Antonio Margarito, the WBO welterweight champion, will headline ESPN's Friday night show at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City tonight, but it's not necessarily the main event for him. The Mexican native, who sports a 30-4 record with 21 KOs, is gearing up to fight Kermit Cintron on ESPN's first pay-per-view show, set for April 23. Obviously, it is the intention of Carl Moretti, matchmaker at Main Events that tonight's opponent – Sebastian Andres Lujan – serve as a tune-up for that.
While I wouldn't consider Lujan to be a complete walkover for Margarito, this will be a difficult fight for the youngster to win. Lujan is 22-1 with 14 KOs, but the caliber of opposition just hasn't been there to sufficiently test him. Margarito moved up to challenge for the WBO's 154-pound title last time out; he had a hard time with Daniel Santos before suffering a cut which led to his technical decision defeat. But then again, the awkward, left-handed Santos is tough for anyone to fight. Margarito has real talent, and some early pop; he took out both Hercules Kyvelos and Six-Heads Lewis in short order (two rounds apiece). Out of his last fifteen wins, only two have gone the distance, and both of them were against the tough, capable Danny Perez.
Margarito shapes up as a sizable favorite. Pinnacle Sports, Sportsbook.com and Diamond Sports International all have him laying 7/1 (-700). There is a big disparity in the “takeback” on Lujan; Sportsbook.com, for example, has him getting +450 (meaning that a $1 wager would bring back a $4.50 profit in the event of an upset), while Pinnacle has him at +630. There are different over/under figures here; Olympic Sports is using 9.5 rounds, with -120 on the under and even money on the over. At Pinnacle, they've set it at 8.5 rounds – you lay -128 on the over and get back +118 on the under. The Charles Jay Line (it's just fantasy betting, folks – access it through BetCharlesJay.com) is -750 on Margarito, with +650 on Lujan.
The semi-final in Atlantic City pits welterweights Joshua Clottey and Steve Martinez against each other. Clottey has lost only once, by disqualification, and at 27, is fresher than Martinez, a 33-year-old who has seemingly been around forever. Indeed, the Texan made his pro debut before his 17th birthday, and has fought a host of contenders, in addition to former welterweight champ Vernon Forrest, who stopped him in one round. While recent wins over Grover Wiley (who's also fighting tonight in Minnesota, by the way) and Juan Rivera indicate that he's not altogether finished, they were not overly impressive, at least on paper. Since returning to full-time action three years ago, Martinez has lost his biggest test, being stopped by Hector Quiroz in January of 2003.
The best value on Clottey would appear to be at Pinnacle, which has him posted at -387, with a +357 takeback on Martinez. Diamond is offering the most competitive price on Martinez, according to the sportsbooks we've surveyed, at +375. The over/under figure of 9.5 rounds is more or less “universal” here, with Olympic Sports offering +175 on the under and Diamond putting up -190 on the over. The Charles Jay Line makes Clottey a -400/+360 favorite.
On Showtime, southpaw Mike Arnaoutis (12-0-2, 6 KOs) continues his climb toward the world ratings as he takes on Roberto Santa Cruz (11-2). Arnaoutis is a rough and tumble guy, who’s being given something of a buildup on the ShoBox shows. He had a big amateur record in Greece (reportedly 103-7 with 68 knockouts), and is coming off a couple of nice wins, over Jesse Feliciano and Jauquin Gallardo. Yes, he's somewhat untested by world-class standards, but after 14 pro fights, no one should be expecting him to be rushed at this point. Santa Cruz is aggressive and will make Arnaoutis work, for as long as the fight lasts. He'll also be there to be hit, which might help Arnaoutis exhibit the early power that has earmarked recent fights.
Arnaoutis is a prohibitive favorite. You’d have to lay 20/1 on him at Olympic Sports and Pinnacle. But Pinnacle is offering a better takeback figure on Santa Cruz than anywhere else (+1600) – a far cry from the +800 you’ll find at Bet365.com. We’ve made Arnaoutis a -1750 favorite at The Charles Jay Line, with +1550 on Santa Cruz; it’s -125 that the fight will not reach Round 7, and +115 that it will.
On Telefutura, Cesar Bazan (44-6-1, 29 KOs) hooks up with Ernesto Zepeda in what should be a closely-contested, entertaining junior welterweight encounter. Since losing a couple of fights early in his career, Bazan's only defeats have come at the hands of quality fighters, such as Steve Johnston, Carlos Gerena, Jose Luis Castillo and Miguel Angel Cotto. He went eleven rounds with the power-punching Cotto in February of 2003. Zepeda floored former IBF lightweight champ Julio Diaz before being stopped in seven rounds in March of 2003.
Bazan is -180 at Olympic Sports and Sportsbook.com, and -181 at Pinnacle. Very little difference there. But Pinnacle, which generally features the dime line (ten-cent spread) on fights below 2/1, has Zepeda at +171. Diamond is close behind, at +165. The total is 9.5 rounds, and there we can find some disparity. Pinnacle has the over at -114, with a takeback of +104 on the under, but at Diamond the under is slightly favored to the tune of -120/-110. Bazan is a -200/+180 favorite at The Charles Jay Line.
It'll be a “Comeback Night” of sorts in Stockton, CA as Luisito Espinosa tries to put a win on the board against Cristobal Cruz in a scheduled ten-round featherweight main event. Espinosa won the WBC 126-pound title in 1995 and made seven successful defenses. But he's 37-years-old now, and was stopped in seven rounds by Carlos Navarro last July after being out of action for sixteen months. What's he got left? Cruz, ten years Espinosa's junior, has been much more active, fighting seven times in the last 18 months. Four of those fights resulted in losses, but those were all by decision, and against fighters with a combined record of 97-3-4. Five of Cruz's last six wins have been inside the distance.
At three different sportsbooks, this is a “pick'em” fight. But they all have different prices nonetheless. Olympic makes you lay -110 either way; at Sportsbook.com it's -115 and at Pinnacle just -105. Diamond Sports International has listed Cruz as the favorite, as he lays -125 with a takeback of -105 on Espinosa. I would tend to favor Cruz as well. The Charles Jay Line has Cruz at -145, with Espinosa at +135.
I am usually wary of over/under betting when a guy has fought so seldom recently, as Espinosa has, but it looks like oddsmakers aren’t looking for a distance fight. Pinnacle has the fight at -116 to go under 9.5 rounds (the over is +106). At Diamond, you lay -130 on the under with the over priced at even money.
(All information is presented for entertainment purposes only. Odds posted were current as of 6 AM ET today. Odds naturally are subject to change, so check first with each individual sportsbook.)