IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston unearths the betting value on a busy fight weekend featuring Joshua Buatsi’s crunch light-heavyweight clash with Craig Richards, as well as the WBC Interim 168lbs title match between David Benavidez and David Lemieux, and WBO Interim middleweight bout pitting Janibek Alimkhanuly against Essex’s Danny Dignum.
For many, the most interesting fight of the weekend will be the all-British light-heavy showdown between Joshua Buatsi and Craig Richards at the O2 Arena in London. Buatsi is favourite (2/11 at Betfred) but “Spider” Richards is capable of making this a long, tough night for the unbeaten Olympic bronze medallist.
Buatsi has to be considered the puncher in the fight. He showed he can take his power late into a contest when he stopped the always tough Ricards Bolotniks in the 11th round last August. Buatsi fought through some tough spots in that bout. He seemed to be tiring around about the eighth round but he sucked it up and came on strongly again.
Richards, though, is solid and capable. His stock went up when he gave Dmitry Bivol all he could handle in a gritty world title challenge last May. And Richards can punch a bit himself. He knocked down the sturdy Andre Sterling on his way to a unanimous decision and he showed firepower when he knocked out the long and lanky Shakan Pitters.
This is a well-matched contest despite the wide odds favouring Buatsi. There’s no doubting Richards’ confidence. He really believes in himself. Richards has sound boxing skills. He has a good jab. Buatsi, though, is a big, strong 175-pounder who can hurt an opponent at any time, he jabs with authority and he’s a good body puncher.
Buatsi, for me, just has that bit extra in all departments. The over 8.5 rounds is offered by some outlets with a price tag of 2/3 (-150) and that could be a good look. Richards is unlikely to get overpowered early and I think he has enough “on” his punches to get respect. Betfred has a Boxing Social price boost of Buatsi to win in rounds 9-12 at 5/1 and that looks really tempting.
There are two big shows in the US on Saturday. In one of them, undefeated 168-pounder David Benavidez meets David Lemieux in a 12-rounder at Glendale, Arizona. Benavidez is, of course, a massive favourite. He’s younger, bigger, stronger and simply the better fighter. And he’s boxing on home ground. Lemieux can punch but he’s 33 now and clearly past his best. The tough but unexceptional Maksym Bursak dropped Lemieux twice in their bout in December 2019. Although Lemieux was up quickly each time and came back strongly, it was a bit worrying to see him on the floor against an opponent not known for serious punching power.
Lemieux has boxed just twice in the two-and-a-half years since the hard-earned win over Bursak. He won by KO against Francy Ntetu and David Zegarra in easily predictable outcomes. Ntetu had been stopped in two of his last three bouts, while Zegarra had been KO’d in three of his last four appearances. Now Lemieux is going in with a tall, heavy-handed, technically sound fighter who brings relentless pressure.
One could say that Lemieux has a puncher’s chance, but it won’t be easy for the Quebec slugger to land a big left hook if he’s being pushed back and getting overwhelmed by Benavidez’ high punch-output.
Unfortunately, Benavidez’s odds have moved into the stratosphere (1/33 at Betfred). So a money line bet on Benavidez does’t make sense.
I thought the “over 4.5 rounds” (5/7 at some shops) could have promise because Benavidez has lately been taking time to break down his opponents. However, I wasn’t impressed by Lemieux’s physical appearance at the weigh-in. He looked soft in the middle. Benavidez towered over him at the weigh-in face-off. Some outlets offer Benavidez to win in rounds 1-6. I think this play has a good chance of hitting, but it comes at a negative number (5/9).
The other big Saturday fight is a clash of unbeaten middleweights, with Janibek Alimkhanuly of Kazakhstan (but based in Oxnard, California) meeting Britain’s Danny Dignum in an all-southpaw WBO Interim title bout in Las Vegas.
Janibek is a surprisingly wide favourite but he looks the winner here. The site favours Janibek — he’s the house fighter on a Top Rank show. Janibek was World Amateur champion and boxed in the Olympics. As a pro he’s 11-0 (7 KOs) and he’s stopped his last five opponents.
Dignum was an ABA champion and he’s a capable boxer-puncher but Janibek has the more polished look, although I’m not sure he should be priced as high as -1,200. Dignum has shown a tendency to bust up in his last couple of fights and he barely eked out a draw with Andrey Sirotkin, who I don’t think is as good as Janibek.
I believe Dignum will be competitive but I have to go with Janibek, perhaps on a wearing-down stoppage in the last four rounds. The over 7.5 rounds at around 27/20 (+135) at some sportsbooks might be worth considering, bearing in mind that a shot Hassan N’Dam lasted into the eighth round with Janibek.
Main image: London rivals Buatsi (left) and Richards (right) lock horns tonight, live on DAZN. Photo: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.