Credit: Joe Camporeale, USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Gennady Golovkin (L) and Canelo Alvarez.
- Boxing is one of the world's most popular sports and big fights are among the biggest gambling holidays each year.
- There aren't as many predictive stats in boxing so handicappers use the eye test and anecdotal evidence when breaking down a fight.
- Boxing is a moneyline sport, but there are a lot of props you can bet during a fight.
Back in the early part of the 20th century, boxing was, along with baseball, the most popular sport in America, and people loved betting on it. While “The Sport of Kings” still has its moments, most sports fans pay attention to it once or twice a year.
One of those nights is coming as Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KOs) and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (38-0-1, 34 KOs) are set for a rematch a year after fighting to a controversial draw last September.
Watching a big fight is a shared experience for sports fans around the world, and naturally, people love to bet on these big events. Here’s what you need to know before betting on a boxing match:
Moneyline or Outright Winner Odds
Boxing is, for intents and purposes, a moneyline sport. There are two fighters, and each will have a moneyline listed next to his name. Here are the opening odds for the upcoming fight between Gennady “GGG” Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez for example:
Gennady Golovkin vs. Canelo Alvarez Betting Odds
- Golovkin: -160 ($160 wins $100)
- Alvarez: +135 ($100 wins $135)
We should put those odds into a little bit of context. The fight between GGG and Canelo is considered very close. It is common for boxing matches to feature huge favorites as “the best vs. the best” fights are not that typical, and even when they do happen, one fighter is usually a class above the other in terms of skill.
It is not uncommon to see boxing matches with fighters priced at -1000 ($1000 bet returns $100).
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When you bet an over/under in boxing, you are betting on how many rounds will be completed.
Here’s an example:
- Over 9.5 Rounds: +110 ($100 to win $110)
- Under 9.5 Rounds: -130 ($130 to win $100)
In this example, the over/under is set at 9.5 Rounds. That means to cash the over, you need the fight to pass the 1:30 mark in Round 9. To cash the under, you’d need the fight to end before the 1:30 mark in Round 9.
There are other props available for fights at most books. The include Method of Victory (KO, TKO, DQ vs. Decision), Time of Victory (Round 1, Round 2, etc.) or Will the Fight Go the Distance (Yes/No)?
Stats and Info To Know
The first thing you should do when you are breaking down a fight (and handicapping any sport, really) is to convert the odds into probability. All odds correlate with an implied probability, and you can easily convert them here.
Once again, using the GGG-Canelo II odds, let’s break it down.
At -160 the Triple-G’s odds convert to 61.54% and Canelo’s convert to 42.55%. If you’re astute, you’ll notice those odds add up to more than 100%. These odds at up to 104.09%, meaning the bookmaker’s margin is 4.09%.
To get the “fair odds” or the odds without vig, you can take the implied probability and divide it by the total number you get (61.54/104.09 = 59.1%).
In this instance, the market is implying that Golovkin has a 59.1% chance of winning the fight while Canelo has a 40.9% chance of victory.
So much in boxing comes down to one number — the amount of losses a fighter has. Seeing a “O” in the loss column makes a fighter that much more marketable and casual bettors will be drawn to the boxer with a better record. However, when you’re comparing two fighters side by side, the record doesn’t tell the whole story.
Looking at how a fighter fared against common/similar opponents or against quality opponents gives you a better idea of just how good he or she is.
Stats to Know
In basically all other sports, there are a lot of predictive stats that bettors can use to gain an edge. Boxing is a little different. There are important data points to know — but for the most part, handicapping the “sweet science” comes down to a lot of anecdotal, subjective analysis.
That being said, there is data that handicappers should pay attention to:
The most trusted and well-known boxing statistics company is CompuBox, which provides real-time statistical data for boxing matches
- Punches thrown/landed
- Jabs per round
- Power punches per round
These three stats seem pretty simple — and they are — but are they’re also very important toward determining the winner of a fight, especially if it reaches the judges table.
If you are the busier fighter, you have a better chance of — at the very least — looking like you are winning the fight. The same holds true if you are the fighter throwing — and landing — more power shots.
The jab is especially important to me. Usually the fighter who has more success with the jab wins. If you are using the jab effectively, not only will you be on the front foot and in good positions to land power punches and combinations, but your opponent will be on the defensive.
Simply put, if Fighter A is throwing and landing his jab throughout the entire match while Fighter B is more reluctant to work behind the jab, we will naturally tend to side with Fighter A.
For example, after the first Canelo-GGG match, CompuBox reported:
Gennady Golovkin was the busier fighter and landed 9 of 30 jabs per round. GGG landed more punches in 10 of 12 rounds. Canelo Alvarez landed 42% of his power shots. GGG landed 32% of his power punches after landing 46% in his previous 13 fights.
There are three judges for a boxing match and they use a 10-point “must system” — which is a fancy way of saying the winner of a round will always be rewarded with 10 points.
Usually, rounds end 10-9. However, a fighter will almost always lose a point if he or she is knocked down. A fighter can also be deducted a point for a foul (low blow, headbutt, etc.) but fighters are usually issued warnings first. In those cases, 10-8 rounds are possible.