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Big Fight Weekend


99% of the time you should take the favorite in big fights. Is that the case when favorite Floyd Mayweather takes on Oscar De La Hoya this weekend? Here's what you need to know.


With both the annual Kentucky Derby and the biggest fight in ages being fought on the same day, this Saturday will mark the biggest single non-Super Bowl wagering day of the year. Since Kevin Depew has already covered the horses I'm gong to walk you through the ins and outs of handicapping that other anachronism from the golden age of organized crime: boxing.

Analysis: Pretty Boy Floyd Mayweather vs. Oscar De La Hoya

Why it matters: It's the biggest possible fight today. Oscar is the most well-known boxer in the world, Floyd Mayweather is the best one. Together, the two of them will split as much as $50 million, depending on Pay-Per-View buys (which should exceed the 1.99 million record). It's the first fight since Holyfield vs. Tyson II to capture the attention of the whole world and, thanks to the previews provided by HBO's "24/7," it's the best promoted fight in history.

The Odds: There are plenty of ways to bet a fight (in places where such behavior is legal). For Saturday night, the betting lines work out as follows:

Mayweather to win by Decision

11 - 10
De La Hoya to win by Decision 10 - 3
Mayweather to win by KO, TKO, DQ 9 - 2
De La Hoya to win by KO, TKO, DQ 11 - 2
Draw 16 - 1
Mayweather to Win in any manner -200
De La Hoya to win in any manner + 170
Fight goes longer than 11.5 Rounds - 270
Fight goes less than 11.5 Rounds +210

While betting on boxing is illegal in most places that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. You knew the spread for the Super Bowl when you made a friendly wager with your cousin. If you're going to be tempted to do something similar with the fight on Saturday, you should know the odds.

What you need to know Saturday, and what the above table is telling you "The Street" thinks is going to happen is that Mayweather is expected to win, most likely by decision. -200 means that you have to bet $200 on Mayweather in order to win $100. For Oscar, betting $100 on him will get you $170, should Oscar pull it off.

Rule of Thumb #1: Take the Favorite

Professional gamblers very rarely take the underdog in boxing. If the market thinks one guy can beat up another, that's usually how it plays out. In this fight, where Oscar is a beloved icon and Mayweather a relative unknown, gleefully playing the bad guy, the casual money is coming in large on Oscar, keeping the odds on the favorite somewhat subdued.

Given skill level and where each man is in his career, Floyd could be as much as a 3:1 favorite. Oscar hasn't won a reasonably big fight in 5 years and has a history of losing his biggest fights. Floyd is the best in the world and at the peak of his game. The fact that Floyd isn't a bigger favorite suggests the most conservative, "smartest," bet is to take Floyd and give 2:1.

Puncher's Chance Hedge: The Knock-Out

The best long-shot on the board, from where I'm sitting, is +210 that the fight ends in a KO. Oscar was knocked out by a body-shot by Bernard Hopkins and Floyd hasn't ever fought someone who can bag like Oscar. We suspect Floyd can take a punch but he hasn't ever had to prove it.

Putting it Together: The Pointless, Non-Advising, Friends-Just-Talkin' Prediction:

I like taking Floyd as the favorite and quasi-hedging the bet by putting a smaller amount on the fight ending before 11.5 rounds.

As I've said before, I think Floyd is going to get walked into a hard left hook (Oscar's best punch) at some point in the fight. Floyd's a shoulder-roll defender, meaning he twists and ducks to his right when under attack. Shoulder-roll works everywhere except on the ropes against a left hooker.

Oscar is big enough to block Floyd into the ropes and good enough to get at least occasional left hooks in, even against one of the best defenders in recent memory. If he can hit him, Oscar can take Mayweather into places he's never been in a boxing ring. He can hurt him and, if he does, Oscar is and always has been a great finisher.

The case for a Mayweather knock-out is more of a long shot but can be made. Mayweather is simply absurdly, you-have-to-see-it-to-believe it fast. When his hands aren't hurt, the Pretty Boy dishes in wild combinations, both the head and body. While Oscar has a great chin he simply hates to get hit to the body. Mosely hurt him with shots to the ribs and Bernard Hopkins scored a rare body-shot knock-out of Oscar in 2004.

I think Floyd is too fast for Oscar. If I'm right about that, it's going to be a very long night for the Golden Boy. It's hard to picture a 10 count over De La Hoya but it's much less difficult to picture Oscar's empathetic trainer, Freddie Roach, saving his battered, centi-millionaire client from a further beating at the hands of a taunting Pretty Boy Floyd.

Add it up and move me to Nevada, where betting on boxing is legal, and I'd play it as follows:

  • Put three units on Floyd to Win at -200
  • Put one unit on the fight going less that 11.5 rounds at +210

With four units in play, my potential pay-offs work out like this:

Outcomes, Payouts & Explanations
Floyd Wins by KO +3.6 +1.5 on PBF victory, +2.1 on distance
Floyd Wins Dec +.5 +1.5 on PBF victory, -1 on distance
Oscar wins by KO -.9 -3 on PBF victory, +2.1 on distance
Oscar wins by Dec -4

Note that I'd actually like to see Oscar win the fight. He's been great for boxing which was my favorite sport growing up, he's a classy guy and it would be nice to see him pull off the upset. I just don't think it's going to happen.

Also note that I'm not only not going to be betting on the fight, I probably wouldn't even be betting on it if I were in Las Vegas. This is a fairly tough fight to call and the odds generally seem more or less in line with how I see the fight turning out. In other words, this event is about as edgeless as playing something like Yahoo (YHOO) going into earnings, and we all recall how that one turned out for me.

The point here isn't to encourage financial recklessness. It is to educate readers as to the workings of an absolutely huge revenue driving weekend for the legal (and illegal) sports book industry and to provide a guideline for any Minyans who will be watching the fight anyway and who might like to "make things interesting" by wagering a six-pack or something with a buddy.

To paraphrase Homer Simpson, "Gambling isn't wrong, it can just make a good thing better."

With that in mind, have a great weekend and enjoy the fight!

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