Photos by Sumio Yamada
Picks of the Week - Free Sample
The ratings system: How it works
Five stars: Pick of the week.
Four stars: Looks like a winner.
Three stars: Solid selection.
Two stars: Cautiously optimistic
One star: Speculative play
I’m sure you’ve all heard the rumour about Chad Dawson getting knocked out in sparring by Edison Miranda. A reliable source assures me that it really happened although no one knows for sure unless they were in the gym with Dawson. Still, I am now seriously wondering whether shedding weight might have compromised Dawson’s punch-resistance. Was it really such a good idea for Dawson to drop from the light-heavyweight division to meet 168-pound champion Andre Ward? I’m looking forward to finding out in Saturday’s big fight on HBO.
Twice before, to my knowledge, light-heavyweights have cut weight to box at 168 pounds and the fight ended badly for each of them — Prince Charles Williams lost by knockout to James Toney in the last round and Donnie Lalonde suffered a ninth-round stoppage defeat against Sugar Ray Leonard.
Williams won most of the early rounds but Toney steadily wore him down; Lalonde also had early success in his fight with Leonard, even knocking down Sugar Ray, but, as was the case with Williams, Lalonde became weaker the longer the fight lasted.
Perhaps things will be different with Dawson. We just don’t know. However, he looked muscular and trim as a 175-pounder and it surely cannot help him to come down six or seven pounds in weight.
Training-camp rumours are part of boxing. Sometimes the rumour is fact. The buzz before the Terry Norris-Meldrick Taylor fight in Las Vegas was that Taylor had been knocked out in sparring. Norris’s camp certainly believed this to be true. I remember bumping into Norris’s cowboy-hat-wearing manager Joe Sayatovich at The Mirage casino hotel sportsbook. He was on his way to place a big bet on Norris to win by KO.
By all logic, Ward versus Dawson goes the full 12 rounds. The oddsmakers all agree on this. I’m seeing the chance of an inside-schedule win for Ward, though.
Dawson is a tall, talented southpaw but I didn’t like the way that Bernard Hopkins was catching him with right hands in their rematch. I had massive exposure on Dawson in that fight and I was getting nervous. Ward is solid, steady, skilled and reliable — and I believe he is stronger and tougher than generally realised. He is giving away height and reach on Saturday, but Ward beat a much taller boxer, the Russian Makarenko, on his way to the Olympic gold medal. I think that Ward can find a way to land right hands.
Fighting in his hometown of Oakland will obviously help Ward but I would pick him to beat Dawson even on neutral ground. To me, Dawson hasn’t looked really impressive for some time now. Jean Pascal outfought and outhustled him; the strong but limited Adrian Diaconu landed too many right hands for my liking.
Dawson seemed to me to be showing Hopkins too much respect even though he won widely on two judges’ cards. I think that Dawson can look good in spurts on Saturday, but I feel that Ward will be fighting the more consistent type of fight and will win most of the rounds. I can see Ward getting inside quickly, pushing Dawson back and wearing him down.
There seems a tendency with Dawson to drift out of fights mentally, almost as if his mind switches off. Ward, though, seems the type of fighter who remains fully focused every moment of every round.
I’m expecting Ward to win, and I think he can do so convincingly.
BETTING TIP: I don’t feel comfortable laying the price of almost -400 on Ward. I was thinking about endorsing Ward to win by decision, which seems the most logical outcome. The rumour about Dawson getting knocked out in sparring does concern me, though, and Dawson is boxing at 168 pounds for the first time in more than six years, which is something else that bothers me. The bet I most like is “fight won’t go the distance”. This is available at several books at around +300. It covers the possibility of a head clash stopping the fight as well as the possibility that Dawson’s durability might be a bit questionable here. The Ward KO TKO or DQ proposition is very tempting indeed at odds as high as +700, but I’ll stick with the “won’t go distance” play as a one-star endorsement.
We have a huge number of fights taking place on Saturday, many with wagering lines offered. I’ve been looking at all of these fights. Here are my thoughts on some of these bouts.
MARCO ANTONIO RUBIO vs CARLOS BALDOMIR
Former welterweight champion Carlos Baldomir has moved all the way up to the 168-pound division and the Argentinean veteran faces a tough task far from home in Mexico when he meets Marco Antonio Rubio in a 12-round bout. Both men weighed in at 167 pounds but whereas Rubio seems to be carrying the weight well I thought that Baldomir looked soft in the body in the weigh-in photos. Baldomir is 41 years old but he won his last fight by knockout back home in Argentina. Rubio is the taller, naturally bigger man and nine years younger than Baldomir. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr was too big and too strong for him in their middleweight title bout in February, but Rubio came back with a stoppage win over a previously unbeaten fellow-Mexican named Jorge Cota. Baldomir is tough but I don’t think he’ll be able to keep Rubio off for 12 rounds. The over/under has been set at 7.5 rounds, with the over favoured. I can see a stoppage win for Rubio any time from the eighth round onwards and although I’m not endorsing it I think that the under 7.5 at +170 has possibilities.
MAGOMED ABDUSALAMOV vs JAMEEL McCLINE
Unbeaten Russian prospect Abdusalamov is a big-hitting southpaw who is boxing at home in Moscow on the Klitschko-Charr show. I was all set to endorse the under 6.5 rounds proposition but McCline weighed in at a very respectable 265 pounds, his lightest weight in years, which suggests he is in shape and coming to try. Although McCline is 42 his experience and size make him a good test for Abdusalamov, especially as McCline does seem to be well prepared. However, Abdusalamov can really whack with the left hand from out of his southpaw stance, and he has an extremely aggressive style — all 15 of his wins have been by KO. If past performances are anything to go by Abdusalamov will be coming right at McCline, looking to do damage. I expect a stoppage win for Abdusalamov, maybe around the seventh round. The under 6.5 is available at about even money at 5 Dimes and Bodog. I think that the “under” has a good chance of coming in a winner, but with McCline apparently in his best condition for some time I’ll pass on making an endorsement.
VYACHESLAV GLAZKOV vs KONSTANTIN AIRICH
Ukrainian prospect Glazkov won a silver medal in the world championships and a bronze in the Olympics and he should be able to beat the veteran Airich in their 10-rounder on the Klitschko-Charr show. Certainly form points to Glazkov, who stopped the Nigerian Gbenga Oloukun in his last fight whereas Oloukun stopped Airich in the fourth round a couple of years ago. Airich went the full 12 rounds with Odlanier Solis in his last fight, although well beaten, and so it would seem he has a good chance of at least going the distance on Saturday. The over 9.5 rounds at +140 looks at first glance like a decent play to me but I am not comfortable making an endorsement here — Airich has been stopped three times and Solis appeared to be going easy on him in a fight that frankly resembled a sparring session.
MALIK SCOTT vs BOWIE TUPOU
Trainer Joe Goossen has been telling me for years that heavyweight Malik Scott is an under-the-radar talent. Scott is a technician who isn’t exciting but simply keeps winning. He’s 34-0 and he’s hardly lost a round. Scott meets Tongan hopeful Bowie Tupou in an eight-rounder on Saturday’s big Andre Ward-Chad Dawson show in Oakland, CA. Tupou played rugby league football in Australia before turning to boxing and he is impressively built and can certainly punch. The eight-round distance might slightly favour Tupou, who seemed to run out of steam in the last two rounds in a very close win over Donnell Holmes last December. Scott versus Tupou offers an intriguing contrast in styles: Tupou is stronger and heavier handed but Scott has the better boxing skills. I’m going with the classier boxer, Scott, to pull out a win by decision.
BETTING TIP: A parlay of all the favourites — Rubio, Abdusalamov, Glazkov and Scott — should work out at around -125 depending on your sportsbook. I do expect these favourites to win although the Malik Scott fight makes me the most nervous. I’ll endorse the accumulator as a two-star selection. (Adding Tony Bellew to beat Edison Miranda would bring the accumulator into the +116 range but I don’t want to push my luck.)
While Andre Ward is meeting Chad Dawson in the weekend’s biggest fight on HBO, there’s an excellent bout on the Showtime network on Saturday, with Argentina’s relentless and very hard-hitting Lucas Matthysse taking on the undefeated Olusegun Ajose, of Nigeria, for the vacant interim WBC 140lbs title.
