Boxing can be both the purest, most real sport and the most absurd circus sport imaginable. Sometimes it can be both of those things in a span of seven days.
One week ago, two boxing icons born in the 1960s, Mike Tyson and Roy Jones, reportedly attracted more than a million pay-per-view buys for an eight-round exhibition without an official winner, on a broadcast featuring the insights of Snoop Dogg and a YouTube star turning former NBA slam dunk champ Nate Robinson into a bearskin rug.
Now, the sport again asks fans to part with pay-per-view dollars to see two prime athletes compete for legitimate glory and perhaps a ticket to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Surely, welterweights Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr. and Danny “Swift” Garcia — the latter currently the top boxer from the historically boxing-rich city of Philadelphia — will attract only a fraction of the audience that clicked “purchase” on Tyson-Jones. But what they lack in mainstream star power, Spence and Garcia make up for in actual boxing ability in the year 2020. And they give bettors at the legal Pennsylvania sportsbooks in Garcia’s home state something to consider without worrying about ex-fighter Vinny Paz scoring the fight with both eyes swollen shut.
That’s not to say that fans and gamblers alike won’t have to sweat out a controversial decision on Saturday night. Even with experienced judges, boxing tends to produce its share of those. And given Spence and Garcia’s histories, the smart money is on some sort of a close decision.
Going the distance
With a record of 26-0 with 21 KOs, you might think former U.S. Olympian Spence is a lights-out puncher. The reality is that, yes, he can pop, but against his three best opponents, he’s stopped Kell Brook in Round 11, outboxed Mikey Garcia in a 12-round stinker, and eked past Shawn Porter on a split decision some 14 months ago in his last fight.
Add in Garcia’s world-class chin and defense — he’s never been knocked down in 38 pro fights — and while a knockout is always on the table, it’s clearly the underdog here.
Garcia, meanwhile, has consistently been more technician than destroyer at the top levels of competition, having gone the distance 17 times while compiling a mark of 36-2, 21 KOs. The well-schooled counterpuncher from North Philly lost a slim decision to Porter and a split decision to Keith Thurman. Going a little further back, he eked out disputed majority decision wins over Lamont Peterson and Mauricio Herrera while winning unanimously, but narrowly, over Lucas Matthysse and Zab Judah.
And Spence, like Garcia, has yet to find himself taking a count on the canvas as a pro.
So how do you bet this fight?
There are two ways to approach straight winner wagers when betting on boxing: with or without the “draw” option. You can accept a slightly worse return on your money under the condition that if the fight is scored a draw — as Tyson-Jones was, for betting purposes — you’ll get a refund. Or you can look for a better payout but risk losing your bet if the result is a draw.
Among the PA sports betting operators, the best price on Spence to win without a draw option is -477, at FanDuel Sportsbook and BetAmerica. (That line has moved; Spence was as low as -300 at one book a week ago.) The best return on underdog Garcia is +400 at Caesars.
Then there are more granular result wagers:
- Spence by decision/technical decision: Best price, -125 at FOX Bet and FanDuel
- Spence by KO/TKO/DQ: Best price, +275 at BetAmerica (but FOX Bet now has a “boost” to +300)
- Garcia by decision/technical decision: Best price, +600 at DraftKings and other Kambi-operated books
- Garcia by KO/TKO/DQ: Best price, +1000 at FOX Bet (and now boosted to +1100)
- Draw: +2300 at FanDuel
Win, lose … or draw?
Betting on a draw might sound like a sucker bet, but at a price this good (the draw for a big fight is typically between 16/1 and 25/1) for a fight this likely to be closely contested and go the distance, it’s an extremely viable flyer.
In fact, when noted Philadelphia trainer and boxing analyst Stephen “Breadman” Edwards appeared this week on my boxing podcast, Showtime Boxing with Raskin and Mulvaney, he said he was planning to make two bets, and the draw is one of those.
The other wager singled out by Edwards is on the fight to go the distance. The best price that, yes, the fight will go the full 12, is -215 at FanDuel. If you want to take the “no,” you can get +180 at either FOX Bet or the Kambi books.
Some sites offer a slight tweak on that wager, allowing bettors to go over or under 10.5 rounds. Caesars has the best price on both sides of that, at -310 on the over and +260 on the under.
If you want to get weird betting this bout, FOX Bet is your book. You can go over/under just about any half-round marker. You can bet on Garcia to score a knockdown (+300 yes, -500 no), Spence to score a knockdown (+162 yes, -225 no), or that there will be no knockdowns (-133, an attractive price).
Or you can try to get rich with one of these mega-longshots:
Among those crazy choices, which is the least crazy? Well, remember that this shapes up as a likely distance fight, with a draw not at all out of the question. And if both fighters go down once, which typically means 10-8 rounds that cancel each other out, the draw remains in play. So 125/1 on that remote possibility?
It’s wacky. But wacky is par for the course in a sport that gives you Tyson-Jones and Spence-Garcia a week apart.