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 expecting Dereck Chisora to beat Kevin Johnson in the main event at the Copper Box Arena in London on Saturday and I’ve been trying to find ways to play the 12-round heavyweight fight — I don’t trust Chisora quite enough to suggest laying the price of -700 on him.
I was tempted to play Chisora to win by KO TKO DQ at +300 (Bet365) but not only has Johnson never been stopped, he has never come close to being stopped. Something holds me back, though, from making the “logical” play of Chisora to win by decision or technical decision.
Johnson as ever talks a great fight but he might have a point when he says that Chisora’s pressure-fighter style is made to order for him, because Johnson’s KO wins over Alex Leapai and Solomon Haumono in Australia were against fighters who came right to him. Edmund Gerber wobbled Chisora with a right hand last September, while Ondrej Pala was able to hit Chisora with left hooks before basically bailing out in the third round. If Johnson lets heavy shots go the way he did against Leapai and Haumono, there is a chance he can catch and hurt Chisora. Yet who can be sure which version of Kevin Johnson will turn up on Saturday?
I thought that Johnson blew a winnable fight by being unbelievably lazy and unmotivated against Christian Hammer last December, and he was in survival mode against Vitali Klitschko and Tyson Fury in fights that went the full 12 rounds.
If Johnson uses a safety-first style on Saturday, we can expect to see Chisora chugging his way to a widely scored win by decision. Things will get interesting, though, if Johnson starts throwing punches in a meaningful manner, because then we will have a fight.
Chisora looked good on the scales at 238 pounds and he says he plans to go out with the intention of hurting Johnson. If Chisora is true to his word and does indeed keep the pressure on Johnson, and keeps the punches coming, there just might be a possibility that Chisora could win inside the distance, perhaps with the referee waving the finish because Johnson isn’t fighting back. Maybe Chisora could get a DQ win if Johnson does too much holding and spoiling for the referee’s liking.
The plan of promoters Frank Warren and Mick Hennessy is for Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora to win their fights in style on Saturday to set up a big British showdown in which Chisora would be attempting to avenge a loss he suffered against Fury three years ago. It is important, then, that Fury and Chisora are not involved in tedious affairs on Saturday. Fury’s fight looks highly unlikely to go the distance and should be good fun for the spectators. If Chisora produces the sort of crowding, relentless style of which he is capable then he can play his part in setting up the Fury rematch as a must-see heavyweight event in the U.K.
Surely Chisora knows — surely it has been impressed upon him — that he can’t let Saturday’s fight turn into what American sportswriters of bygone years would have called a stinkeroo?
BETTING TIPS: I won’t endorse it officially, but a small play on “fight won’t go distance”, even if it’s only to win half a unit, might be worth considering if you are stuck as to how to play this fight. The “fight won’t go distance” proposition is available at +200 at Ladbrokes and +225 at 5 Dimes.
As a parlay suggestion, here’s one that might work (5 Dimes): Chisora to win by unanimous decision orKO TKO DQ; Tyson Fury vs Joey Abell not to got the distance, and astronomical favourites Hughie Fury, Frank Buglioni, Patrick Nielsen, Diego Chaves and Diego Magdaleno simply to win their fights on Saturday. This works out at a little bit better than even money (+108). I think we can safely give this a try, so I’ll make this parlay an “official” selection as a half-unit play (to win a tiny amount over half a unit).
While Joey Abell is somewhat dangerous with the left hand from his southpaw posture I see Tyson Fury at least a level above the veteran from Minnesota and I’m expecting the unbeaten British heavyweight to win by stoppage on the big show at London’s Copper Box Arena on Saturday.
Fury towered over Abell at today’s weigh-in and there was just something about Fury’s body language that made me think he will be looking to make this an early night. Fury has had a difficult time lately, with his wife needing an operation and persons unknown setting fire to his two cars that were parked on his property while the family was out of the country at Fury’s training camp in the south of France, while Fury suffered a scrape over the eye in sparring. I think that after all this, Fury will just want to get in the ring on Saturday and let his hands go.
