IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston weighs up the betting value in Saturday night’s action featuring a comebacking Keith Thurman against Mario Barrios and the crunch middleweight clash between Chris Eubank Jr and Liam Williams.
Both Chris Eubank Jr and Liam Williams looked good on the scales on Friday. Both men have been saying all the right things. Eubank says he will punish Williams until either he stops him or makes him quit; Williams says he will “smash this guy to bits”. So the stage is set for what should be an entertaining 12-round middleweight fight in Cardiff tonight.
Betfred lists Eubank as the favourite at 1/3 (-300) while Williams is offered at 5/2 (+250). Underdog backers might feel Williams is well worth a look. He’s fighting on home ground in Wales and he will have the crowd behind him. Williams could be poised to give an inspired performance. He’s a live underdog to be sure.
I don’t have a strong lean on the fight. As a straight pick, though, I’ll go with Eubank. He is faster, more athletic and more explosive.
Williams is tough and competent but he was basically outclassed by Demetrius Andrade in his last fight. Andrade almost stopped him in the second round. Williams was down and barely beat the count. Williams came back gamely and made a fight of it but he lost almost every round.
If Eubank can catch and hurt Williams he could pull off a spectacular victory, similar to his win over Avni Yildirim. I’ve had the impression with Eubank that to some extent he’s been working on what he’s learned in the gym since the great Roy Jones Jr started training him. Eubank seemed to have Marcus Morrison on the verge of being stopped several times but eased off, as if he wanted to get in a 10-round workout. In his last fight, against the Armenian Wanik Awdijan, Eubank was in with a defensive-minded southpaw and it isn’t easy to look good against a boxer who is basically in there to survive. But Eubank patiently walked his man down and hurt Awdijan to the body to force a retirement after five rounds.
These were basically tune-up fights in which Eubank was meeting overmatched opponents.
But he’s in a real fight tonight and I believe we’ll see Eubank putting it all on the line. Eubank is 32. He simply can’t afford a loss here. It’s time for him to deliver.
Williams, meanwhile, is on his third trainer, going from Gary Lockett to Dom Ingle to Adam Booth. While Williams scored a string of stoppage wins leading up to his gutsy losing fight with Demetrius Andrade, I think Adam Booth will have him boxing a smart, “boxing” type of fight tonight, using the jab and looking to counter crisply, the way Williams boxed, in fact, in his easy win over Mark Heffron in 2018. I don’t think Booth will want Williams going right at Eubank.
So this could be a cagey type of fight, at least in the early rounds. I feel there’s a real risk of Eubank letting the fight slip away from him if Williams is allowed to get comfortable. Eubank must put pressure on Williams from the start.
However, if Eubank can impose his authority from the get-go with a forward-motion style and combinations, this becomes a very winnable fight for him.
A tactical 12-round bout is a possibility and, if that’s how you’re thinking, Betfred offers “fight to go the distance” at 4/5 (-125) while “not to go the distance” is even money.
It really is a coin toss as to whether the fight reaches the final bell. But I feel that there is likely to come a point in the fight where Williams will have to let his hands go just to keep Eubank off him. So, if you like Eubank to win and think a firefight will eventually break out, then Eubank to win inside the distance at 11/8 (-138) might be the bet for you.
And if you are really undecided but simply want some action, Betfred has a number of fun bets on the board. For instance, Williams not to be knocked down is even money. Neither fighter to be knocked down is 9/4 (+225). “One knockdown only” is offered at 13/8 (+164).
For me, the best look is Eubank to win inside the distance at plus odds. Williams was almost gone against Demetrius Andrade, who isn’t considered a seriously hard hitter. If Eubank can start getting to Williams, maybe in the second half of the fight, I think he can break him down for a late-round TKO.
Former welterweight champion Keith Thurman looks in great shape at 1451⁄2 for Saturday’s PPV main event against Mario Barrios. It’s Thurman’s first fight in 30 months and he’s obviously prepared well. But Thurman is 33 and he’s had just three fights in five years — wins over Danny Garcia and Josesito Lopez by split and majority decision and the loss to a 40-year-old Manny Pacquiao. He was on the floor against Pacquiao and Thurman had a terrible seventh round against Lopez, when a left hook had him in a world of trouble and back-pedalling for survival.
This is Barrios’ first bout since Tank Davis stopped him in the 11th round last June, which was Barrios’ first defeat. He looks bigger and stronger since moving up from 140 to 147 pounds. Barrios, 26, has the height and reach advantages and I think he will likely look the bigger man in the ring.
Thurman should win on sheer experience and talent though I’m not ruling out an upset. but we don’t know how much he has left after so long out of the ring. Barrios has decent boxing ability, he’s taller and longer than Thurman — and frankly Thurman wasn’t impressive in his last two fights. Looking at the available odds, “Distance — Yes” at 8/11 (-138) doesn’t seem a bad idea. The last time Thurman stopped an opponent was in 2015 and I’m thinking that Barrios will be much stronger at 147 than he was at 140.
Main image: Thurman (left) and Barrios collide on Saturday night. Photo: Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions.