Maxim Vlasov, this could have been a “styles make fights” thing. Vlasov is awkward and crafty and Smith couldn’t seem to get on track. In his last fight, Smith was back to his old self when wearing down unheralded but capable Steve Geffrard.
However, while I expect a solid effort from Smith I feel that Beterbiev will most likely get the better of the exchanges with his more compact punches and superior technique. But if Smith can stay in there, let his hands go, and simply refuse to go away, we could be looking at a battle of attrition that the underdog could win.
It’s a fight where, at the end of the day, I expect the favourite to prevail but in which I can also see the possibility of an upset.
A bet that I quite like is the over 8.5 rounds at about -115 (20/23) that is offered at some shops. For a round less to worry about at a slightly worse price, the over 7.5 rounds is available at some outlets at around -160 (5/8).
This fight could be like two Mack trucks meeting in an alley with room for only one to pass. It’s likely to be a grinding, gruelling battle of attrition. If there is going to be a stoppage in this fight, I would expect it to come somewhere around the eighth or ninth round.
Either man to win in rounds 7-12 isn’t a bad look at -125 (4/5). And if each fighter gets used to the other man’s power, and the bout settles into a drawn-out slog, then “Distance — Yes” at 3/1 (+300) becomes a possibility.
Beterbiev to win inside the distance is simply too high-priced for me at 1/3 (-300) although this is the most likely result.
On the same show at the Garden, there’s an interesting 10-round featherweight bout that pits two-time Olympic gold medallist Robeisy Ramirez against the undefeated Abraham Nova. It’s a step-up fight for Ramirez but he is the clear favourite (1/5 at Betfred).
Ramirez was disappointing in his pro debut but since then he’s looked like the fighter we thought him to be. In his last bout, the Cuban southpaw gave his most dynamic performance to date when he stopped Ireland’s Eric Donovan in three rounds.
Nova is a capable fighter and he has the height and reach advantages. But Nova was wobbled in each of his last two fights. If Ramirez lets his hands go the way he did against Donovan, he just might be able to force a stoppage. I think the “Distance — No” proposition, offered at around 2/1 (+200) at several outlets, is worth considering.
Main image: Beterbiev (left) and Smith (right) battle tonight. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank.