IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston looks for the betting value in this weekend’s action including former IBF 140lbs champion Sergey Lipinets’ encounter with unbeaten Canadian Custio Clayton.

Boxing tonight (early hours of Sunday in the UK) features a triple-header on the US Showtime network from the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut, headlined by Sergey Lipinets against Custio Clayton in a 12-rounder for the IBF interim welter title.

Lipinets opened as a 2/5 (-250) favourite but we’ve seen some money come in on the Canadian Clayton. 

Born in Kazakhstan, Lipinets was an elite-level kickboxer before turning to conventional boxing. He trains under the direction of veteran Joe Goossen in the Los Angeles area. Mikey Garcia was too much for him in a championship attempt, but Lipinets put himself back in the world title picture when he outlasted and stopped Lamont Peterson in 10 thrilling rounds in March 2019. 

Lipinets puts pressure on his opponents. He is tenacious and heavy-handed. I’ve seen him box with hands low and make cute moves but in the fight with Peterson it was constant forward motion.

In Clayton, we have an undefeated boxer with a deep amateur background. Clayton was a quarter-finalist in the London Olympics, losing a very close decision to the Welsh southpaw Fred Evans, and he represented Canada in a number of international tournaments around the world. He usually boxes behind a high guard. Clayton has an excellent jab and he hits with authority with the right hand on top or the left hook to the body.

Although both men weighed in at 147 pounds on Friday, the muscular Clayton is the naturally bigger man. As always with an unbeaten boxer, we can’t be sure of the level Clayton can reach. Clayton has outclassed everyone he’s faced in compiling an 18-0 (12 KOs) record. He’s hardly lost a round. But Clayton has been beating boxers he was supposed to beat. Lipinets (16-1, 12 KOs) has fought at a higher level of competition. He knows what it’s like to dig down and come through in a long, gruelling battle.

Lipinets (left) has been rejuvenated at 147lbs by trainer Joe Goossen.
Photo: Amanda Westcott/Showtime.

This is an intriguing fight. Can Clayton withstand the sort of pressure that Lipinets brings? Clayton’s jab and superior size will keep the Canadian boxer in the fight but this is a big step up for him. 

Betfred offers “fight to go the distance” at 4/7 (-175) and that might be the best bet here, as both Lipinets and Clayton come into the “difficult to stop” category.

On the same show there is another really intriguing fight, this one a 10-rounder in the 140-pound division between the unbeaten Malik Hawkins, of Baltimore, and Puerto Rico’s Subriel Matias.

Hawkins started off as something like a 1/6 (-600) favourite but money has simply poured in on Matias and the odds have gone into free-fall. Now we’re seeing the fight at almost even money.

Matias looked like a future world champion when he wore down and stopped Maxim Dadashev in July 2019. But as we all know, Dadashev died after the fight due to a brain injury and apparently it was very difficult for Matias to come to terms with the tragedy. 

It is difficult to know what goes on in a fighter’s mind after a fight has a tragic outcome. In Matias’ case, when he met Petros Ananyan last February he didn’t seem to have the same unrelenting drive for victory that he had displayed against Dadashev. Although Matias started well against Ananyan he faded after the midway mark and ended up losing a close but unanimous decision to the tough Armenian fighter. Matias was given an eight count in the seventh round when the ropes kept him from going down. One was left wondering if the Dadashev tragedy had left Matias with a psychological burden.

Hawkins, tall and rangy, has boxing ability and punching power but he looked lacklustre in his last fight when getting a fortunate TKO win over Darwin Price, an unbeaten stylist from Houston, Texas, who was easily winning only to suffer a freak knee injury in the fifth round.

I have no doubt that the Matias who stopped Dadashev would beat the Hawkins who struggled against Price. But will we ever see that version of Matias again? And did Hawkins simply have an off night against the slick Price?

I wanted to wait till the weigh-in before making a pick in this fight. Both men looked ripped and ready but I seemed to detect an intensity in Matias that was lacking when he met Ananyan. He looked ready to fight. While the term “crossroads fight” tends to be overused, Matias really is at the crossroads and he surely knows it.

Based on what I could detect from the weigh-in images I have the slightest lean to Matias. Unfortunately, the early value in a wager on Matias has long gone. Anyone betting on Matias now is late to the party. Is Matias worth a play at current odds?  Well, Betfred offers Matias at 6/4 (+150) and those aren’t bad odds.

I wish I could be sure that Matias is all the way back mentally after the Dadashev fatality, but at 6/4 (+150) I think it’s worth taking a chance on him. 

A little sprinkle on the draw (offered at 25/1 or +2500 for Matias vs Hawkins) is always recommended when playing at a book that uses the three-way betting system.

Also on the Showtime card, unbeaten junior lightweight Xavier Martinez has a step-up fight against Claudio Marrero, who he meets in a 12-round WBA title eliminator. 

I think Martinez could very well stop Marrero, who never could get started against Kid Galahad in an eight-round TKO defeat last February. But that was at 126 pounds. Maybe Marrero was a bit weight-drained. 

That said, I don’t think Marrero will be able to keep Martinez off him for the full 12 rounds. Betfred lists the “fight not to go the distance” proposition at 3/10 (-333). That admission price is on the high side but the odds reflect the fact that Martinez appears to be an authentic aggressor while Marrero has the look of a fighter on the slide.

Main images: Amanda Westcott/Showtime.