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Is This a Taylor-Made Wagering Opportunity?

BY Charles Jay ON February 18, 2005
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Young prospects on the rise, especially those who are being touted as potential contestants in mega-fights, are occasionally prone to very close scrutiny from the discriminating boxing fan. Jermain Taylor, a 2000 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist, is no exception. Taylor, who has been brought along very carefully on HBO from the outset, has undergone criticism for fighting naturally smaller opponents, from Alex Rios to Alex Bunema to Raul Marquez, all of whom were really junior middleweights. Even William Joppy, who has a smaller frame, experienced a size disadvantage in his defeat to Taylor, who was helped by an especially early weigh-in.

Daniel Edouard is a notable exception to this trend.

Edouard, who sports a 16-0-2 record with nine knockouts, is a legitimate middleweight, to be sure. What's different here is that the 24-hour weigh-in isn't going to work as much in Taylor's favor as it usually does. It's quite possible that Edouard will be close to Taylor in terms of weight when these two walk into the ring. For Taylor, whose people are very good at the practice of cutting weight, then putting it back on by fight time, this will be something relatively new.

It is no secret that Edouard was not the first choice for Taylor's people. They preferred to fight Troy Rowland of Grand Rapids, a 21-1 prospect who has halted only five opponents and who probably lacks the firepower to sufficiently test the Arkansan. But HBO wants Taylor to step up the level of his opponents, a situation that will not change as he will headline three dates subsequent to this. It's difficult to determine how begrudgingly his camp accepted Edouard, but he is far from unknown to them. In fact, as both men train in South Florida, they have sparred on several occasions.

While Taylor has been more or less "steered" into the position he occupies, Edouard has taken a route up the ladder that's been subject to less navigation. Though he doesn't necessarily have an edge over Taylor in the overall quality of opposition, he has fought better opponents, as they have related to his own level of development. For example, in his ninth pro fight Edouard tackled Julian Townsend, a highly-regarded amateur champion who was looked upon as a legitimate prospect at the time, and dispatched him in two rounds. In his last outing he systematically took down Willie Gibbs, who at 17-0 was thought to have possibilities. All told, Edouard has defeated six previously undefeated middleweights, qualifying him as something of a spoiler. Taylor, on the other hand, has not dared go into any fight where he was considered an underdog. Far from it. Joppy, the former WBA middleweight champion and his biggest "name" foe thus far, was on the tail end of a steep spiral downward when he fought Taylor, and indeed retired after the loss.

Edouard is very aggressive and might just try to unleash a lot of his arsenal early. His Achilles heel, of course, is a lack of defense. For sure, he is the type who will take a few punches to land one, and he's liable to leave himself wide open when he comes forward. That will give Taylor an opportunity to take advantage of what should be his superior boxing skills. Taylor can control this fight with his jab, which is a good one. In fact, there's no doubting that he has the ability to become a very formidable middleweight champion.

But there is a bridge that must be crossed before he can get there, and to this point certain questions have gone unanswered.

One fact that may or may not be worth considering is that the fight, which was supposed to be for Taylor's WBC Continental Americas "title" is now a non-title affair, because he knew he was not going to make 160 pounds. Instead, he's in at 162-1/2, within the newly-adjusted 163-pound limit, but perhaps indicative that he didn't whip himself into Spartan condition.

The upside for Taylor is that if he gets by Edouard he will have, in this reporter's opinion, put a very significant win on the board. And if he is extremely impressive, it will supply a springboard for him to take dead aim at the ultimate goal, which is to secure a middleweight title fight against Bernard Hopkins.

But in this business, you yearn for those opportunities to find an underdog who's got a shot at winning.

Here, we may have been presented with one.

Is Taylor a good fighter? Absolutely. Is he upset-proof? At this point, I think not.

And here he's tackling a foe who embodies the term "upset-minded."

It's not that I don't think Taylor is going to win this fight. He is the better fighter. Don’t make any mistake about that. But the better fighter doesn't always come away with the prize, and in our quest to seek out value, we see some factors that make this matchup more competitive than most people think.

When you see that a fighter who hasn't yet crossed the aforementioned "bridge" is encountering circumstances that are perhaps new to him, and is fighting an opponent who can legitimately be considered "dangerous," you shouldn't be getting 8/1. That is a lesson that could have been learned as recently as last night, when Mike Arnaoutis had his life-and-death struggle with decided underdog Roberto Santa Cruz. But 8/1 is exactly where Edouard is priced at Bet365.com, which has Taylor as the prohibitive -2500 favorite.

Other outlets have appetizing prices for Edouard backers as well. Olympic Sports has him at +750, with Pinnacle Sports at +733, and +700 at William Hill.

If you like Taylor in the fight, the best price we've found in the ten sportsbooks we've surveyed is -803 at Pinnacle, with Sportsbook's -850 not far behind.

A few outlets have over/under wagering. On the Pinnacle dime line, under 8.5 rounds is favored by -112/+102. World Sports Exchange has a price of -120 on over 8.5, with -110 for the under. Olympic Sports is offering even money on the over, with -120 on the under.

HOPKINS-EASTMAN UPDATE

There has been some movement to the Howard Eastman side in tonight's middleweight championship fight. Whereas a number of sportsbooks had Bernard Hopkins laying 8/1 earlier in the week, with a +450 takeback on Eastman, our results from fourteen internet sportsbooks reveals that as of noon ET today, only four of them had Hopkins laying as much as -700. Right now, the 9/2 price (+450) on Eastman is available at Sportsbook.com, World Sports Exchange and Diamond Sports International. But most of the action is +400 or below. It appears as if the Brits have weighed in, at least to some extent.

A middle was available on this fight as well as of noon; Olympic Sports had a takeback of +495 on Eastman, while Pinnacle has a price of -489 on Hopkins. This scalping opportunity is not likely to last very long, however, as Pinnacle's lines move quickly.

The Junior Witter-Lovemore N'Dou junior welterweight fight is back on, and a number of sportsbooks have posted a price on it. There's a middle on this one as well. While Sportsbook.com and Olympic Sports have Witter at -160, several of the British outlets - Paddy Power, Ladbrokes, BlueSQ.com and William Hill - have N'Dou's takeback at +163. And TotalBet.com has N'Dou at 15/8, or a whopping +187! That's a relatively sizable middle.

There are too many "exotic" props for us to cover all of them, but at Bet365.com you can take a flyer on the "Howard Lederman Special," in which you lay -250 on Hopkins being ahead on Lederman's HBO scorecard after three rounds, with Eastman at +175. Will Hopkins score a knockdown? Bet365 favors "no" to the tune of -225, with +160 back the other way. The odds are 8/1 against Eastman knocking Hopkins down, while you can get a +450 price if he does put the champ to the canvas.

You can get Edouard at 11/1 to win the fight by KO, TKO or Disqualification, while Taylor is 3/1 to win by decision. Hopkins is 5/2 (+250) to win by KO, TKO or DQ, and -150 to win the fight by decision. Obviously, if you are dead sure the fight is going the distance this would represent some value for you. Hopkins is 22/1 to win the fight some time in the first three rounds, for example, while Eastman is 20/1 to close the show in the last three rounds. To sample some more, a draw is a 30/1 shot in the Taylor-Edouard fight, while Lovemore N'Dou is 66/1 to knock out Junior Witter in the first round.

(All information is presented for entertainment purposes only. Odds posted were current as of noon ET today. Odds naturally are subject to change, so check first with each individual sportsbook.)

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