A lot of people on the other side of the pond are excited about Ricky Hatton's chances to become the world's preeminent junior welterweight.
And it shows.
The result – perhaps a golden opportunity for those who look at fights from a “sporting” angle.
Hatton, who stands at 38-0, 28 KOs, gets the biggest shot of his career on Saturday night when he faces off against Kostya Tszyu, who is generally recognized as the king of the 140-pound division (with possible apologies to Floyd Mayweather).
In case you're not part of the cognoscenti, Hatton is the World Boxing Union (WBU) champion. He has made a total of fifteen defenses for the WBU, an organization that is suspended from doing business in the United States because it has not submitted its bylaws to the Association of Boxing Commissions and doesn't subscribe to minimum standards of ranking fighters as prescribed in the Muhammad Ali Act. This is perfectly understandable when you look at some of Hatton's “title” victims. John Bailey? Eamonn Magee? Joe Hutchinson? Aldo Rios? Dennis Holbaek? Michael Stewart? Ray Oliveira? If you were trying to craft the argument that Ricky Hatton could compete on even terms with Tszyu based on that cross-section of opponents, it would be an embarrassment.
Hatton is not a great boxer, and not a great puncher. He can best be characterized as a young, strong energy fighter.
Mostly though, he's a mystery. There are any number of world-class fighters at 140 pounds he could have taken on but hasn't. It would not be unfair to say that as many as a dozen fighters Tszyu has already vanquished are better than anyone Hatton has ever had on his dance card. But Hatton's team has exercised some interesting legerdemain to pump up confidence in the British public.
For example, I can see what they did in bringing Vince Phillips over for one of Hatton's defenses. Hey look – Ricky stopped the guy who knocked out Tszyu! The only problem – that was Vince Phillips six years and fourteen fights later.
It is kind of scary that Tszyu came from 22 months out of the ring and plastered a streaking Sharmba Mitchell. Of course, that represents one fight in two and a half years for the champion. Is there some point at which Tszyu, while transitioning from one fight to another, gets stale? Rusty? Old? Maybe, but now we're wishing and hoping, because nothing has indicated that might be the case.
What's critical in handicapping these fights involves analyzing the empirical evidence, i.e., that which we know. And in projecting what could possibly surprise (usually on behalf of the underdog), it helps to be able to construct a clear logistical path that could get us to a particular result, but again, based on some things we know to exist. In other words, if we knew that Hatton was a thunderous puncher, we could afford him a chance based on an impressive knockout against someone very formidable.
But we have neither the thunderous punch nor the formidable opposition to go that route.
I know what Tszyu can do because I've seen it before. I can't say that about Hatton. Therefore, to visualize a Hatton victory would take a lot of speculation and even more imagination. The odds on the dog are, to say the least, not enticing enough to make me go that way.
At Expekt.com and Olympic Sports, Hatton was fetching +205, with +210 at World Sports Exchange. The best price we found was at Diamond Sportsbook International (DSI), which has him listed at +225. Pinnacle Sports sits with Hatton at +224, but that line is ever-changing. At most of the other places, though, you can't even get 2/1 on him. Eurobet had Hatton as low as +155 as of late Friday night.
At The Gaming Club, you could have gotten -200 on Tszyu as of Thursday, but a day later, that price jumped to -227. Eurobet and William Hill have him at -222, with Ladbrokes close behind at -227.
Tszyu is severely underpriced, to the point where I don't know if I'd even want to get cute with playing props. Laying a little more than 2/1 represents excellent value. It really should be closer to 4/1. The hype out of Britain has kept this price low – artificially, I would think.
If you insist on “propski” or two, though . . .
Since just two of his last 17 fights have gone a full ten rounds, maybe -125 on Tszyu to bust Hatton up and end it early (available at SportingOdds.com) might make some sense. Then again, it's a more handsome payoff if the Australian-by-way-of-Russia takes it the distance. Olympic Sports offers a price of +525 on Tszyu by decision.
Either way, over/under props may be worth investigating.
DSI has the figure at -115, and you'll lay -115 either way. Pinnacle is using 9.5 rounds (-140 for the under, and on the dime line, +130 on the over). At Bet365, over 8.5 rounds is favored (-125, as opposed to -111 on the under).
Our own Mitch Abramson feels Tszyu will win on a first-round KO. He'd grab 25/1 on that prop over at DSI, which has a full list of round-betting propositions, and beyond. How about 30/1 on a no-contest at DSI? Or 50/1 at Olympic?
Well, maybe it'll be no contest, but not in THAT sense. What it boils down to is that Hatton's chances depend on Tszyu getting old or lazy overnight, or in the judges committing some kind of highway robbery in the event the fight goes the full distance.
Since I don't expect Tszyu to stop for as long as Big Ben did earlier this week, I'll say that's not enough.
(All information is for news matter only, and is not intended to promote the violation of any local, state or federal laws. Odds are subject to change. Check with individual sportsbooks before plunging in.)