IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston looks for the betting value in this weekend’s action involving the high stakes encounter between lightweight champions Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez as well as some intriguing, lower profile bouts.

Vasiliy Lomachenko vs Teofimo Lopez is the weekend’s big fight but there are some interesting bouts on the board. From a wagering point of view, though, it’s the usual tricky weekend. We have a bunch of big favourites (as always) but also some fights where the favourite has been matched tough.

Almost everyone is picking Lomachenko to beat Lopez in their lightweight title fight at the MGM Grand “bubble” in Las Vegas. One who likes Lopez’s chances — and likes them big time, in fact — is ex-champ Timothy Bradley. He told ESPN yesterday that he is picking Lopez to win by KO inside six rounds.

Lomachenko vs Lopez has captured the imagination of the boxing world.
Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank.

While Lomachenko looked excellent on the scales at 135, Lopez looked in sensational condition (also bang on the lightweight limit of 135). The Lopez camp told ESPN they expect Teo to weigh around 145 pounds in the ring tonight.

As you know, I see value in Lopez as a 3/1 (+300) underdog and we have already discussed this fight. In the proposition market, Loma by decision at a tad over even money is a popular bet, especially as Loma told ESPN yesterday that he wants the fight to go 12 rounds so that he punish Lopez. I would lean more to “fight won’t distance” at 6/5 (+120) at Betfred. If Lopez is unable to hurt Lomachenko and break him down I think we could see “Hi Tech” come on to get a late stoppage on accumulation of punches.

Let’s look at a few other weekend fights apart from Loma vs Teo. I’ve chosen the closest fights as far as betting odds are concerned.

Saturday, October 17 – JOE LAWS vs RYLAN CHARLTON

This welterweight six-rounder on the Matchroom show in Peterborough tonight should be a fun fight. Both men are unbeaten but Laws was runner-up in the English national amateur championships. Laws is an all-action fighter who goes right to his opponents and lets the punches fly. The muscled Charlton looks like a competent boxer. He keeps a tight defence and he puts his punches together nicely, but Laws is clearly the puncher in the fight. 

Charlton is 28. He looks “up” for the fight mentally. This is Charlton’s chance to make a breakthrough in his career in only his seventh bout. But Laws, 26, is the house fighter on the Matchroom show. Laws has a big following in the north-east of England. Matchroom Boxing is grooming Laws for big things. Still, Charlton hasn’t lost and I think it’s fair to say he is a step up for Laws. 

If Charlton can hunker down behind his arms and gloves, weather Laws’ opening onslaught, and start to land his own punches, he has a chance. With Laws, attack is his best defence, and while he is hittable he looks the type who will be tough to discourage. 

Laws (left) may have a tricky night against Charlton (right).
Photo: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.

The “test the waters” sportsbook Paddy Power offered a low-limits opening line with Charlton offered at 13/2 (+650). That line was just a mirage, of course, just to test the market. Bettors pounded that generous opening line for low limits and the cat was out of the bag. Now, with odds widely available, we’re seeing Charlton at 3/1 (+300).

Laws’ heavier punching is likely to make the difference in the fight but I think Charlton will give it a good go and I think he has a chance here. Unfortunately, the current odds are not terribly enticing. But for those itching for action, a speculative bet on Charlton might not be a bad idea.

Saturday October 17 – Lomachenko-Lopez undercard bouts

ARNOLD BARBOZA Jr vs ALEX SAUCEDO

Barboza is undefeated and he has superior boxing skills, so it’s understandable that he was installed as the favourite. Saucedo is always fun to watch. He can punch and he’s aggressive but the knock against him is that he tends to get hit a lot and he is susceptible to cuts and swellings around the eyes. 

However, I thought Saucedo showed more discipline and even a bit of head movement in his last fight when he won a unanimous 10-round decision over the tall and rangy Sonny Fredrickson. Saucedo moved in behind the jab and controlled the fight pretty much from beginning to end.

The all-action Saucedo (left) is in tough with the unbeaten Barboza (right).
Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank.

But Barboza is on a much higher level than Fredrickson. Barboza uses a switch-hitting style but I prefer him as a southpaw and I think he has more dimensions than Saucedo. Barboza is able to take the fight to his opponent or go to a boxing, counter punching style, whereas Saucedo is straight ahead and relatively uncomplicated. Barboza is favoured at 4/9 (-225). I like Barboza to win, probably by decision. The decision proposition is offered at 10/11 on (-110 ) at Betfred in this super-lightweight 10-rounder.

JOSUE VARGAS vs KENDO CASTANEDA

Castaneda showed promise when streaking to a 17-0 record but he has lost in two consecutive step-up bouts, against Yomar Alamo and Jose Zepeda. A switch-hitter from San Antonio, Castaneda was outboxed by the shifty Alamo and then received something of a boxing lesson from Zepeda, although in fairness he was meeting a world-class fighter. 

Although Castaneda is only 26, I think we might have seen the best of him. Vargas, meanwhile, is a boxer on the rise. Promoted by Top Rank, the southpaw Vargas, a 22-year-old New Yorker of Puerto Rican heritage, is essentially unbeaten — he was disqualified in a fight he was on the way to winning. 

This is Vargas’ stiffest test, though. While Vargas is a classy boxer he isn’t a severe hitter (four of his last five fights went the distance). Castaneda is tough and, if he isn’t worried about what’s coming back at him, he can be a handful with his pressure and workrate. Alamo was too elusive for him and Zepeda too skilled and too hard hitting, but Castaneda might be able to get something going against the younger Vargas. 

Castaneda (left) looks a solid test for the emerging Vargas (right).
Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank.

Still, Vargas overcame some adversity when he outpointed Noel Murphy last December. He should be able to box his way to a decision against Castaneda but I don’t think it will be a walk in the park for him. Vargas is priced at 1/4 (-400). If Zepeda couldn’t stop Castaneda, I doubt very much if Vargas can do so. But, for me, Vargas by decision at  4/11 (-275) is a bit too high an entry price in this 140lbs 10-rounder.

For undecided bettors, I think Barboza by decision at practically even money is a decent bet. If Barboza stops Saucedo it will be a very impressive result. For anyone playing the decision prop, maybe consider a little sprinkle on the draw, too (20/1 or +2000), just in case.

Main image: Mikey Williams/Top Rank.