IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston weighs up Saturday night’s 135lbs showdown between WBC title holder Devin Haney and three-weight champion Jorge Linares in Las Vegas.

With Devin Haney a firm favourite to defeat Jorge Linares in Saturday’s lightweight title bout in Las Vegas (Sunday morning in Britain and Ireland), a bettor is obliged to look at the proposition markets for some value. Unless, of course, one feels that the 35-year-old Linares can spring an upset. The Tokyo-based veteran from Venezuela is available at 15/2 (+750) at Betfred.

Really, though, this is a fight that Haney, still only 22, should win. He looks too young and too fast for Linares. But this might not be quite the mismatch that the odds suggest. Linares has won his last two fights. I thought he looked strong and sharp in his last fight when he wrecked Carlos Morales in four rounds. This is almost certainly going to be Linares’ last chance at reclaiming a world title. I believe he will give it all he’s got.

While Haney is skilful, he often seems content to box his way to a decision in a fight where one might expect him to go for the stoppage. His last two fights surprisingly went the full 12 rounds. These were bouts that Haney was expected to win inside the distance, against the comparatively inexperienced Alfredo Santiago and the ageing Yuriorkis Gamboa. I believe that Bill Haney, Devin’s father and trainer, is very much of the “hit and don’t get hit” mindset. He doesn’t want his son to get hit unnecessarily. There’s nothing wrong with that. 

So, if Haney goes into the bout looking to win rounds at minimum risk we could be looking at a long fight. If you think that Haney will settle for a 12-round decision for the third fight in succession, Betfred offers 13/8 (+162) for the “Distance — Yes” proposition and 19/10 (+190) for the unbeaten champion to win by decision.

However, Linares has been stopped in all five of his losses. He tends to get cut easily and he can be vulnerable early, before he can really get into a fight. So, what about Haney by KO, TKO, DQ as an option? This proposition is available at 4/7 (-175) while “Distance — No” is offered at 1/2 (-200).

Haney scored a lot of quick wins early in his career but these were mostly against severely overmatched opponents. As he has started meeting a higher calibre of opponent, Haney has tended to box more conservatively. 

Based on his last two fights, one would expect Haney to use a hit and move style and not take any chances. But it’s possible that Bill Haney wanted his son to get the experience of boxing 12-rounders against opponents who posed no threat. Against Linares, who on paper is by far Haney’s toughest test, we could see Haney letting his hands go, if only to keep the older man from building up momentum. So it’s tricky to get a read on the method of victory. 

The oddsmaker expects a stoppage. But then the odds on last weekend’s Evgeny Romanov vs Dmitry Kudryashov fight ending inside the distance were something like 1/10 (-1000) and that all-Russia meeting ended up going the full 12 rounds.

On balance, I edge towards Haney vs Linares “going rounds”, as they say in the business.

If Linares doesn’t get caught early by a right hand he doesn’t see coming I think he can gradually settle down and put pressure on the younger man.

Haney does have some power. He blasted out Mexico’s Antonio Moran with a huge overhand right and he stopped Zaur Abdullaev in four rounds when the Russian fighter suffered a bloody nose and possible damage to the cheekbone.

But Linares, on paper at least, is more skilled and more dangerous than anyone Haney has faced. I really don’t see Haney going against character and looking to get Linares out of there, certainly not in the early part of the contest. If Haney blows out Linares quickly I would consider it a sensational performance.

The bet I like this weekend is the “over 9.5 rounds” in the IBF 140-pound eliminator between Batyr Jukembayev and Subriel Matias, which takes place outdoors at Carson, California on the same show as Nordine Oubaali vs Nonito Donaire. Both Jukembayev and Matias looked in excellent condition at the weigh-in, especially Jukembayev, who looked carved out of granite. Matias has 16 KOs in 17 fights. He is attack-orientated and he’s obviously a very good puncher. But the unbeaten southpaw Jukembayev, a product of Kazakhstan’s amateur system, looks the type who will be very difficult to stop.

Although based in Montreal, Jukembayev has been training with Manny Robles — Andy Ruiz’ former trainer — in Los Angeles for the Matias fight. Jukembayev is usually a pressure fighter but it wouldn’t surprise me if Robles flips the script and comes up with a hit-and-get-away strategy to try to befuddle the straight-ahead Matias.

The betting on this fight is practically even money and when two well-matched fighters meet we are usually looking at a long contest. If you feel like taking a chance on the scheduled 12-rounder lasting halfway into the 10th, several shops offer a price of 5/6 (-120), which I think is reasonable.

Main image: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing USA.