IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston looks for the betting value in Saturday night’s clash between heavyweight contenders Luis Ortiz and Charles Martin, and the rematch between Jonnie Rice and Michael Coffie.

One could have been forgiven for thinking we’d seen the last of  Charles Martin as a top-tier heavyweight after his two rounds collapse against Anthony Joshua in what has to be described as a pitiful performance. But, five years on, Martin is not just still around, he’s one fight away from a heavyweight title challenge. 

Martin meets Cuba’s Miami-based Luis Ortiz in an all-southpaw IBF championship eliminator in Florida tonight (early Sunday in the UK). A win here and Martin will be in position to challenge Oleksandr Usyk. The betting odds suggest Martin will fall short.  “King Kong” Ortiz is a 1/4 (-400) favourite at Betfred. However, Martin as a 3/1 (+300) underdog merits consideration.

First and foremost, we have Ortiz’ age to consider. He’s 42 years old. Yes, heavyweights as a rule age later than boxers in other weight divisions. But 42 is getting up there.

Then we have Ortiz’ inactivity to take into account. He’s boxed just one round in two years, and that could hardly be called a contest, with Alexander Flores going down easily in 45 seconds.

Martin is no spring chicken at 35 but he has shown some improvement working with Los Angeles trainer Manny Robles. He was methodical and steady in his last fight when he walked down the huge Gerald Washington before lowering the boom with a big left hand in the sixth round. His only loss since the Joshua debacle was a unanimous decision defeat against Adam Kownacki, but Martin fought well. He was outworked in the early rounds but finished strongly and I thought he hurt Kownacki with left hands in the last round. Martin is a big man and he can punch (25 KOs in 28 wins). He seems to have found himself as a fighter.

Ortiz wasn’t exactly a ball of fire in his wins over the likes of Travis Kauffman and Christian Hammer. And while he gave Deontay Wilder fits in their two bouts, Ortiz ended up getting stopped each time. Martin could be catching Ortiz at the right time.

The site favours Ortiz, and, like Martin, he’s a big man (6ft 4ins, 243lbs) and a good puncher. Ortiz looks the better technician, but Martin is younger and probably stronger. The boxers will be fighting in a small ring. This could come down to who can land first with a decisive blow.

With two heavy hitters clashing, a full-distance bout looks unlikely. But the “distance — no” proposition carries a steep price tag at 1/3 (general). The total-rounds proposition has been set at 6.5, with the “over” priced at 4/5 (-125). There actually could be some value in the “over”. Each man can hurt the other, so it’s possible we’ll have something of a stand-off in the early rounds, with each boxer wary of getting tagged. 

The problem here is that one punch could change things in a hurry. Anyone betting on the “over” proposition will be on tenterhooks. This just looks the sort of fight where someone could “go” at any time. The total-rounds proposition is too much of a coin-flip for me although I slightly favour the bout to reach the midway point of Round 7.

However, I’m liking the underdog price on Martin. He seems to have a new-found self-belief. And while no great shakes as a stylist, Martin does carry power in that southpaw left hand. Ortiz might be vulnerable at this stage of his career. Betfred offers Martin by KO, TKO or DQ at 5/1 (+500). That’s tempting, but I prefer a straight-up bet on Martin at 3/1 just in case this fight somehow, some way, makes it to the final bell.

In another fight on the all-heavyweight PPV show, Jonnie Rice meets Michael Polite Coffie in a rematch. Last time, Rice pulled off the upset when he stopped Coffie in the fifth round last July. It was a lacklustre showing from Coffie, who had a 12-0 record going into the bout and had stopped his last four opponents. 

The narrative here is that the big, strong heavy-handed Coffie had an off-night and will turn the tables. I’m not so sure about that. Rice has been an under-achiever but he has some ability and can punch a bit. He dominated the last fight with Coffie. I’m expecting a better version of Coffie to show up, but I don’t see why Rice can’t win again. 

Last time, Rice was a big underdog. He’s been bet up to favourite for the rematch, with a ticket price of 8/13 (-160) at Betfred. Rice weighed in at a hefty 284lbs, which is a concern — that is some 15lbs more than he weighed for the first meeting with Coffie. But it’s possible that Rice increased his strength training and added weight because he plans to hold his ground and level off big right hands. I guess we will find out soon enough.

If you believe that Coffie will get it right this time around you’ll no doubt like his underdog price of 7/5 (+140). But it wasn’t a case of Coffie losing on a one-punch KO last time, like, say, Lennox Lewis against Hasim Rahman or Dillian Whyte against Alexander Povetkin. No, Rice dished out a systematic beatdown. 

Anything can happen in heavyweight boxing, of course, but I’ll go with Rice to repeat his previous win. I get the feeling that Rice simply might have Coffie’s number.

Main image: Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions.