IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston seeks the betting value in tonight’s heavyweight clashes featuring comebacking, former unified champion Andy Ruiz vs three-time world title challenger Chris Arreola and ex-WBO king Joseph Parker vs perennial contender Dereck Chisora plus Cuban maestro Erislandy Lara’s vacant middleweight title battle against Thomas ‘Cornflake’ LaManna.

Heavyweight fights on both sides of the Atlantic are tonight’s main attractions. Dereck Chisora meets Joseph Parker in Manchester, while across the pond Andy Ruiz Jr takes on Chris Arreola in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson, California.

Chisora vs Parker is the more intriguing of the two bouts. “War” Chisora always brings pressure while Parker, although the younger man, seems to have regressed a little. So, although Parker is the favourite, Chisora is a live underdog (7/5, or +140, at Betfred).

Each man is coming into the ring with a new trainer; Chisora has brought Buddy McGirt on board while Parker is working with Andy Lee. I’m not sure if either trainer can add very much to the respective boxers. 

McGirt seems to feel he can get Chisora to be a bit smarter in the way he rumbles forward while Lee will surely want Parker to show more movement than he did in his last fight, when the New Zealand heavyweight unimpressively outpointed domestic rival Junior Fa.

Chisora talks a great fight but he is 37 years old and, of course, he’s been in some torrid battles. Oleksandr Usyk, not noted for firepower, wobbled Chisora. Even though Chisora came back to push Usyk to the limit it was worrying to see him on shaky legs against a much lighter opponent. And Chisora seemed to be in deep trouble against Carlos Takam in 2018 before uncorking the big right hand that changed everything. On the flip side, Chisora showed excellent powers of recuperation in these bouts.

Parker, meanwhile, hasn’t been looking great lately. It took him 10 rounds to stop a 39-year-old Alex Leapai. He halted Shawndell Terell Winters in the fifth, but he was meeting in essence a cruiserweight, and an ageing one at that. Then came the struggling win over Fa, after which Parker decided to part company with long-time trainer Kevin Barry.

However, Parker is only 29 and still has time on his side. He is surely a better fighter than he looked against Fa, who used a hit-and-hold, spoiling style. At least Parker will have an opponent who will be right in front of him in Chisora.  

Really, this is an anything-can-happen fight. Chisora might be at the stage of his career where vulnerability is creeping in, but he is capable of outhustling the version of Parker we’ve been seeing lately.

If you like Parker’s chances you’ll have to lay 8/15 (-185). If you see this as being a long fight it’s 4/5 (-125) that the fight goes the distance. This might seem the best bet. Yet with Chisora rumbling forward we could see Parker obliged to trade punches or simply get run out of the ring. It’s possible that Parker will be able to catch Chisora cleanly and slow him down, and maybe even stop him. It’s even money that the fight ends inside the distance, while if you feel Parker can get the stoppage you might be tempted by the price of 9/4 (+225). But nothing would surprise me too much in this one. 

Over in California, Andy Ruiz Jr is an off-the-charts favourite against Chris Arreola in their 12-round WBA heavyweight title eliminator.

Ruiz came in at 256 pounds, his lightest weight in three years, at Friday’s weigh-in, while Arreola scaled his lightest-ever weight of 228½ pounds, so we know both men have trained hard.

This will be Ruiz’ first fight under the direction of trainer Eddy Reynoso. He clearly seems to have rededicated himself to boxing after his sluggish loss to Anthony Joshua in their rematch. 

Arreola is 40 years old and he’s been in a lot of wars. In his last fight, against Adam Kownacki almost two years ago, Arreola gave it a great effort but was soundly defeated in a bruising 12-rounder. 

It might benefit Arreola to have taken a break from boxing, but one wonders how much he has left to give. Also, I’m not sure that losing so much weight (down 15 pounds from when he fought Kownacki) will be a good thing for Arreola at his age. His ability to absorb punches might not be the same.

Ruiz to win by KO TKO DQ is priced high, naturally, at 1/4 (-400) and this seems the likeliest result. The over/under has been set for 6.5 rounds at basically pick ’em odds (5/6 on the under or the over, take your pick). I would lean towards the “over”. Arreola is as game as they come and it might take Ruiz some rounds to wear him down.

If you don’t fancy taking a chance on the heavyweight fights with so many variables, but wish to have some sort of betting action this weekend, I think it’s worth taking a look at the under 9.5 rounds in the middleweight title fight between Erislandy Lara and Thomas LaManna, which takes place on the Ruiz vs Arreola undercard.

Lara is moving up in weight from 154 pounds. I think we might see him getting set to punch harder and using less movement than when he was boxing at 154. While Lara is 38, he isn’t a worn-out fighter due in part to his risk-averse style. LaManna, 29, is a tall, lanky boxer, game and willing, but he isn’t too hard to hit. If Lara really lets his hands go — and it’s possible he will do just that against this level of opponent— a stoppage is possible.

The “under 9.5 rounds” proposition is offered at 11/10 (-110). I think this is a fair price. Now, it can be very frustrating to have money on Lara to win inside the distance because he is so cautious. But, against this level of opponent, my instinct is that we just might see Lara looking to impress rather than playing it safe. 

Main image: Frank Micelotta/Fox Sports.