IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston seeks the betting value in the weekend’s world title clashes between 140lbs supremo Josh Taylor and Jack Catterall and WBO cruiser king Lawrence Okolie and Michal Cieslak.
Josh Taylor, the world’s No 1 140-pounder, defends his belts against mandatory WBO challenger Jack Catterall in a meeting of undefeated southpaws on Saturday night in Glasgow. Taylor will have the Scottish crowd right behind him but a contingent of Catterall supporters has made the trip from his Lancashire home base.
Taylor is a big favourite at 1/16 and the odds frankly have got out of control. Still, I do expect Taylor to win. He has fought on a much higher level than Catterall and he looks the better fighter and the better puncher. However, I do expect a respectable showing from Catterall.
The thing with Catterall is that we can’t be sure how he will perform in this, by far his biggest test. Catterall’s best win, probably, was a close decision over Ohara Davies, while Taylor outclassed Davies and made him quit in seven rounds. This probably illustrates the difference in class between the two boxers.
I didn’t like the way Catterall faded in the later rounds of his fight with Tyrone McKenna in June 2018. Although Catterall started strongly against McKenna, scoring knockdowns in the second and fifth rounds, he was under heavy pressure towards the end of the fight. That fight was three years ago but it makes you wonder if Catterall will be able to hold up under the Taylor onslaught that surely will be coming.
Still, Catterall has an excellent trainer in Jamie Moore. They will have worked out a game plan. Catterall will likely want to keep the fight at a slow tempo and seek to catch Taylor with sneaky shots and try to steal rounds with smart, calculated boxing. But Taylor is likely to ratchet up the pressure gradually, quickening the pace and pushing Catterall into a defensive fight and forcing him into the type of exchanges that the challenger might not particularly want to engage in.
I have a feeling this will be a long fight, with Catterall gradually getting broken down. I think we’ll see Taylor forcing a stoppage in the later rounds.
Taylor to win inside the distance, which Betfred offers at 4/6 (-150), is the wager I like here. Even when Taylor had to go the distance against Viktor Postol, Ivan Baranchyk and Jose Ramirez he was able to knock his opponent down. I think that the roaring Glasgow crowd will bring out the best in Taylor and I don’t see Catterall keeping him off for the full 12 rounds.
The weekend’s other big fight in the UK is on Sunday, when cruiser champion Lawrence Okolie defends his belt against Poland’s Michal Cieslak at the O2 Arena in London. Betfred has Okolie tabbed as a 1/7 favourite but Cieslak is a big, strong, capable fighter. He gave Ilunga Makabu plenty of trouble on Makabu’s home ground in the DRC. Some markets offer a total-rounds proposition of the contest to go over 7.5 rounds at 4/5 (-125). I like the look of that. Cieslak is coming to win, and while I favour Okolie I can see this developing into a gruelling struggle that could very well go into the eighth round and beyond.
A bet that quite appeals to me is Scott Forrest to win his pro debut inside the distance against trial horse Erik Nazaryan on the Taylor vs Catterall show. Forrest is a muscled cruiserweight and he towered over Nazaryan at the weigh-in. Nazaryan turned pro as a welterweight and he is now weighing 200-plus pounds. He’s 37 years old and he’s been stopped in three of his last five appearances.
The “Distance — No” proposition is generally priced at 1/3 (-300) but some shops offer an over/under of 2.5 rounds at about even money. Forrest towered over Nazaryan at the weigh-in. I’m sure he will be looking to win in style in front of a Scottish home crowd. I think, just by looking at the physical contrast between the two men, that Forrest can get this done inside the 90-second mark of the third round.
Main image: Taylor (left) can get to grips with Catterall tonight. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank.