IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston seeks the betting value in tonight’s IBF featherweight title clash between big-punching champion Kiko Martinez and former belt-holder Josh Warrington.
Josh Warrington is the betting favourite (2/7 at Betfred) but Kiko Martinez has to be considered a live underdog in tonight’s featherweight title bout in Leeds. (If you like Kiko’s chances he’s offered at 3/1.)
First off, it looks risky to back Warrington at a high price. Yes, he’s the younger man (31 to Kiko’s 36) and he will have thunderous support from his Leeds hometown fans. Also, he defeated Kiko when they first met, also in Leeds, although that bout was almost five years ago.
However, Warrington suffered a devastating defeat when Mauricio Lara knocked him out in the ninth round in February of last year.
In Warrington’s rematch with Lara last September it’s difficult to say what would have happened if the bout hadn’t been stopped after two rounds, with the Mexican fighter cut over the eye in a clash of heads. Neither man had established any sort of control. But Warrington didn’t look comfortable in the six minutes the bout lasted.
One has to wonder if the knockout defeat suffered against Lara, and the punishment absorbed — he barely survived the fourth round — has taken something out of Warrington.
Kiko, meanwhile, seemed to have turned back the clock when he knocked out Kid Galahad to win the IBF title last November. It wasn’t a fluke KO. Kiko knew what he was doing. He was walking down the slicker boxer and gradually getting into position to land a blockbuster.
The Galahad-Kiko fight was considered a mismatch in some quarters, but Kiko proved the critics wrong. But was Galahad diminished by weight-making? He failed to make weight at the first attempt, and that’s never a good sign.
What about the first fight between Warrington and Kiko? Any clues there? Although Warrington won a majority decision, it was a real struggle for him. I had Warrington winning by 115-113 but made the note that he couldn’t put a dent in the tough and tenacious Spanish fighter. It seemed to me that Warrington was the more tired of the two men at the final bell.
So, here we are, five years later. Kiko looks revitalised at 36 and we don’t know if Warrington’s KO defeat against Lara has had any lingering effects on his confidence and on his punch-resistance.
Logically, one would expect to see Warrington using a moving, boxing style on Saturday while Kiko presses forward and looks to land heavy shots. But it wouldn’t shock me to see Warrington standing his ground and letting his hands go to try to keep Kiko off and slow him down.
If this develops into a firefight, it opens up the possibility of the fight not going the distance. We’ve seen Warrington knocked out, of course, but let’s not forget that Kiko has been busted up, knocked down and stopped, with four inside-schedule defeats on his record.
If you fancy taking a chance on the fight not going the scheduled 12 rounds, Betfred offers the proposition at 5/4. Fight to go the distance is priced at 8/13.
Many will feel that Kiko’s best, perhaps only, path to victory is by stoppage (offered at 10/3). Warrington on points is seen as the most likely outcome (4/5), but if you think the Leeds Warrior can force a stoppage you might like the Boxing Social price-boost odds of 7/2. Kiko on points is priced at a whopping 20/1 so is obviously viewed as the least likely result.
“Fun” bets include neither fighter to be knocked down at 7/4.
This really is an “anything can happen” fight. If you’re struggling to decide where to place your money, taking a shot at the fight not to go the distance might be the best way to go.
With the betting board absolutely loaded this weekend, it’s quite a task to look through everything in search of value. One line that caught my eye, though, is Louis Greene at 7/4 against Harry Scarff in their English welterweight title fight on the Sky Sports show at Wembley Arena.
Greene actually opened as the favourite but bettors liked Scarff at underdog odds and the line flipped. Scarff is an awkward southpaw who can give anyone a difficult night but I think Greene has it in him to pull out a win with pressure and willingness.
The wild card is that Scarff has boxed at 160 and 154 pounds and now he’s down at welter. While he looked good on the scales at Friday’s weigh-in I’m not sure how well-suited Scarff will be to the 147-pound division. We know that Greene will do his best to bring the heat. It’s a really interesting clash of styles and it’s possible the judges will prefer Greene’s earnest aggression to Scarff’s cute counter-punching. I’m seeing some value in Greene at an underdog price.
Main image: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.