IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston seeks the betting value in Saturday’s high profile clashes involving former cruiser and heavyweight champions Evander Holyfield and David Haye against Vitor Belfort and Joe Fournier respectively.

Whether we like so-called celebrity boxing or not, there’s a market for this sort of thing, just as there is a market for faded legends stepping back into the ring when purists wish they would simply stay retired.

Which brings us to the eight-round bout between Evander Holyfield and Vitor Belfort in Hollywood, Florida tonight. The local commission has sanctioned this as an official boxing match (though Holyfield has apparently been told he can still decide if it’s an exhibition), so we have betting odds available. Holyfield opened as a slight favourite but money has been pouring in on former UFC star Belfort. If you like Holyfield’s chances you can back him at 2/1 (+200) or better depending on the outlet.

Not all bookmaking firms are carrying odds for the fight, perhaps because the line managers simply don’t have a clear idea what will happen.

Holyfield is 58, but he is in tremendous shape for his age. Alimony and child support have eaten into his ring earnings but if Holyfield can get past Belfort it opens the door to other big-money fights in the “legends” format. A bout between Holyfield and Mike Tyson would be a major attraction. Both are obviously long past their respective primes but the curiosity value would be immense.

Belfort looks in good shape but, while he is much younger than Evander, he isn’t a spring chicken himself at 44. He’s had just one boxing bout, a KO win over a novice in Brazil many years ago. Belfort is an MMA great. But boxing is different. We saw that when ring novice Jake Paul was able to box past former UFC star Tyron Woodley. Holyfield, even now, knows how to box. He’s bigger and heavier than Belfort.

Belfort’s last MMA fight was three years ago. He was knocked out by a kick to the head. In fact, Belfort was KO’d in five of his last  seven appearances in MMA. (One of those KO defeats was overturned because his opponent tested positive for marijuana.) So his durability is in doubt.

Holyfield’s last fight was a 10th-round TKO win over Brian Nielsen in Denmark 10 years ago but he has always stayed in condition and I believe he has been training seriously for about two months for the boxing “comeback”. He is replacing Oscar De La Hoya at short notice (Oscar having apparently come down with the covid virus) but Holyfield is probably as ready to box as he ever will be.

Evander is bigger and heavier than Belfort. On sheer ring experience and physical strength alone, I see this as a winnable fight for Holyfield. He should be able to do the eight (two-minute) rounds without gassing out. Even an ageing pro can overcome a much younger opponent who hasn’t trained as a boxer. Holyfield knows those little things that mean a lot in boxing: How to turn an opponent and tie him up, how to pick up points with the jab in those moments when not a lot is happening, how to place punches, how to feint, how to use the shoulder to nudge the other man off balance. Simply knowing how to fight can see Holyfield through despite his age. 

Former UFC champ Daniel Cormier has been quoted as saying: “I can’t imagine a world where Holyfield loses a boxing match to Belfort.” I’m on the same page as Cormier here.

It’s always “buyer beware” in this sort of event but I see value in Evander at +200 or better.

On the same show, we have David Haye taking on Joe Fournier, who apparently is a personal friend of David’s. Odds seem to be quite widely available for this one. It’s set for eight two-minute rounds (as it is for the Holyfield-Belfort meeting). And, as with Holyfield vs Belfort, Haye vs Fournier has been sanctioned by the Florida commission as an official contest.

Odds are widely available for Haye vs Fournier. Betfred has Haye a 1/12 (-1200) favourite. Haye is 40 years old, hasn’t boxed for three years and has had injury problems. Still, he looks in great shape at a tad over 211 pounds. If, even now, Haye can’t handle a 38-year-old wannabe boxer like Fournier, what’s the world coming to?

The thing is, how seriously is Haye taking the meeting? I’d like to think that David has told Fournier: “We can be pals again afterwards, but when we’re in the ring let’s throw down for real.” But who the heck knows? 

Maybe Haye will treat this as a sparring match and pull his punches. Will Fournier risk upsetting Haye by going at him with serious intent? It’s a guessing game. 

If you think this will be a glorified sparring session, a bet on the affair going the full eight rounds might make sense at 11/4 (+275). If, however, you feel that Haye will not be in any mood to mess around, then the Hayemaker to win by KO at 4/11 (-275) is the way to go. 

I wouldn’t recommend big wagers for these circus-type bouts. But fun bets for small stakes, just to have some action? Why not? (And whether these bouts should even be taking place is for discussion in another place at another time.)

Main image: Triller Fight Club.