IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston looks for the betting value on a packed weekend of boxing.

Sometimes waiting until the weigh-in before making a bet is the best policy. On Friday, Joseph Diaz came in 3.6 pounds overweight for his 130-pound title defence against Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov at Fantasy Springs casino in Indio, California, thus losing the title on the scales.

What does this mean for bettors? Will Diaz be much the stronger man in the ring on Saturday, like a little tank against a smaller opponent? Or has Diaz spent most of his training camp trying to lose weight, leading to a less-than-stellar effort in the ring?

I didn’t think Diaz looked great at the weigh-in. He looked a little soft. What we have now is basically a lightweight fighting a junior lightweight. With Rakhimov, at least we know he’s in fighting shape. With Diaz, we cannot be sure.

I’m thinking there might be value in Rakhimov at 13/8 at Betfred. The Russian fighter has been training at the Wild Card gym in Los Angeles so he should have had excellent sparring for the all-southpaw fight, and he’s undefeated.

In the co-feature at Fantasy Springs, Argentina’s Brian Carlos Castano challenges Brazil’s Patrick Teixeira for the WBO junior middleweight title. I like Castano but so does the betting public. Odds have soared out of control, with Castano priced at -650 in some spots. 

I’m seeing this as potentially a high-contact fight. The southpaw Teixeira is the longer, taller fighter. Castano is shorter and stronger. Each man has shown a willingness to stay in the pocket (that is, fight up close). I cut Teixeira some slack for his second-round KO defeat against Curtis Stevens five years ago. He simply got caught by a heavy hitter and he is now a better, more mature fighter. But Carlos Adames was able to hit Teixeira with right hands, and I see Castano as a better fighter than Adames.

I think Castano is unbackable at current prices but a play on the fight not going the distance might be worth a look. The price here is Evens at Betfred

Naturally, one of the weekend fights has fallen out, with Maxim Vlasov testing positive for Covid-19. So Vlasov will now not be meeting Joe Smith Jr. on Saturday’s Top Rank show in Las Vegas. The new main event is former lightweight champion Richard Commey vs Jackson Marinez.

The New York-based Ghanaian Commey is a very good puncher, with 26 KOs in 29 wins. However, the Dominican Marinez showed excellent boxing skills when losing a debatable decision to Rolando Romero. Marinez has sparred with Vergil Ortiz, the heavy-hitting junior welter, and I believe he acquitted himself well in these sessions. 

Commey suffered a demoralising type of defeat against Teo Lopez. He might not be quite as aggressive as we’ve seen him in the past, at least not initially. Fighters from the Dominican Republic can be suspect in the durability department but Marinez never seemed to be in any type of trouble against Romero, who packs pretty good power. The over 8.5 rounds proposition opened at slightly over even money, which I considered a fair price. Now the ticket price has moved to -175 (4/7), which isn’t as attractive.

On the other side of the pond, Matchroom Boxing offers three 12-round fights on its show at Wembley Arena on Saturday, each bout intriguing in its way. The most competitive of the matches (on paper, at least) sees Leigh Wood meeting Reece Mould for the vacant British featherweight title.

Wood has the greater experience and has boxed at a higher level but Mould is unbeaten and has done everything asked of him. We can’t be sure of Mould’s ceiling. He will need to rise to a new level to beat Wood. But can he do it? 

Each man predicts a KO. Wood is having his first bout under the direction of rising trainer Ben Davison while Mould is guided by trainer Sean O’Hagan in the Josh Warrington camp, so both will be well prepared.

My feeling about this fight is that Mould will bring pressure and that Wood will be looking to time him for sharp counters. The fight, to me, just has the feel of one that will end inside the distance. That might be worth considering at 11/8 (+138) at Betfred.

Zelfa Barrett vs Kiko Martinez is an interesting 12-round fight in the junior lightweight division. Money has shown for Kiko at several outlets but we don’t know how much he has left at almost 35 years of age. Also, Kiko is moving up in weight. There’s always a chance Kiko could land one of his heavy right hands or left hooks but after looking at the weigh-in I’m starting to think that the younger, bigger Barrett might be able to get the veteran out of there. 

There has been confusion over whether the fight was going to be 10 rounds or 12. It looks like 12. With two extra rounds to play with (that is, a 12-round contest), “distance — no” at 4/7 (-175) at Betfred looks a decent play. 

Josh Warrington, having vacated his IBF featherweight championship, appears in a non-title bout against Mauricio Lara, of Mexico City in the main event on the Matchroom show. Here again, there was confusion over the number of rounds, 10 or 12. The bout is now listed as a 12-rounder. Warrington is obviously a huge favourite and it is almost inconceivable that he would lose to his much less experienced opponent. Still, Lara looks like a tough, willing fighter and he’s on a winning run. I think Lara can put up a good showing. 

The total rounds proposition has been set at 6.5 at some books while others have 7.5. To me, the over 6.5 at 4/6 (-150) has promise. Although Lara once lost a fight by first-round KO, I think this might have been an aberration. He might simply have got hit before he was ready to get hit. Also, we’re in a no-crowds era, and Warrington might lack some of his usual intensity without his big Leeds support roaring him on. 

Mexican fighters have pulled off upsets in the UK over the years (Ignacio “Zurdo” Pina beating Freddie Gilroy, Raul Soriano shocking Ralph Charles, Manuel Medina edging out Scott Harrison). I can’t see an upset here but I do think Lara has the grit and toughness to get into the second half of round seven.

There are so many bets one could make this weekend. Please bet responsibly. Only make a wager if you have a solid feeling about the bet you’re placing. Proposition bets are always tricky to get right — they can be hit and miss. Never bet more than you can afford. And even a small win gives satisfaction. There is no need to try for a home run every time.