IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston weighs up an intriguing weekend of world title action featuring lightweight king Teofimo Lopez against IBF No.1 contender George Kambosos and the unification clash between 122lbs champions Brandon Figueroa and Stephen Fulton.

We have two big shows in the US to look forward to tonight. In New York, Teofimo Lopez defends his lightweight title against Australia’s George Kambosos while in Las Vegas 122lbs champions Stephen Fulton and Brandon Figueroa meet in a unification bout. All four fighters enter the ring with unbeaten records.

Lopez is a huge favourite (1/9 or -900 at Betfred). Bettors see him as being on a different level to Kambosos. However, the Australian challenger seems genuinely confident, making the throat-slitting gesture at Friday’s weigh-in.

Kambosos is making a huge step-up in class. His best wins were over a 36-year-old Mickey Bey and a 33-year-old Lee Selby, both split decisions. However, Kambosos hasn’t learned how to lose. He’s got a pleasing, aggressive style, with good head movement and hand speed, and he seems able to maintain a fast pace for round after round. 

Lopez looks the superior all-around fighter and the bigger puncher. Teo has scored some spectacular KO wins. However, he faded in the late rounds in his title-winning bout with Vasiliy Lomachenko. This leads one to surmise that if Kambosos gets through the first half of the contest he just might be able to give Lopez hell down the home stretch.

Each man has been inactive for more than a year, with the fight having been postponed several times. Both looked in great shape at the weigh-in. Interestingly, Kambosos seemed to have more supporters at the weigh-in than Lopez did, and the champion was raised in Brooklyn. 

Lopez clearly has to be favoured but Kambosos just as clearly is going to give it all he has. If you feel Kambosos can spring one of the year’s major upsets you’re looking at odds of 13/2 (+650) at Betfred

As always there are lots of betting options available. The total rounds has been set at 7.5. If you like the fight to go over 7.5 rounds, the “over” is slightly favoured at a general price of 2/3 (-150). If you like the fight to go under 7.5 rounds you can get 13/10 (+130).

Fight to go the distance is offered at 2/1 (+200) while if you don’t feel we’ll hear the final bell you’re looking at a ticket price of 4/11 (-275).

I think the chances are the fight won’t go the full 12 rounds. Lopez can be explosive, and Kambosos seems eager to engage. I certainly don’t expect to see Kambosos running all around the ring. Kambosos has come to fight, not to survive. And if this develops into a firefight, the advantage surely rests with Lopez.

It’s guesswork trying to figure out how long the fight will last. Kambosos could surprise us by using a hit-and-move method, but that doesn’t seem to be his style. Kambosos looks like a tough fighter with a good chin but he’s never met anyone with Lopez’ firepower. But I’m guessing that Kambosos will have the Aussie grit, the fire and the fury to make a real fight of this. I’m expecting Lopez to get to Kambosos with big shots eventually but maybe not until the ninth round. A bet I quite like is Lopez to win between rounds 7-12, offered at a general price of 8/5 (+160).

Over on the West Coast in Las Vegas, we’re seeing Fulton as a 3/10 (-330) favourite to beat Figueroa. If you like Figueroa’s chances, Betfred offers him at 13/5 (+260). It’s an intriguing contest. Philadelphia’s Fulton is the superior technician with the sharper skills, but the handsome “Heartbreaker” Figueroa, from the south Texas community of Weslaco, brings pressure and body punching.

When the fight was announced I liked Fulton’s chances quite strongly. He not only boxes beautifully on the outside but he is able to fight up close and dig to the body, too. Figueroa has been talking about moving up to 126 pounds and I suspected he might be tight at the 122lbs weight limit. However, I thought Figueroa looked excellent on the scales, and after viewing the weigh-in video I’m seeing this as being a tougher fight for Fulton than I originally envisaged.

Figueroa is likely to be the much bigger man in the ring. He seems supremely confident, all smiles at the weigh-in while Fulton scowled. Figueroa has the body language of a fighter very sure of what he will be able to do when the first bell rings. But the fact is that Fulton is much the more polished boxer. Will Figueroa be able to back him up and bully him? Or will Fulton simply be too smart and too slick?

As a straight pick I will go with Fulton, but I’m not crazy about the ticket price when it comes to betting on him. I see this as a much more even fight than the odds suggest. Figueroa might have to eat a lot of jabs and straight right hands, but if he can absorb what Fulton throws at him and keep coming, switching as he does between the orthodox and southpaw postures and targeting the body, the later stages of the bout could become distinctly uncomfortable for the superior stylist. At the end of the day I’m siding with the boxer to beat the fighter. The best bet could be “Distance — yes” but the admission price is a bit steep at 4/11 (-275).

Main image: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing USA.