Weekend Betting Angle – Warrington vs Lara II

IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston seeks the betting value in tonight’s intriguing featherweight rematch between former IBF champion Josh Warrington and Mexican conqueror Mauricio Lara in Leeds.

Mexican featherweight Mauricio Lara pulled off one of the biggest shocks in British boxing in years when he knocked out Josh Warrington in the ninth round in London in February. They meet again tonight. Warrington is again the favourite, but this time the odds are narrow.

Warrington wanted this fight, which is scheduled for 12 rounds. He was undefeated going into the first fight with Lara and basically he feels that he cannot rest until he has avenged his only loss. 

This time around Warrington will be on home ground in Leeds, with perhaps 20,000 fans roaring their support. It’s possible he underestimated Lara the first time. Warrington will no doubt be fired up and ready to go through hell to turn the tables on Lara. But can he do it?

Lara looks like a strong-minded individual. He won a fight in Argentina before coming to Britain to face Warrington. Lara doesn’t look the type to be fazed by a hostile reception from the crowd.

In the first fight between the two, Warrington was flattened. The referee didn’t bother to count. Warrington was given oxygen as he lay sprawled on his back on the ring floor.

It was a tough, gruelling contest. Warrington did some damage. Lara had a nasty swelling under the right eye and a cut over the eye. But the sense one had was that Lara was hurting Warrington more than Warrington was hurting Lara. Indeed, in the fourth round Warrington looked a punch or two from being stopped. He was wobbling around the ring and barely got through the round. No one would have blamed referee Howard Foster or the Warrington corner had the decision been made to stop the contest at this juncture. But Warrington was allowed to continue and he came back to have some good moments before getting KO’d in the ninth.

If you think Warrington can put things right tonight, Betfred offers the “Leeds Warrior” at 8/11 [-138]. Lara, such a massive underdog last time — he was 10/1 in some spots — is available at 6/5 (+120).

Potential Lara backers must be looking at the odds and asking themselves where all the value has gone. Well, this is what happens when an underdog wins the first fight by KO. Then there is the home-crowd factor. In the first meeting, the bout was held in a studio-type setting. This time Warrington will have 20,000 fans doing their utmost to will him to victory.

Some might believe that a fighter who stops his opponent has the psychological advantage if they meet again. But ring history shows us that fighters can come back to avenge losses against opponents who stopped them the first time around. Floyd Patterson, Chiquita Gonzalez, Sergey Kovalev, Terry Norris, Hugo Ruiz, Pone Kingpetch, Victor Galindez, Felix Sturm and the great Willie Pep are just some of the fighters who got revenge after being stopped — in some cases flat-out KO’d. You could add the name of Lennox Lewis, who bombed out Hasim Rahman in their rematch, but Rahman’s KO win in the first fight is largely considered a fluke result. I don’t include Louis vs Schmeling because in the time that had elapsed since the first fight the younger Louis had improved and matured while Schmeling had gone back.

Usually though, a boxer who stops his opponent wins the rematch, often by KO again. Think of, say, Carmen Basilio vs Tony De Marco, Salvador Sanchez vs Danny Little Red Lopez, Carlos Monzon vs Nino Benvenuti, Jose Becerra vs Alphonse Halimi, Gene Fullmer against Carmen Basilio, Aaron Pryor vs Alexis Arguello, Moore vs Durelle, Holyfield vs Tyson and Carl Froch vs George Groves. In each case, the victor won both the first meeting and also the return bout inside the distance. (Although Tyson was disqualified in the Holyfield rematch, that counts as a KO for betting purposes.)

When a boxer gets payback against a fighter who stopped him, it is sometimes because of a change in tactics, such as when Terry Norris outpointed Simon Brown and Chiquita Gonzalez edged out Michael Carbajal. Norris used a moving, jabbing style, never staying in one place very long, in the rematch with Brown; Chiquita chose to stay back and counter instead of going toe-to-toe in his return bout with Carbajal.

There are cases where a boxer simply gets caught and isn’t able to recover but wins the rematch by being more intensely focused: Patterson, somewhat casual in the loss to Johansson, was a different animal the second time around.

The thing with the first Lara vs Warrington fight, though, is that Lara was catching Warrington with good shots almost from the start. It wasn’t a case of, say, Warrington unluckily getting tagged when he was winning on points. Lara showed that despite being a huge underdog he was very much on Warrington’s level.

Lara will be coming into Saturday’s fight with his confidence sky high. He’s won 12 fights in a row (10 by KO). If the rematch turns into a long, gruelling battle, Lara will always have it in the back of his mind that he was able to knock out Warrington in the first encounter and that if he just endures, and keeps fighting as hard as he can, there will always be the chance that he can knock him out again.

It’s possible, of course, that Warrington will be a different fighter in the rematch, that he will use movement and angles, keep the jab pumping and stay clear of exchanges. If Warrington can get off to a strong start and win the early rounds there’s a good chance he can keep that momentum going and simply outbox Lara. After all, going into the first fight there was nothing in Lara’s record to suggest he was going to leave Warrington stretched out on the canvas. But has that brutal defeat taken something out of Warrington? Does Lara simply have Josh’s number? Lara is only 23, Warrington is 30. Could it be that Warrington has peaked?

If you really can’t make up your mind who will win, what about the proposition market? If you doubt that rematch will go the full 12 rounds, you’re looking at 11/10 (-110) on “Distance — No”. But if you’re thinking that we are indeed looking at a fight that will hear the final bell, “Distance — Yes” is offered at 4/5 (-125). In other words, it’s a coin toss. 

Lara by KO again? The odds here aren’t especially generous at 13/8 (+162). Warrington to box his way to a 12-round decision? That’s available at 6/5 (+120). Warrington by KO TKO DQ is priced at 11/2 (+550). That might be worth consideration. Lara is hittable and his eye was looking banged up in the first meeting. Lara by decision seems the least likely outcome. That’s offered at 9/1 (+900). 

What else is there to consider? Warrington’s home advantage could be cancelled out by the fact that Lara has had longer to prepare for this fight. Lara was clearly brimful of confidence at Friday’s weigh-in while Warrington looked to me to be wound-up as tightly as a steel spring. You can interpret the body language any way you like. 

The fight could go either way, but I made up my mind that if Lara was offered at anything better than even money for the rematch I’d be on him. I was frankly hoping for a better price than 6/5 but it will just have to do.

Main image: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.