IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston weighs up Saturday night’s super-featherweight clash between WBO champion Jamel Herring and the unbeaten Shakur Stevenson at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta.

In a quiet week for boxing, the standout contest sees unbeaten Shakur Stevenson challenging Jamel Herring for Herring’s 130lbs title in an all-southpaw fight in Atlanta on Saturday. Money has been pouring in on Stevenson and at current 1/8 (-800) odds at Betfred he’s unplayable unless you are looking at some sort of accumulator involving future bouts. So, unless a bettor likes the idea of Herring springing a surprise, we have to scan through the proposition-wager market in search of value.

I feel confident that Stevenson will win. On paper, if Stevenson wins it will be via decision. Stevenson is fast and talented but he tends to play it safe. Four of his last six fights have gone the distance — two 10-rounders and two 12-rounders. He was frustratingly tentative in his last fight when he cruised past the limited Jeremiah Nakathila. 

However, when Stevenson decides to let his hands go he can look dynamic, as when he stopped the Puerto Rican Felix Caraballo with a body shot in the sixth round in June of last year. 

Herring is 35, so he’s starting to get up there in age for a boxer in the 130lbs division.  He looked good stopping the much smaller and, as it turned out, quite badly faded Carl Frampton in the sixth round in April. But in his last fight before meeting Frampton, Herring was unimpressive when winning by DQ against Jonathan Oquendo. I think Herring is reaching the point in his career where he could suddenly look vulnerable in a fight.

Stevenson was much criticised for his caution against Nakathila, an opponent of inferior skill. It was a boring fight. If Stevenson is going to be built into a PPV performer, he doesn’t want too many more fights like that one. So there is the possibility that the people behind Stevenson will impress upon him that he needs to start fighting with a bit more urgency. 

But the impression one has with Stevenson is that we will only see him in an exciting fight if he is put under pressure. Perhaps we will see Stevenson obliged to dig down and let his hands go against the taller, rangier Herring. I noticed at the weigh-in that Stevenson’s frame has filled out nicely. He looks strong at 130. Stevenson might be able to hurt the defending champion.

Herring has been stopped. The Russian left-hander Denis Shafikov used a swarming attack to wear down Herring and stop him in the 10th and last round. That was five years ago when Herring was boxing at 135 pounds. He is a much improved fighter. But it’s not as if Herring has never tasted defeat inside the distance.

I’m not sure, then, if Stevenson to win the bout by decision at 8/11 (-138) is the way to go even if it looks the logical bet.

Stevenson to win by KO, TKO or DQ is offered at 7/4 (+175) at Betfred. I’m aware that Stevenson has been in training camps with Herring in the past and apparently they had a friendly relationship, but in a big fight I really think that friendship gets put to one side. (If you remember, Simon Brown and Maurice Blocker were friends outside the ring but their welterweight title fight was an absolute war.)

Several outlets offer “Distance — No” at 7/4, and that could be worth a look. Herring actually turns 36 in a little over a month’s time. He was cut from a head clash against Jonathan Oquendo and took the opportunity to bail out. The win over Frampton was impressive, no question. But Shakur might have done much the same thing to a diminished Frampton. 

If Stevenson really opens up against Herring, a stoppage win could become a distinct possibility, and “distance — no” is value at +175, but there are just too many intangibles for me to feel confident about any of the props offered.

One play that might be of interest to bettors eager for weekend action is undefeated Puerto Rican prospect Xander Zayas to win inside the distance against Pennsylvania’s 30-year-old Dan Karpency. They meet in a six-rounder that will be chief support to Stevenson vs Herring on Saturday night. Zayas has moved up from 147 to the 154lbs division and he looked very good on the scales on Friday. Some outlets are offering Zayas KO TKO DQ at 5/8 (-160). 

Karpency has never been stopped, true. But the 19-year-old Zayas is faster, more skilled and more powerful than anyone Karpency has faced. There looks a huge difference in class here. Also, Karpency hasn’t boxed for 20 months whereas Zayas boxed as recently as September 10. 

While Zayas had to go the full six rounds in his last fight he was meeting a tough and determined opponent in Jose Luis Sanchez, of New Mexico, and although he ultimately had to settle for a points win the teenager almost got the stoppage in the last round. 

Six rounds isn’t very long when you’re investing in a KO prop or “won’t go distance” wager, but I think Zayas can get it done in this spot.

Main image: Mikey Williams/Top Rank.