This is a fascinating fight. Matthysse will be bringing power and pressure, round after round, while Olusegun will be relying on speed, movement and rapid countering from out of his southpaw stance.
Matthysse is deservedly the clear favourite. He looked almost unstoppable in his last fight when crushing the veteran Humberto Soto in five rounds. Matthysse is a little unlucky not to be undefeated. His only losses, to Zab Judah and Devon Alexander, were on split decisions in fights that could easily have been scored in Matthysse’s favour. Matthysse dropped his opponent in each of these bouts. In each of these contests it was the other man who looked relieved to hear the final bell.
Ajose’s southpaw style might not be much of a problem for Matthysse, who was able to land his right hands through the middle against the southpaws Judah and Alexander. One of Matthysse’s most impressive wins was over a southpaw, DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley — Matthysse floored Corley eight times in an eight-rounds stoppage victory.
We can’t be sure how good Olusegun is but we will know after Saturday night. Certainly Olusegun has dominated most of his opponents. He is fast, flashy and throws punches from all angles but he likes to showboat and clown around. If he does this on Saturday he could find himself in trouble because I don’t think that Ajose has too much margin for error in this fight.
Matthysse is formidable but he can be outboxed. I can envisage Ajose hitting Matthysse with clusters of punches, and making Matthysse miss. Whether he can keep doing this for round after round is another matter.
I think everything depends on how well Ajose can take Matthysse’s punches. If Ajose starts to slow down and starts getting hit consistently, he’ll lose. If, though, Ajose can stand up to Matthysse’s punches and come back with showy, eye-catching shots, he can pull out the win. After all, a possibly weight-drained Devon Alexander was able to bounce back from a fourth-round knockdown to outhustle Matthysse in several rounds; Zab Judah was able to pile up points before Matthysse’s pressure told on him in the later rounds. Ajose seems to be strong and he appears to have excellent stamina — I’m leaning towards Matthysse but I consider Ajose a live underdog.
BETTING TIP: I took a shot with the “over 9.5”. This line is offered at a reasonable -154 at Bwin and -150 at SkyBet. I’ll make it a two-star choice.
The 50-1 odds say it all: Vitali Klitschko’s WBC heavyweight title defence in Moscow on Saturday against Manuel Charr is as close to a mismatch as it gets. If Charr wins it will be one of boxing’s all-time biggest upsets. It’s most unlikely to happen.
Charr, born in Beirut but German-based, is unbeaten, but he is taking a massive step up in class. His confident talk about “destroying” Klitschko smacks of whistling past the graveyard.
An overwhelming victory by Klitschko is the anticipated result. Indeed, the Klitschko KO, TKO or DQ proposition is priced at around -600.
Charr looks quite sturdy, but he is a limited fighter. He moves in with gloves up and throws punches in an unimaginative, somewhat mechanical manner. It took Charr seven rounds to stop a 37-year-old, sadly faded Danny Williams, while in his last fight the self-styled “Diamond Boy” laboured to outpoint Taras Bidenko, who had been stopped in six rounds by Denis Boytsov and in three rounds by Robert Helenius.
I share the oddsmakers’ opinion that Klitschko is going to stop Charr — the only question is when the fight will end. Klitschko is 41 and he is active in politics in his Ukrainian homeland but he seems to have trained as hard as he has ever done. I think it is important to Klitschko that he wins impressively, but this doesn’t mean that he will necessarily be looking to blow Charr out quickly.
Klitschko tends to be careful and calculating. He likes to pace himself and wear down the other man before he moves in for the finish. It might take several rounds for Klitschko to break Charr down, especially if the challenger keeps his guard tight. Klitschko’s fights tend to go long these days: Since returning to boxing in 2008 after his four-year layoff due to assorted injuries Klitschko has had nine fights and only one of them has ended before the eighth round — his first-round win over Odlanier Solis, who blew out a knee. So a quick win on Saturday doesn’t, to me, look likely. My first thoughts on the fight were “Klitschko TKO8” and I’m still thinking broadly along these lines. The big problem here is that we don’t know if Charr has it in him to give a career-best performance or whether he will freeze in the big-fight spotlight.
