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Handicapping the Situation

Boxing Betting: Handicapping the Situation

By Loot, Boxing Handicapper,

When we bet on boxing, it's sometimes not enough to merely handicap the fighters. We need to delve deeper. It's one of the more unpleasant parts of the sport, both for fans and bettors. There are sometimes different elements at play that force us to try to gauge a fight for the monkey business potential that is at play.

Sometimes, weird decisions can seem random. When we take all of them, however, there are some common threads. Being privy to these different factors can help you refine your betting in an effort to avoid some of these pitfalls. Remember, there is no scoreboard in boxing. The results of fights are often left in the hands of judges who may or not not be totally capable or unbiased.

A lot of the times, it isn't that the judges are corrupt or even terribly incompetent. It's just that they don't want to rock the boat. Let's say there is a superstar fighter fighting in Las Vegas. He has a big network deal. He brings hundreds of millions of dollars into the city whenever he performs. It can be difficult for a judge to pick against him in rounds and fights that are in anyway close.

Is that incompetence? Well, perhaps it is. In an ideal world, a fight should be scored on merit without the judges thinking about all the other possible tie-ins. But judges are in fact human. If you see a fighter is bolstering a city's economy single-handedly, is helping keep the sport alive, and is one of the sport's few remaining true stars--it can be hard to pick against him in a close round.

So when we are thinking of picking an underdog fighter to beat a fighter like Floyd Mayweather, Jr., we need to recalibrate our handicapping. We may think that the underdog will be competitive. We may even think he has a good chance to win. But will that be enough? Or will that underdog need to dominate the fight in order to get credit for a win?

Sometimes a fighter will be in hometown. The stadium is packed and the whole city is brought to life by being able to see their hero perform. Judges might have an awfully tough time picking against that fighter in rounds that are in anyway close. It's not that they're corrupt. But if you're in a stadium packed to see one fighter who is the focus of the entire event, your mind can start to play games with you.

You can chalk this up to any number of factors. The human need to please is a prevalent one in all walks of life. If you're a boxing judge, your job depends on the sport staying alive. If the marquee guys keep losing, the sport will suffer, as will the workload of the judges. They have a vested interest in the sport doing well. And sometimes in fights we're betting, there is a result that will clearly benefit the sport more than the opposite result.

This may sound like a condemnation of judges, but it's really not. There are thousands of different examples where our decisions are tied into what reflects our interests or wishes. A boxing judge should ideally score fights purely on merit, but then they would be almost inhuman.


It can also be justified by the age-old boxing mantra that in order to take something from a superstar fighter, you can't do it subtly, but it should be more emphatic. You have to really beat the man to become the man. There have been some recent exceptions to this, namely when Timothy Bradley was given a gift-wrapped decision over Manny Pacquiao in 2012. That was a rare exception. Usually, a fighter of lesser repute has to snatch the crown from the head of the superstar fighter. Merely edging him isn't going to get it done.

What does this mean for the bettor? If you're thinking of betting on a fighter who is fighting a legit superstar or a visiting fighter going into a well-known champion's hometown--keep your expectations realistic. Suspecting the other fighter can win or being able to make a case that he won rounds is nice, but it doesn't cash bets. Prior to laying your money down in scenarios like this, try to determine if the fighter at least has a chance to dominate because that might be what it's going to take.

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