Weekend Betting Angle – Ritson vs Ponce, Babic vs Chambers, Stevenson vs Nakathila

IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston looks for value in Saturday night’s main fight action including Lewis Ritson’s test against the unbeaten Jeremias Ponce and Shakur Stevenson’s clash with Namibian contender Jeremiah Nakathila.

While he’s the favourite, Lewis Ritson looks in for a real fight against Argentina’s Jeremias Ponce in their IBF 140lbs title eliminator in Newcastle tonight.

Ritson is favoured at 4/9 (-225) at Betfred. If you like Ponce’s chances, you can get him at 2/1 (+200).

There are certainly things to like about Ponce. He is undefeated and, at 24, is young, ambitious and hungry. He showed he can win on the road when stopping Italian champion Francesco Lomasto in Naples and again when outpointing Rico Muller in Germany. He likes to go forward and force the pace and he throws a high volume of punches. 

It was a majority decision in the Muller fight, but Ponce pretty much dominated proceedings. In fact, in all 12 rounds at least one of the judges scored the round in Ponce’s favour.

But Ponce has been in close fights against fairly ordinary opponents in Argentina and he suffered a flash knockdown in his last fight. Could he be the type who fights better against better opponents? With undefeated boxers, it’s difficult to tell.

Ritson, 27, is by far Ponce’s toughest test. Although lacklustre against Francesco Patera in the lightweight division, I believe Ritson was likely weight-drained. He moved up from 135 pounds to 140 after the fight. Ritson gave a solid performance when outpointing Robbie Davies Jr but struggled against Miguel Vazquez, a fight in which many observers believed the Mexican veteran was unlucky not to get the decision.

The Vazquez bout was held without a crowd due to Covid-19 restrictions. About 1,000 fans will be admitted for today’s show in Newcastle and Ritson believes the crowd’s backing will spur him to an inspired performance. Ritson says he feels he has now grown into the 140lbs division and that he is stronger and punching harder than before. He is back training under the direction of his father, Dave, having split from trainer Neil Fannan after the Vazquez fight and says he’s in a good place mentally as well as physically. 

So, Ritson is saying all the right things. He looked good at the weigh-in although somewhat different, with shaved head and full beard. Ponce looked good on the scales, too. 

I’m seeing Ritson as the more talented fighter. He has fought at a higher level than Ponce and he is the more compact puncher, with a superior jab. Ponce can leave himself open when he wings his punches. If Ritson can time Ponce for hard shots he can slow him down.

However, if Ponce can take Ritson’s punches and keep coming back at him, things could get really interesting. A long fight looks likely. Ritson’s last three 12-round fights went the full distance. If you think Ritson vs Ponce goes the distance you’re looking at an entry price of 4/5 (-125). Ritson to win by decision is offered at 5/6 (-120). The Ritson KO/TKO/DQ proposition is available at 11/4 (+275). That might be worth considering: Ritson had a spell at lightweight when he was blasting through everyone, and Ponce’s defence isn’t the greatest.

Heavyweight crowd-pleaser Alen Babic meets Damian Chambers in what should be a fun six-rounder on the Newcastle show. Chambers is a cruiserweight but Babic is a small heavyweight. Babic weighed in about 10lbs heavier than Chambers at Friday’s weigh-in. However, Babic was wearing a Sparta-type warrior’s helmet, which likely added a few pounds.

Chambers’ only loss came on a first-round stoppage against unbeaten Mikael Lawal in the final of one of those Ultimate Boxxer tournaments. However, I think Chambers was pretty much spent after a gruelling win in the tournament semi-final — contestants in these one-night events don’t have much recovery time.

Unfortunately for Chambers, he doesn’t seem to have a very good chin, and the first round or two will be perilous against an all-out aggressor such as Babic. Still, Chambers can punch a bit himself, and he’s a better pure boxer than the Croatian “Savage”.

Obviously, Babic has to be favoured (he’s currently around 1/8 (-800)). However, if Chambers can withstand Babic’s early charge, who knows what might happen? Babic has never been past three rounds and is coming back quite quickly after undergoing shoulder surgery. Chambers is offered at 7/1 (+700) at Betfred and for anyone struggling to find some wagering action this weekend, and looking for a long shot, taking a swing at the Chambers odds might not be a crazy idea.

Across the pond in Las Vegas, undefeated Shakur Stevenson looks far too talented for Jeremiah Nakathila, a 31-year-old from Namibia. They meet in a 12-rounder for an interim 130lbs title.

Nakathila has a respectable record (21-1, 17 KOs). He looks like a strong fighter but rather basic. And, of course, he’s never met anyone as slick and stylish as the southpaw Stevenson.

With Stevenson something like a 1/40 (-4000) favourite, we have to look at the proposition market to find some value. The total-rounds proposition has been set at 8.5 rounds, with the “under” slightly favoured at 8/11 (-140). Fight not to go the distance is priced at 4/9 (-225.)

If Stevenson really lets his hands go, he could probably get a stoppage inside nine rounds. But you just can’t tell what Stevenson will do. He’s been the full distance in three of his last five fights. I’m guessing that Stevenson will be in the mood to try for a stoppage against an opponent who doesn’t seem to pose much of a threat.

Main image: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.