Weekend betting angle – Joshua vs Pulev

IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston looks for the betting value in tonight’s significant heavyweight encounter between WBA Super, WBO and IBF title-holder Anthony Joshua and Bulgarian challenger Kubrat Pulev at the SSE Arena in Wembley, London.

Anthony Joshua is a firm favourite to beat Kubrat Pulev in tonight’s big heavyweight fight in London. No one wants to lay the price of 8-1 on (-800). But there are many betting options available, whether you fancy the upset, feel AJ will get the KO or are just looking for some action that gives you the chance of a profit without too much exposure.

First, the fight itself. Pulev looked in excellent condition at just under 240 pounds, his lightest weight in two years, at Friday’s weigh-in. But he is 39 years old. He seemed to be trying to intimidate Joshua at the weigh-in but I don’t think it worked. Joshua looked calm and relaxed and in tremendous condition at just over 240 pounds.

Everyone is guessing which version of Joshua will show up, the AJ who boxed and moved in the Andy Ruiz rematch or the pressure fighter of pre-Ruiz days.

My guess is that Joshua will box a steady fight behind the jab and seek to break down Pulev gradually, not letting the right hand or left hook go until he feels he has his man where he wants him. Pulev was a high-level amateur and he’s a seasoned pro with a good jab and right hand. But I think Joshua has a better jab and a better right hand.

Pulev is somewhat slow. He can be hit. Hughie Fury rocked him with a right hand in their fight in Bulgaria. Pulev was struggling for six rounds against Bogdan Dinu and suffered a cut over the eye. Sure, he finished the fight in the seventh round when he finally overpowered his Romanian opponent. But I’m thinking that if he was life and death for six rounds with the rather average Dinu, how is Pulev going to stay in there for the full 12 rounds with Joshua, let alone beat him? And, even though the fight was six years ago, I can’t forget how Wladimir Klitschko obliterated Pulev. 

Due to concerns about Joshua’s chin there is always going to be a certain anxiety on the part of AJ backers if the other man has any sort of a punch. But I would view it as a massive upset if Pulev won and I would be surprised if the fight reached the final bell.

The Joshua KO TKO DQ proposition is offered at 2/5 (-250) at Betfred. If you think the fight will not go the full 12 rounds, as I do, the ticket price is 2/9 (-450). That looks tempting as a “can’t miss” wager but we’ve seen heavyweight fights go 12 rounds against all expectations (think of the “don’t blink” fight between Mike Tyson and Bonecrusher Smith).

The over/under (or, if you prefer, “total rounds”) proposition has been set at 6.5 rounds. Price here is a tad over even money for each side of the bet, take your pick. (Hence the “pick ’em” term.)

I have a feeling that this fight will end right around the sixth or seventh round. (I guess this means that I feel the total rounds proposition has been set exactly right.) While Joshua boxed a tactical, points-scoring fight in the Andy Ruiz rematch it’s easy to forget that in their first fight AJ dropped his durable opponent and looked poised for a quick win only to get buzzed himself.

It takes a very heavy hitter indeed to knock down a sturdy heavyweight such as Andy Ruiz. I’m thinking that if Joshua catches Pulev cleanly with the left hook or right hand he might be able to get the older man out of the fight suddenly and dramatically. So, I marginally prefer the “under 6.5 rounds” to the “over 6.5” wagering proposition. It’s basically an even-money play, and this is the sort of fight where something dramatic could happen at any moment.

Main image: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.