Abell, 32, has been stopped in three of his last five fights. While he managed to drop Kubrat Pulev with a left hand last December, basically this was a case of the big man from Bulgaria beating up Abell, who was down four times from right hands to the body before his corner pulled him out after four rounds. Abell came in 242 pounds for Saturday’s fight, which is six and a half pounds lighter than he weighed for the Pulev bout in Germany, so he is obviously in better condition this time, but I just wonder how long he will want to be there once Fury starts to follow his jab with right hands in an assertive manner. If Abell lands a left hand that shakes up or staggers Fury I somehow don’t think we will see Fury going defensive on us — I think he will fire back. I can see Fury getting Abell out of the fight around about the fifth.
BETTING TIP: The under 5.5 rounds is being offered at -137 by Bet365 and I think this is a fair price. However, I am going to push the envelope a bit and suggest a double.
Fury to win by KO TKO DQ teamed with undefeated Londoner Frank Buglioni by KO TKO DQ over Italian veteran Gaetano Nespro in a 10-rounder for the WBO European super middleweight title on the Copper Box show looks quite promising. Buglioni, 24, isn’t anything out of the ordinary but he’s big and strong and he can punch a bit. Nespro is 34 and he was at his best in the middleweight division. He looked soft in the midsection at today’s weigh-in, and Buglioni towered over him. Nespro has stopped just three opponents in 31 bouts, and one of those stoppage wins was due to a cut eye. I don’t see Nespro being able to hold off Buglioni for 10 rounds.
Fury and Buglioni to win by KO TKO or DQ teamed in a double works out at -126.
Another play I looked at pairs Fury vs Abell to go under 5.5 rounds teamed with Buglioni to win by KO TKO or DQ. This works out at +171.
I think that the under 5.5 rounds in the Fury-Abell bout, and the double of Fury and Buglioni to win by KO TKO or DQ both have merit. However, I’ll endorse the highest-reward play: Fury vs Abell “under 5.5” teamed with Buglioni by KO TKO or DQ. I’ll suggest a risk of “to win one unit” on this play — I think it has a good chance of coming through for us.
It took a while before the real books came on board with betting lines for tonight’s intriguing Emmanuel Taylor-Chris Algieri junior welterweight fight and I’ve noticed two-way wagering action. Quite simply this contest — the 10-round main event on Friday Night Fights— is a tough one to get a really positive feeling about, and I can understand why the odds are pick ’em.
The first line I saw was Algieri priced at -175, Taylor at +130, at a low-limits sportsbook that bans players from my location. I would have played Taylor at that price simply as a good-value bet in a contest that either man can win. However, now, with both men showing at negative numbers, I don’t see any real value in wagering on this fight. However, that won’t stop me previewing the bout and taking a position.
Algieri is the hometown fighter in Huntington, NY — I believe he lives just 10 minutes from the arena. He is unbeaten, and although he had no amateur boxing experience to my knowledge he was a world kickboxing champion. Algieri is quite fast and athletic, and he is noted for stamina, not surprisingly as he has a Master’s Degree in nutrition. What I particularly like about Algieri is his dedication — he travels to the West Coast to train and to get world-class sparring, and I believe he has boxed something like 50 rounds with Marcos Maidana in the gym.
Taylor is the younger man and the better fighter from a purely technical standpoint. He moves forward in a steady, purposeful way, putting what I would call educated pressure on his opponents, and he has an excellent variety of punches. Without question Taylor is the puncher in the fight but I see Algieri as a bit quicker and much busier.
Algieri came through a couple of shaky moments to win a unanimous decision over Jose Peralta, a useful but unexceptional fighter from the Dominican Republic, last February in his highest-profile bout up to tonight’s (it was televised on NBC Sports Network). It was worrying to see Algieri hurt and having to hold on after getting caught by Peralta’s left hook at a couple of points in the fight, but Algieri fought through the crisis each time and finished in style, completely outworking and outpunching Peralta in the later rounds.
Taylor was a top-class amateur (finalist in the U.S. national championships), and he is coming into this bout after having scored highly impressive KO wins in his last two fights. He knocked out Raymond Serrano — who had lost only one of 19 previous fights — in the sixth round and, in his last fight, Taylor got off the floor to stop former world title challenger Victor Cayo in the eighth. However, Serrano had been wrecked in five rounds by Karim Mayfield in his last bout before meeting Taylor, which might have taken a lot out of him, while Cayo has always had a slightly fragile look and simply couldn’t match Taylor’s physical strength and firing power.
I think that Algieri’s plan tonight will be to use constant movement, popping out his long left jab, getting off with bursts of punches and speedily getting away, seeking to pick up points while preventing Taylor from establishing momentum. Taylor can be outworked and outpointed — it happened when the long and lanky Prenice Brewer edged him out via split decision in Taylor’s only loss.
However, Taylor can punch, and at some point he is going to catch Algieri and quite likely get him into trouble. The question then will be whether Algieri can hold on, get his legs working again and come back punching in his busy way.
I do get the sense that the Algieri people have worked diligently on a game plan for this fight, that they have studied Taylor very closely, whereas I just get the feeling that Taylor believes he can simply walk Algieri down and knock him out. It certainly helps Algieri to be at home tonight and to have the crowd roaring encouragement and trying to will him through the rough spots.
This fight is, to me, balanced on a knife’s edge. It wouldn’t stun me if Taylor were to catch up with Algieri and take him out of the fight, but my very slight lean — and I have gone back and forth on this — is that Algieri is going to rise to the occasion and come out a winner with movement and workrate.
BETTING TIP: As of midday PT, Algieri was priced at slightly above even money (-120 at both William Hill and 5 Dimes; -125 at The Greek). I’ll endorse Algieri, but cautiously — let’s say a “to win half a unit” play. It gives us some wagering action and if we win, great, if not, we won’t lose much, and at least we can be fairly sure that with Algieri we will get 100 per cent effort and commitment: he looks like the type of young man who will fight his heart out.
We’re in the familiar situation on Saturday of an unbeaten boxer taking a big step up in class. Carlos Diaz is unbeaten, but he could be in over his head when he meets the older and more seasoned Miguel Beltran Jr. in an all-Mexico junior lightweight 10-rounder in Tijuana.
Beltran, 24, is the obvious favourite. He’s had 31 bouts (just two losses) and he’s a two-time world title challenger, while Diaz has had only 12 fights — all wins, six inside the distance.
In Beltran’s first world title bid, against Juan Carlos Salgado in December 2011, the bout ended disappointingly in the second round when Salgado suffered a cut over the left eye from a clash of heads. Beltran won the opening round on all three judges’ cards but Salgado was settling down in the second round when the collision occurred, and the bout was ruled a no decision.
Beltran came very close to winning the WBO junior lightweight title in 2012, losing by split decision to Roman “Rocky” Martinez in Las Vegas in a fight that would have been a draw had Beltran not been docked a point for a blow to the back of the head — the errant delivery was described as a “meaningless tap” by Jim Lampley in the PPV commentary.
If you take away the fight with Rocky Martinez, though, there isn’t really anything on Beltran’s record that stands out as a stellar performance. He barely beat the tough but limited Miguel Roman by split decision, and the rough and ready Joksan Hernandez stopped Beltran in the last round of a 10-round fight. Beltran’s only bout since the loss to Martinez 17 months ago was a three-round KO last November over a 38-year-old boxer who had been stopped 10 times previously.
Diaz is only 19, but his last two fights were wins over undefeated boxers— a unanimous eight-round decision Sergio Nunez, a hard-hitting fighter from the Los Angeles area who had stopped five of his last six opponents, and a unanimous eight-round decision over Angel Rodriguez, a clever and fast, Mexican-promoted Venezuelan boxer.
Although Rodriguez had fought only eight times professionally, he was a top-level amateur who represented Venezuela in two world championships tournaments. The TV commentators thought that Diaz was lucky to win, but all three judges had Diaz comfortably ahead, and I thought that Diaz deserved the win — Rodriguez was doing a bit too much moving and not enough punching.
So, Diaz has had two step-up fights in a row and he’s come through them both. On Saturday, though, he is moving up still another level, and it’s going to be tough because Beltran can box and punch, and Beltran’s got that big advantage in experience.
