The Highlights

  • Vasyl Lomachenko is widely considered the best boxer on the planet but Saturday night he faces a game challenger in Jorge Linares.
  • Even though the ‘to win’ odds — Lomachenko is a -1375 favorite — aren’t appealing, there’s value on the total rounds prop.
  • Can Linares get this fight past the midway point of the 10th round?

Thanks to the Gennady Golovkin-Canelo Alvarez rematch being nixed due to some skulduggery among the Golden Boy ranks, Saturday night’s fight between Vasyl Lomachenko and Jorge Linares is now the biggest bout of the first half of 2018. And honestly, even if GGG-Canelo II went off, Loma-Linares still had a good chance of being more entertaining than the scrapped rematch. That’s because Linares (44-3, 27 KOs) vs. Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KOs) is a rarity in boxing. It’s a fight that everyone wants to see and it will be offered for free on ESPN (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET).

A lot of the hype around the fight will be chalked up to Lomachenko, a 30-year-old boxing genius, but Linares is no slouch. The 32-year-old Venezuelan is arguably the best true lightweight on the planet and has the type of toolset that could give Lomachenko trouble, even if he’s a longshot to win.


The Market

Linares is a three-weight world champion riding a 13-fight winning streak and is regarded by some as the best lightweight in the world. Yet, he comes into this fight as a huge underdog against a fighter who is moving up in weight. That goes to show you the talent that Lomachenko possesses. Currently, Loma is listed at -1375 at 5dimes with Linares coming back at +900.  The over/under is listed at 9.5 at 5dimes, with the over juiced to -140. 

NoMasChenko

If you’re new to boxing, Lomachenko is a great boxer to get you hooked on the sweet science. He’s a beautiful fighter, and watching him piece together one of his in-ring symphonies is something to be cherished. 

As an amateur, “Hi-Tech” posted an astounding 396-1 record and won two gold medals. His boxing pedigree is the stuff of legend and is a big reason why most people consider him the best boxer on the planet. Most pound-for-pound lists have the Ukrainian at — or near — the top even though he’s had only 11 professional fights, including a loss, under his belt.

In baseball, we describe the cream of the crop as “five-tool” players, and Loma is the boxing equivalent of a five-tool guy. He’s a nimble mover who can hurt you from any angle. There’s no prediciting Loma’s next move, which makes boxing him nearly impossible. By the time you think you know where he’s going to be, he’s already two moves ahead.

In his last four fights, Lomachenko has forced his opponents — including the extremely talented Guillermo Rigondeaux — to quit on the stool. That is an absurd streak and just furthers the point that “Hi-Tech” is a generational talent and deserves every bit of praise he receives.

He goes up in weight for his date with Linares, but it shouldn’t be an issue as Loma fought at lightweight during his days as an amateur.

El Nino de Oro

Even though his name doesn’t carry the same weight that Lomachenko’s does, Linares is a terrific fighter who — on technical skill alone — deserves the opportunity to take on the best boxer on the planet.

“The Golden Boy” has been around the block and is a wily boxer who can lean on craft and his IQ to guide him through tough moments of fights. That’s a good thing, because fighting Lomachenko is a nearly uncrackable riddle, so just surviving to the late rounds is an accomplishment.

As good as Rigondeaux is, I think Linares presents Lomachenko a deeper problem than ‘The Jackal’ did back in December. Rigondeaux is a fighter who relies on movement and defense, while Linares is a threat to do damage. The Venezuelan is an offensive whiz with incredible hand speed and a knack for putting together combinations.

Linares will be the bigger and stronger man in the ring and is probably the quickest boxer Lomachenko has ever faced. Whether or not that gives him a hope in hell remains to be seen.

Pick

The huge price on Linares (+900) may seem tempting for such a good boxer, but that number suggests that he has a 10% chance of winning this fight. I think even that is high. So without a value play on either fighter, we go to the over/under.

While Lomachenko is in an entirely different class than his opponent, Linares is a threat to hurt Loma, and I think we will see a more reserved “Hi-Tech” than we did in his previous bouts. Even against Rigondeaux, a two-time gold medalist himself, “Hi-Tech” was never really in danger of getting tagged. Rigo is a defensive wizard and lacks the thunder that Linares has. With that being the case, I think Loma will feel things out for the first few rounds before he gets going.

Linares is a dogged fighter, but he’s also incredibly skilled. This isn’t an easy fight for Lomachenko and it will require his entire arsenal, despite the gigantic disparity in the odds.

As a result, I will be playing the over 9.5. At -140, you’d need to believe the fight gets to the midpoint of the 10th round ~59% of the time and I think it ticks that box pretty easily.

Boxing Record: 8-4-1, +15.75 units


Odds current as of Thursday evening.

Photo courtesy of Top Rank Boxing.