I’m not really comfortable making a wagering endorsement because there are unknown factors. For instance, Klitschko has a history of injuries and indeed suffered ligament damage in his left shoulder in February’s win over Dereck Chisora — if Klitschko finds himself physically compromised in some way, a longer type of fight becomes likely on Saturday. This fight could turn out to be totally one-sided, though — Charr could be hopelessly out of his league — so unless you are a lot more solid in your opinion than I am I would suggest treading carefully.
BETTING TIP: There are many propositions available for this fight, a multitude of choices. For Europe-based players, I quite like the look of Klitschko to win in rounds 7-12 at odds of roughly +137 at SkyBet or the under 8.5 at -150 at Paddy Power. I will make either play a two-star selection. With so many wagering options there is ample opportunity to get creative, playing both the “over” and the “under” and locking in at least one winning wager. What I did was to play the “over 6.5” at 5 Dimes and the “under 8.5” at Bet365. This way, I am guaranteed to win one of my bets and have a chance of catching a middle — a Klitschko win in round 8 would be perfect for me.
With so many fights scheduled for this weekend I didn’t want to leave it till the weekend to start looking at all of them. Some fights have yet to have wagering lines posted, while in other fights we merely have the “who wins?” wagering line with no propositions available.
However, odds are in place for Saturday’s light-heavyweight 12-rounder between Tony Bellew and Edison Miranda, with Sky Sports televising from North London’s Alexandra Palace. Bellew, the British champion from Liverpool, is favoured at around -500 and obviously I won’t be laying the price. Miranda is a young veteran at 31 and the Miami-based Colombian still looks dangerous. In his last fight, against Isaac Chilemba, Miranda boxed with the handicap of a severe cut over the left eye from the third round. If it hadn’t been for the cut, this could have been a different fight — Chilemba wasn’t enjoying Miranda’s early pressure.
Although Miranda has lost four of his last seven fights he’s the type of boxer who can never be completely written off. Miranda can fight and he can definitely punch. Last December he demolished Kariz Kariuki, a Kenyan Olympic representative who lives in Australia, in the fifth round. Six of Miranda’s last seven wins have been by KO.
Bellew is a former English amateur heavyweight champion who moved down in weight to box as a light-heavyweight when he turned professional. He hasn’t always been impressive. Bellew had a struggle with the awkward southpaw Bob Ajisafe, having to survive a knockdown before winning on points, and he barely escaped getting stopped early by Ovill McKenzie, suffering two knockdowns in the first two rounds before rallying to stop the heavy handed veteran in the eighth — in the rematch Bellew boxed a safety-first fight and won comfortably on points.
In his last two fights, though, Bellew really seemed to come into his own. Bellew fought Nathan Cleverly right down to the wire in losing a very tight, majority decision last October, and in his last fight he lived up to his “Bomber” nickname by blasting Danny McIntosh into defeat in the fifth round.
Miranda as always is talking a great fight, but this is what we have come to expect from the colourful “Pantera”. He does seem to be very confident, though, seeing himself as much the more experienced boxer and, in his own mind, the authentic puncher in this fight.
I see Bellew winning but it’s likely going to be a tense battle. It is very tempting to take a shot with Miranda as a +350 underdog. However, Bellew showed he has the capacity to box a careful, intelligent fight when he outboxed McKenzie in their rematch and I think that we will see him giving a similar type of performance on Saturday — I believe Bellew will be looking to box his way through the early rounds and come on strongly later in the fight. Bellew, I believe, has the height, reach, boxing ability and movement to weather Miranda’s initial onslaught, and I think that Bellew hits hard enough to slow down Miranda a bit and keep him from simply walking through the British boxer. I do see this as a risky fight for Bellew, but if he is the world-class fighter his people believe him to be he has to be able to win this type of bout.
BETTING TIP: The over 7.5 rounds at -137 at PaddyPower looks good to me. I will make this a two-star selection. If I have any additional thoughts closer to the fight I’ll send out an update.