Still, Diaz showed grit and determination to beat the tricky and speedy Rodriguez, who had a difficult style to overcome — “complicado” as the commentators put it. Diaz was aggressive and he threw hooks and right hands and some scything left uppercuts that, while missing more often than not, had Rodriguez looking wary throughout. Diaz, simply put, looked like the fighter who wanted it more.
Neither man is the hometown fighter on Saturday — Beltran is from Los Mochis and Diaz from Canelo Alvarez’s hometown of Guadalajara, both excellent “boxing” cities. I believe that both boxers are promoted by Zanfer promotions.
I see Diaz as a tough kid, one who, it seems to me, likes to fight, and I give him a decent chance. It occurs to me that his people would not be throwing him to the wolves, so to speak. Why would the management of a prospect put him into a fight such as this, so early in his career, if they thought he was overmatched, and thus risk ruining a promising career? It wouldn’t make sense. No, my instinct here is that the Diaz people believe that their fighter can win.
Diaz looked slightly the taller man in the weigh-in pictures, and he was looking into Beltran’s eyes in an intense way in the now-traditional face-off. Beltran, going purely by their records, should be the winner here — but I’m starting to believe in Diaz.
BETTING TIP: Diaz opened as about a +350 underdog, but some money has shown for him in the last several hours. Still, at current odds of +275 (Bet365 and The Greek; +290 at 5 Dimes) I think that Diaz is worth a shot. I’ll endorse Diaz for a half-unit wager. He might not win, but I am sure he will give it a terrific effort. As a straight pick with no money at risk I would probably go with Beltran, but from a wagering perspective I see value in Diaz, and I think he is in with a very good chance of pulling off the upset.
Some very interesting fights are coming up in the next several weeks but I’m waiting for lines to appear at a wider range of sportsbooks before getting into previews. Lines are in place across the board, though, for the “Battle of Wales” lightweight fight between Gavin Rees and Gary Buckland, which takes place in Cardiff on Feb. 1, and I decided to take an early look at this one.
I’ve taken a position on Buckland, who is the underdog. I think that Buckland might be being a bit undervalued after Stephen Smith knocked him out in the fifth round. It wasn’t as if Buckland was beaten up. He was right in the fight, although Smith was looking a bit too fast and classy for him. Then, in the fifth round, Buckland simply walked onto a perfectly timed right uppercut. It was that rarity — a one-punch knockout. These things happen in boxing.
Rees is the more experienced man, and he’s fought at the world-class level. I get the sense, though, that Rees is showing signs of wear and tear. Rees took a terrible hammering when he boxed Adrien Broner last February. In his last fight, Rees just didn’t seem to have the same relentless, buzzsaw aggression of old when Anthony Crolla outpointed him. It was a close fight, but Crolla seemed a clear winner, even backing up Rees on the ropes at times.
“Dynamo” Buckland is six years the younger man at the age of 27 and he looks the fresher fighter. It’s a slight concern that Buckland is moving up from 130 pounds for the fight, but he seems to think that this won’t be a problem. Prior to the Smith KO defeat, Buckland had won nine fights in a row, which included KO wins over Derry Mathews and Gary Sykes in Prizefighter, a unanimous — if close — decision win over Sykes in a rematch for the British 130 pounds title and a near-shutout unanimous decision win over Paul Truscott, while, in his last bout before meeting Smith, Buckland broke down Stephen Foster Jr., the former European 130 pounds champion, in eight rounds.
Rees and Buckland have sparred together quite a lot in the past, so they know each other well. Buckland says he jumped at the chance of fighting Rees.
You have to respect Rees, a former WBA champion at 140 pounds and a British and European champion at 135 pounds. A year ago I would have picked Rees without hesitation, but I do feel that the gritty veteran has slowed down just enough to make this a winnable fight for Buckland. In a fight that is likely to see a lot of punches thrown on both sides, I feel that Buckland will be able to dig deeper and work a little harder in most of the rounds to eke out a win on the scorecards.
BETTING TIP: Buckland is available at around +200 at a variety of sportsbooks. I’ll suggest a risk of one unit to win two units.