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Boxing Betting Basics

BY Joey Knish ON May 09, 2005
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When making the decision to enter into the up-and-down venture of investing in the outcome of professional boxing you have to bring discipline, betting basics, money management, and a pack of Tums with you. Those ingredients, plus a pre-determined betting bankroll, are the basic requirements to get started, but alone they’re not enough to win.

To start off with, you have to have some scratch. In wagering circles this is referred to as your bankroll. No, the money isn’t in the bank, but it’s the cash . A modest bettor should invest between 3-4% of said bankroll on any given bout. This may seem to be a conservative number but it is roughly that which a professional investor will use, or perhaps a tad higher than what a pro might bet on any given event. Once a bankroll is established the wager amount is set as a percentage of those funds. Your wager size can be re-evaluated on a weekly or monthly basis to re-evaluate your bet size. If one has been successful in his investments his bankroll will have grown and the 3-4% becomes a larger bet for the next period.

There is no such thing as a “sure thing” in sports wagering and locks are for doors; anyone who says he has a fight that can’t lose is sitting on a bomb set to eventually blow his bankroll into pieces.

The bottom line is that essentially there are two possible outcomes when two fighters step into the ring – one fighter will win, the other will lose. In terms of wagering on boxing, a “draw” will get players their initial wager amount returned to them, unless it was offered as a wagering option, in which case all “win’ bets on either fighter are lost.

The linemaker sets a number expressed as a moneyline which represents how much money you must risk in order to earn $100 on the favorite and how much you will profit if you risk $100 on the underdog. That moneyline is the wagering equivalent of his opinion as to the probability of either fighter winning. Bettors then must determine their own opinion of what the chances of either fighter’s chances of winning, and to place a wager if there is a positive financial expectation.

As an example, a -150 favorite (bettor must risk $150 to profit $100) is a fighter who is favored to win 60% of the time. If a bettor makes a bet on the favorite in this case, he must have a greater than 60% expectation that his selection will win. Should he feel that his fighter has an 80% chance of winning the fight then there is a positive expectation. If he believes the favorite only has a 50% chance of winning then laying $150 to make $100 would be a negative return on his investment over the proverbial “long-term.”

The betting favorites are favored to win because they are supposed to win, but it doesn’t mean they always do. Upsets happen and one punch can change the course of a fight in an instant. Because of this it is recommended that a bettor never play a favorite of more than -400, and even that number is on the high side. To keep it in perspective, losing a wager on a -400 favorite (using $100 as our bet size and risking $400 to profit $100) means the bettor will need to win four straight bets (winning $100 with each) in order to just get back to even! Going on a betting streak to win four out of five bets, and in the end only breaking even, is not wise in the long term. Don’t get caught dreaming about “how much can I win?” but rather focus on whether or not each wager has a positive expectation, and what are the implications should you risk a big number and lose.

Understanding what the line means is key to long-term success along with managing your money accordingly, by sticking to some sort of strategy such as the percentage of bankroll theory noted above. Of course, picking winners helps a lot. So how is that done?

In boxing, unlike all team sports, you only have two combatants in the ring to determine the fight. Judges play a role in decisions, but their take on the fight is assumed to be unbiased and based on an accurate interpretation of what the fighters do in the ring once the bell rings. Every sport has judges and referees and boxing is no different in that regard. Still, unlike team sports where 10-20 players can influence the outcome of a game, in boxing your fate is largely determined but the two men trading punches.

On to the fights.

Generally speaking, a good big man beats a good smaller man in the ring. All things being equal the bigger fighter is stronger, likely hits harder and can take a punch better than his smaller opponent. A good example of this recently was the Bernard Hopkins-Oscar De La Hoya fight back in September 2004. Hopkins has spent nearly his entire professional career fighting at 160-pounds and was also slightly taller than the Golden Boy. Oscar made his mark on the sport starting out as a 130-pound fighter and working his way up as he grew older and his body matured. In 2001 De La Hoya was fighting at the 147-pound welterweight level and then after just one unimpressive fight in which he struggled against Felix Sturm, he challenged big bad Bernard. Based on the skill level of each fighter the bout looked like it might be close. Looking at the edge in size that Hopkins enjoyed we knew it would be not be close at all, and it wasn’t.

A boxer usually beats a puncher. When a fighter with heavy hands and average skills faces a stylish boxer with less pop, the principle that the boxer will outbox the puncher is generally a good rule to follow. Drawing from the heavyweight ranks, the 2001 Chris Byrd-David Tua fight was a textbook example of this truism. Tua of course is the mad Samoan bomber with 37 knockouts in his 42 victories. Byrd, on the other hand, boasts 20 knockouts in his 38 career wins. While Byrd boxed and moved his way around the ring, Tua looked to land his one big equalizing left hook . . . and is still looking. Many times in boxing you will see a fighter looking to land the big punch to get back into a bout against a technically superior opponent. The fight-altering punch seldom finds its home.

When investing in the outcome of battles in the sweet science keep some of these basics in mind as a starting point. Determining a fighter’s chances of winning as compared to the price you have to pay in order to wager on him is an important step in deciding whether “to play” or “not to play.” Fortunately the player can pass entirely whereas the bookmaker must make a line.

Be selective, be smart, and always wager with your head and not over it.

(All information is presented for entertainment purposes only.)

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