IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston weighs up the betting value on a busy fight weekend featuring the rematch between Dereck Chisora and Kubrat Pulev, as well as the WBC featherweight title clash between Mark Magsayo and Rey Vargas.
We have big fights in both the US and UK to look forward to this evening. Let’s start with the Philippines vs Mexico featherweight title fight between Mark Magsayo and Rey Vargas in Texas.
Magsayo pulled off an upset when narrowly outpointing Gary Russell Jr in January to win the WBC title. Now he goes straight into a mandatory defence against Vargas at the Alamodome in San Antonio, where illustrious countryman Manny Pacquiao stopped Marco Antonio Barrera in another Philippines vs Mexico match-up (also in the 126lbs division) back in 2003.
The betting public has struggled to get a clear read on Magsayo vs Vargas. Money has shown for each of these undefeated boxers but neither has been established as the clear favourite. It really is a tough fight to call. Indeed, at time of typing Betfred offered both men at pick’em odds of 10/11 (-110).
Vargas is having only his second bout at 126lbs but the former super-bantam champ looked big and strong at Friday’s weigh-in. And Vargas’ busy, high-energy style didn’t seem to have been affected by inactivity or the move up in weight when he won a unanimous decision over willing but outclassed Leonardo Baez last November.
Magsayo is the puncher in the fight, and we’ve seen Vargas dropped and hurt. But if Vargas is allowed to get into his hit-and-move groove, peppering Magsayo with quick punches and stepping out to avoid counters, the Filipino fighter could find himself struggling to catch up.
While Magsayo is talented he can be a bit too patient. He needs to stay right on Vargas and try to make the ring smaller by applying pressure. Magsayo needs to hurt Vargas early. If he can do so, he has a real chance of winning, perhaps even by stoppage. With this in mind, Betfred offers a nice price of 4/1 (+400) for Magsayo to win inside the distance.
On paper, Vargas’ most likely method of victory is via decision, and this proposition is available at around 6/4 (+150) across the industry. However, Magsayo has been knocked down in a couple of fights, so a Vargas stoppage win isn’t completely out of the question.
I just don’t have a strong lean on this intriguing match-up but I did prefer Vargas’ body language at the weigh-in. He had the look of a fighter who is certain he will win, very calm and composed, while Magsayo was somewhat hyper, bouncing on his toes and pounding his chest.
However, this is virtually a spin-of-the coin contest. With the bout drawing closer I’m starting to edge towards Vargas. But the thing with Magsayo is that we can’t be sure of the level he can reach. Magsayo has shown flashes of brilliance but I’m just not sure that he can put it all together in a consistent manner against such a difficult opponent as Vargas.
On the other side of the pond, the UK’s big fight tonight sees always-entertaining heavyweight slugger Dereck Chisora going up against Kubrat Pulev in a rematch. Pulev won what seemed to me a fairly clear decision when they met six years ago, although one judge scored in favour of Chisora.
That was then, this is now. Chisora has been more active than Pulev since they last met but the downside is that he has taken on more punishment than the big man from Bulgaria.
Pulev is the superior technician, no question, but Chisora will be in there swinging. If you think Chisora can land a haymaker in, say, the manner in which he pulled the fight out of the fire against Carlos Takam, Betfred offers a Boxing Social price booston the home fighter to win by KO, TKO or DQ at 5/1 (+500). But Chisora looked a diminished fighter when losing to Joseph Parker last December. He was given three eight counts in that fight and there were times when it looked as if Chisora wouldn’t make it to the final bell.
Still, this is heavyweight boxing, Pulev is 41. He could “go” at any time. But so could Chisora, who is no youngster himself at 38 years of age. I think Pulev’s superior skills will likely see him through but the ticket price isn’t appealing at 1/3 (-300). If you look at the age of these veteran fighters and get the sense that one or the other will wind up getting stopped, Betfred offers “Distance — No” at even money. That might not be a bad way to go.
A bet that quite appeals to me is Caoimhin Agyarko to win by stoppage against Lukasz Maciec on the Chisora vs Pulev bill at the O2 Arena. This is Agyarko’s first bout in the 154lbs division after racking up an 11-0 record at middleweight. I thought Agyarko looked tremendous on the scales at Friday’s weigh-in, with a shredded physique and a glow about him. Poland’s Maciec is tough and gutsy, and he went the full 10 rounds with Anthony Fowler. However, I thought Maciec was close to being stopped in the Fowler fight.
It would be quite a statement if Agyarko could become the first to stop Maciec. I think he can get it done. Agyarko is talented and he’s a good puncher. His stoppage win over Noe Larios Jr has aged well, considering Larios subsequently took unbeaten up-and-comer Nikita Ababiy the distance and made a competitive fight of it.
Betfred offers Agyarko to win inside the distance at 9/5 (+180), with “Distance — No” priced at 13/8 (+160). I think it’s worth taking a stab at either of these plus-money propositions. I believe the chance for an inside-schedule win will be there for Agyarko. But, of course, he will have to go for it.
Main image: Chisora (left) and Pulev (right) recommence hostilities in London tonight. Photo: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.