IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston seeks the betting value on a busy weekend of boxing featuring three significant world title clashes – George Kambosos vs Devin Haney, Kenichi Ogawa vs Joe Cordina and Stephen Fulton vs Danny Roman.
Three big fights to look forward to on Saturday night — who could ask for more? Let’s take a look at what we’ve got and see if we can find a betting angle.
Joe Cordina steps up massively in class when he takes on Kenichi Ogawa for the Japanese fighter’s IBF 130lbs title in Cardiff on Saturday.
Cordina is the favourite (8/15 at Betfred). He is unbeaten, boxed at the elite level as an amateur (European championships gold medallist, GB Olympic representative) and, of course, he has home advantage.
There’s no doubt that Cordina has skills but perhaps not a lot of power, although, that said, he stopped six of his first seven pro opponents and he scored a 53-second KO over the Chicago boxer Joshuah Hernandez last August. And he absolutely flattened Hernandez with a big right hand. So Cordina isn’t exactly a powder-puff puncher.
This is a very tough fight for Cordina, no question, but he’s 30 years old and it’s now or never. His trainer, Tony Sims, feels Cordina is ready. Promoter Eddie Hearn is taking a leap of faith in Cordina but believes we will see something special from the “Welsh Wizard” on Saturday. Hearn even believes Cordina can stop Ogawa.
What about Ogawa? We know he is strong and capable. He can punch and he seems to have an excellent chin. Ogawa was relentless when pounding out a unanimous decision over Azinga Fuzile last November to win the IBF title. He knocked down Fuzile in the fifth round and almost stopped him in the last round, when the South African left-hander was down twice.
However, Fuzile got the worst of some nasty head clashes and he was cut over both eyes from collisions. Ogawa looked the better fighter, but the head clashes certainly didn’t help Fuzile.
And while Ogawa looked good against Fuzile he’s had a few close fights back home in Japan. The Tevin Farmer fight (when Ogawa’s split-decision win was voided due to a positive test for steroids) could have gone either way. It came out at 114-114 in “consensus” scoring, when at least two of the three judges agreed on a round. So it’s not as if Ogawa is some monster. He’s 34. And while he won in Las Vegas and New York respectively in his two IBF title fights, Ogawa will never have experienced an atmosphere such as the one he will be experiencing in Cardiff.
Still, if Cordina is going to win this fight he will have to produce the sort of boxing and fighting that he hasn’t so far revealed. He is going to have to rise to a new level. Can he do it? We just don’t know.
Cordina has the skill to win rounds against Ogawa, but can he keep winning rounds consistently against such a determined and tenacious opponent? Does he have the punch-authority to get Ogawa’s respect?
These are things we don’t know and which make betting on the fight a risky proposition.
If you think Cordina can get it done, the ticket price isn’t too bad. Cordina by decision at 5/6 (-120) might catch the eye but it looks a little too obvious. Cordina by KO/TKO at 5/2 (+250) isn’t terribly generous but might appeal to those who believe that this is the night when Cordina will put it all together and produce the performance of his life.
Meanwhile, undefeated lightweight champions meet in Melbourne on Saturday, and, like Joe Cordina, Australia’s George Kambosos Jr has home advantage — and then some. Kambosos will enjoy the passionate support of 50,000-plus fans at Marvel Stadium for his fight with Devin Haney. However, the American visitor seems calm and composed and not at all fazed by the occasion.
We’ve had some last-minute drama, with Kambosos missing weight at the first try and Haney’s father and trainer, Bill Haney, getting 11th-hour approval for a visa to be in his son’s corner in Melbourne.
Kambosos is a gritty, hard-working fighter, and he puts shots together well. He is good at landing the right hand to the body. Haney, though, simply looks the more skilled, with the slicker moves and the better jab. Kambosos gave a tremendous performance to beat Teo Lopez. But it seems fair to say that Lopez probably wasn’t at his best due to issues in his domestic life. And Lopez was there to be hit that night, whereas Haney is elusive.
Haney has dominated most of his fights. He did struggle in the last four rounds against Jorge Linares, true, and he got wobbled in that fight. But for the first eight rounds, Haney boxed beautifully against Linares. And Haney looked sharp and strong in his last fight when outboxing the always tough Jo Jo Diaz.
I like Haney here. His price of 8/13 (-160) at Betfred isn’t too bad. He looked great on the scales; Kambosos not so much. The location has to be a concern for Haney backers, but I don’t think we’ll see a hometown decision with the world watching.
The third big fight on Saturday takes place in the midwest state of Minnesota, with undefeated Stephen Fulton defending his 122lbs title against the tenacious and talented Danny Roman. Fulton is a high-priced favourite, with Betfred offering 1/6 (-600). The odds seem a bit disrespectful to Roman, who is an excellent technician, but Fulton looks like a special talent. Fulton is smart, he’s quick and he’s adaptable — he can either box at long range or fight in close.
Fulton by decision looks the likely result but the price of 4/9 (-225) is offputting. The odds on Roman 4/1 (+400) are tempting. In interviews, Fulton has mentioned the challenges of training for a fight during the holy month of Ramadan, when fasting is observed by the faithful.
If Fulton isn’t at his absolute best, there could be a problem. Roman has a great engine and he comes on strong in the later rounds. I think Fulton should be able to hold Roman off, but, for me, there’s no value here unless you feel there’s going to be an upset and take a stab at the plus money available on Roman.
Main image: George Kambosos (left) and Devin Haney (right) are primed for battle this weekend. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank.