When Arturo Gatti, regarded by some the most exciting attraction in boxing, defends his WBC super lightweight title in Atlantic City on Saturday against Jesse James Leija, the obvious temptation will be to avoid looking ahead to a possible big-money showdown with Floyd Mayweather.
That certainly is what HBO, the quasi-promoter of both fighters, would like to see happen. But oddsmakers don't seem to fear complacency on the part of Gatti. He'll be a healthy favorite in the bout - from what we've found, you have to lay 10/1 with Gatti at Paddy Power and Sporting Odds. Intertops has him at -833 (laying $833 to win $100), at Canbet he's -714, and thus far it looks like the best value is at Diamond Sports International, which has Gatti listed at -650. WallStreet.com and Sportsbook.com have had some recent movement on Gatti, taking the price on him from -600 to -675.
On the takeback, Leija is fetching +550 (11/2) at Ladbrokes, William Hill, Paddy Power and Sporting Odds and +558 at Pinnacle Sports.
Some people feel there's some value on the Leija side, because between the two, Gatti has a tendency to bleed more. And even though he puts on great fights, Gatti is still not considered to be a genuine class fighter by some. I understand these points. But in this matchup of former featherweights, Gatti fits into 140 pounds a little better. I see him having an edge over Leija with his size and power. I would also caution against overrating Jesse's win this past July against Francisco Bojado, who has turned out to be a disappointment. He simply outhustled Bojado. Meanwhile, on that same show, Gatti was rather impressive in knocking out the usually durable Leo Dorin in two rounds. I would count on Gatti's strength (aided by 'modern technology' or not) to be the governing factor.
Leija is tough as nails, though, and his stoppage losses have come at the hands of higher-caliber fighters than Gatti (Tszyu, De la Hoya, Mosley, Azumah Nelson). So it wouldn't be unreasonable that he could get to the final bell. The over/under on this fight is 10-1/2 rounds; at Pinnacle Sports you can get +139 on the 'over'.
The semi-final on the HBO show from Atlantic City is intriguing, to say the least. Kofi Jantuah (28-1, 18 KO's), a banger with dangerous early power, gets his first world title shot against IBF junior middleweight champ Kassim Ouma (20-1-1, 13 KO's). And if there is an underdog with the proverbial 'puncher's chance', it is indeed Jantuah, who has registered six straight KO's since returning to action from a 15-month layoff in 2003. In his last outing, the Ghanian squared off against Marco Antonio Rubio, another slugger who had gone just 18 rounds in his previous eleven fights, and blasted him in 33 seconds. Jantuah also holds a stoppage win over current WBO junior middleweight champ Daniel Santos. Ouma scored his second win over Verno Phillips last October to capture the vacant IBF title, but on an overall basis his level of opposition, though solid, has not been dazzling. He's not had to face someone who hits as hard as Jantuah. And his southpaw orientation should not have a major effect, as Jantuah has posted wins over left-handers like Santos and Giorbis Barthelemy.
You can get a decent price on Jantuah if you shop around - at Intertops you get +170 on him; it's +167 at Pinnacle, and +160 at the World Sports Exchange, Sportsbook.com and WallStreet.com. I think there's some value there. Ouma is offered at -175 at Sportsbook.com.
So how far will the fight go? Using 10-1/2 rounds as the total, World Sports Exchange is offering -120 on the 'under', with Diamond posting -105 on the 'over'. Olympic Sports has it -110 (lay 11/10) either way at 10-1/2 rounds. Pinnacle's over/under is 10 rounds; against that you can play virtually even money (-101) on the 'under'.
Also on Saturday night, in Puerto Rico, Nelson Dieppa (21-2-2, 12 KO's) defends his WBO junior flyweight title against Alex Sanchez (31-4-1, 21 KO's). When he last fought in July, Dieppa won an interesting majority decision over Ulises Solis, in which he swept all twelve rounds in two cards with the third judge calling it a draw. Dieppa's fought just twice in the last 2-1/2 years, but in recent years Sanchez has suffered defeat every time he's stepped up in class.
Dieppa is a solid favorite in the fight - at Diamond, you have to lay 4/1 (-400) on him, with +320 coming back on Sanchez. WallStreet.com has Dieppa at -400/+300. Pinnacle has Dieppa a -346/+316 favorite. Olympic Sports lists Dieppa at -385/+315, and has posted an over/under of 11-1/2 rounds (with the 'over' favored by -260/+220).
On ESPN tonight in Spokane, it'll be Teddy Reid and another Sanchez - Eduardo Sanchez - for an NABF 'interim' 154-pound title. Reid is moving up from welterweight, where he fought a limited number of times after being blown out in an NABF junior welterweight title fight by Ben Tackie three years ago. Sanchez, who stands 6'2", is certainly more of a natural at this weight, although it's fluctuated. He had two great wins in 2004 - in June he stopped the 22-1 Jose Celaya at 150 pounds, and two months later tipped the scales at 160 when he took a bout on seven hours' notice and dominated JC Candelo. Here it's short notice again - about a week. Reid ought to be prepared for a tall opponent, as he had been previously scheduled to fight Rodney Jones. But this one is less a case of careful matchmaking by Reid's promoters at Banner Promotions than it is a matter of just getting someone who would come in and take the fight, preserving the ESPN date.
At WallStreet.com, the fight was -115 either way, but Reid is now laying -130, with Sanchez at even money. At BetOnSports.com, you lay -130 on Reid, and -110 on Sanchez. Olympic Sports has Reid favored, laying -140 to a takeback of +120 on Sanchez. Blue Square has Reid at -150/+110. Reid is -132/+112 at Pinnacle, where they have an over/under of 9-1/2 rounds (-125/+105 shaded to the 'under'). Diamond favors Reid also, -135/+105. Personally, I have a feeling the wrong guy might be favored.
At the Charles Jay Line, I have Sanchez a -115/+105 favorite, as a matter of fact. There will also be a full complement of propositions on the Gatti-Leija fight. For example, aside from Gatti being a -700/+600 favorite on my card, I've got Gatti the slight -110/Even favorite to be the first fighter to bleed in the bout (so short because I expect he'll land more). The over/under for knockdowns is 1.5 (shaded -115 to the 'over'). If fantasy betting strikes your fancy, join one of the Wannamakeabet leagues through BetCharlesJay.com.
All information is presented for entertainment purposes only. Odds posted were current as of 9 AM Eastern time on January 28. Odds naturally are subject to change, so check first with each individual sportsbook. And good luck.