Gambler's Guide: Handicapping Boxing's 5 Biggest Upcoming Fights

Briggs Seekins@BriggsfighttalkFeatured ColumnistOctober 30, 2012

Gambler's Guide: Handicapping Boxing's 5 Biggest Upcoming Fights

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    Americans love watching sports, and many of them do so purely because they enjoy the drama and excitement of the competition. 

    But a lot of other fans like to have a little something on the action. 

    And boxing action can be one of the most rewarding bets to play if you take the time to develop at least a decent academic knowledge of the sport. A shrewd player can sometimes pick out certain undervalued underdogs and collect big. 

    At other times, two fighters might be close enough that just one particular insight gleaned over watching several fights can be enough to lead the educated bettor in the right direction. 

    But be advised: It's boxing, the ultimate epic sport. Guys are throwing punches with bad intentions for over half an hour. There is a room for a lot of things to happen that you never could have seen coming.  

Abner Mares Versus Anselmo Moreno: November 10

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    For serious fans, this is a big-time showdown between two highly-regarded fighters who are at or near pound-for-pound top 10 status on a lot of people's lists. The odds for this fight are dead even right now.  

    Mares is the WBC super bantamweight champion. He beat the talented veteran Eric Morel by near shut out UD in April and did the same against Joseph Abeko last December, a rematch of his controversial majority decision win over Abeko in August 2011. 

    Mares is a young fighter (26) who has shown steady improvement in each of his fights over the past couple of years. A lot fans view Mares (24-0-1, 13 KOS) versus Nonito Donaire as the top super fight at 122.

    Moreno, meanwhile, has been just as hot recently, though against a somewhat less impressive array of opponents. Still, the common opponent between the two is former world champion VIc Darchinyan, a fight that Moreno won by wider margin.

    This is a fight that I see going to the cards. Mares will look to attack Moreno's body early. He excels at tenderizing opponents' ribs and sapping their energy round after round. He is a volume puncher but accurate, and his ability to put together multi-punch combinations attacking both the head and body makes him extremely dangerous for anybody who gets into middle and close range against him.

    At the same time, Moreno is a difficult puzzle for anybody to solve. He has great agility and unorthodox footwork, which can make for a very elusive target.

    It's important to note that Moreno is a southpaw and he is very good at sneaking his lead foot outside of an orthodox opponent, allowing him to surprise them with jolting overhand lefts straight down the pike. One of Mares' two toughest fights was against southpaw Vic Darchinyan.

    But that was nearly two years ago. Mares is trained by the legendary Hall of Famer Nacho Beristain, so his steady progress is expected and has so far been evident.

    This will be Mares' toughest fight yet, and very close for the first seven or eight rounds. I expect that by the last third of the fight, Mares' bodywork will have successfully worn Moreno down enough to pull away on the cards.

    I expect Moreno to push Mares, but Mares will elevate his game under pressure. 

    But there's a reason this fight is dead even. The smart money is justifiably split. 

    Mares has, at times, struggled against fighters who are probably not as talented as Moreno.  

Wladimir Klitschko Versus Mariusz Wach: November 10

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    Also on November 10, world heavyweight champion Wladimir Kltischko (58-3, 50 KOs) will take on undefeated Mariusz Wach (27-0, 15 KOs). 

    Wach is a heavy underdog. Wladimir and his older brother Vitali have ruled un-challenged over the heavyweight division for most of this century, and Wach has beaten nobody even remotely in the champion's class. 

    But Wach has beaten some decent fighters, and given the current state of the division, I suppose he is as worthy as many other recent challengers. 

    But it's hard for me to see him having any serious chance. The 6'7" Polish fighter has a good amateur background and relies on efficient straight punching. His foot work is solid but not spectacular.

    Solid most of the time. In some of his footage, I have seen him demonstrate a bad habit of squaring up when he throws his overhand right, jerking his back foot out of position and almost flinging the punch like a kid who doesn't know how to throw a ball.

    If he gets sloppy and does something like that against Klitschko, he is going to square up directly into one of the champ's devastating overhand rights.

    Honestly, it's hard for me to see Wach making it to the closing bell.

    Still, if the odds move far enough in Klitschko's favor, Wach could become a tempting long shot for some bettors. All three of Klitschko's career losses have come by stoppage, and there will always be boxing people who have questions about his chin. 

    Wach will be tall enough to theoretically reach Wladi's chin. Consider it about as dependable as a lottery ticket if you bet it, though.  

Antonio Demarco vs Adrien Broner: November 17

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    On November 17, former super featherweight champion Adrien Broner steps up to 135 and challenges lightweight champion Antonio Demarco for his belt. The odds on this fight are dead even.

    In the last year or so, Broner (24-0, 20 KOs) has emerged as a rising phenom in the sport. He is cocky and brash, and so far, has backed up his arrogance with flawless execution in the ring.

    Demarco, meanwhile, has a fairly strong claim to No. 1 status overall at 135. He is 28-2-1 with 21 stoppages. He is fresh off a first-round TKO of John Molina, an impressive blitzing performance by the champ.

    Demarco is the best fighter Broner has faced, and the largest on top of it. That is what accounts for the odds being so close.

    That, and perhaps the fact that Broner's arrogant attitude has probably got a lot of bettors playing emotionally, anxious to see the cocky upstart Broner fail, and then profit on it in the meantime.

    Analyzing the fight objectively, I just don't see that happening. Broner's agility, vision, timing and explosive power are all elite. He is technically solid, and even as a still-inexperienced fighter, his physical dominance should still be a decisive factor at 135.

    In my opinion, "The Problem" is still at least five pounds away from an opponent who will be able to have any success standing up to him physically.

    Demarco has been on a hot streak, but in the past, he was beaten up badly and stopped in nine by the late Edwin Valero. Valero will always be viewed as one of the tragic what-if stories for boxing, but I see Broner as having at least equal, if not greater skills. 

    Remember, nothing is ever guaranteed in gambling, boxing or sports in general. But Broner at even money against Demarco is a bet I would personally take. 

Miguel Cotto vs Austin Trout: December 1

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    On December 1, Puerto Rican legend Miguel Cotto returns to the ring and looks to add another world title belt to his collection when he meets WBA champion Austin Trout. Odds for this fight are posting at around three to one, with some books posting it closer to two-and-a-half to one. 

    Cotto is one of the bigggest stars in the sport, but I think most writers and serous boxing fans do view him as popular beyond his legit pound-for-pound ranking. It's not really a knock against him; he's definitely great, but has a built-in rabid fanbase with Puerto Rican people and a kind of natural class and mystique that extends his popularity far beyond his ethnic base.  

    So, the betting line on a guy like Cotto gets skewed somewhat by his popularity, meaning a tough prospect like Trout has some potential to pay off as an underdog play. He is the younger, bigger fighter with a lot more to prove, and he has always shown a high level of ring intelligence.  

    But Trout is not a bet I would personally make. Cotto may not be the fighter he once was, but this is a Hall of Famer coming off from a fight when he won rounds against the pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather

    Trout just hasn't faced anybody with Cotto's experience, talent or physical gifts. His last fight was a one-sided unanimous decision over Delvin Rodriguez. Rodriguez is a very tough fighter with solid craft. But he's not close to Miguel Cotto. 

Manny Pacqiao vs Juan Manuel Marquez: December 8

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    This one is the big one: the fourth installment of the greatest boxing rivalry of this century. Just over one year after Pacquiao's controversial 2011 majority decision win over Marquez(54-6-1, 38 KOs), the two longtime rivals will meet yet again.

    Pacquiao (54-4-2, 38 KOs) is coming off from a split-decision loss to Timothy Bradley, but virtually no boxing writer or fan believes he deserved that loss. At the same time, there is a pretty wide consensus that Pacquiao looked a lot less magnificent against Bradley than he has in the past. Fighting a less experienced opponent with two badly injured legs, Pacman was still unable to finish.

    On the other hand, a majority of writers and fans don't believe Pacquiao deserved to beat Marquez last November. It wasn't the robbery that Pacquiao-Bradley was, but it was a widely disagreed with decision.

    I have been seeing Pacquiao posted as between a two and three to one favorite, with the line moving towards Marquez. Last November, it was much closer to seven to one for Pac.

    When Pacquiao was a wide favorite last year, I was one of the few writers I saw predicting Marquez would be as close as ever. I actually predicted officially that he would win a decision on my card but lose it on the judges, and that is exactly what happened. 

    I actually feel Marquez deserved the split decision he lost against Pacquiao in 2008 as well. I've got him beating Pacquiao on my cards twice. 

    The pro-Pacquiao storyline is that this time, Pacquiao is going to be really focused. But we've been hearing that a couple of fights now. The Filipino congressman's out-of-ring distractions have been well documented. 

    Marquez, meanwhile, has more or less been focused on getting revenge with Pacquiao for the past year. 

    I am loathe to recommend Marquez and would be hesitant to bet on him, even though I think he will win again. But he has not received generous scoring from the officials, and while I think he will be more likely to get them this time, I am still leery. 

    A draw would be a potentially lucrative prop bet here. Marquez and Pacqiao drew in 2004 and have never had a fight where one of them was unanimously the victor.