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PONDER STORY

How to bet on... Boxing

Boxing may not be top of everyone’s list when it comes to sports betting opportunities but pugilistic punting can prove a worthwhile endeavour, so long as you’ve done your research. Gareth Bracken has the tale of the tape

Boxing betting, perhaps more so than many other sports, can seem unappealing to new punters. The two-horse nature of contests gives rise to the popular misconception that there is no value to be had. This isn’t true though and in actual fact the lack of knowledge of many odds compilers is something to be jumped upon and exploited.

One of the most important things to know about boxing betting is that many bookmakers don’t tend to have a boxing expert. “Odds compilers don’t know an awful lot about the sport and don’t take enough money on it to hire a dedicated boxing trader,” says Frank Monkhouse, amateur boxer and editor of sports tipping site fightingtips.co.uk. “Obviously you won't get a 100/1 winner in a two-man contest, but week after week there are some little gems to get your hands on. So do your homework and reap the rewards.”

Whether it’s best to seek these rewards in the outright market is up for debate (see Outright Opinions box) but one thing that’s for sure is that certain types of round betting are worthy of your close attention. Monkhouse recommends beginners try a ‘safe bet’ on the number of rounds a fight will last, for example Over or Under 9.5 rounds.

Betfair boxing journalist Alex Steedman says that group round bets, for example betting on the fight to finish between rounds four and six, might be of interest “at the bigger weights or in mismatches.” He doesn’t completely write-off standard round betting, for example a fight to finish in round eight, but wouldn’t recommend it as a bet for those who want to win regularly. “It's a bit like the correct score on football,” he says. “It’s a market created to appeal at the odds and, while it feels good when you get it right, it’s harder to predict.” Whatever market you involve yourself in, he feels that there is “an angle for those willing to put in the work.”

The work in question involves using research to expand your understanding and knowledge. As with any serious sports betting, you need to ensure you know what you’re dealing with. Monkhouse says that a good way of improving knowledge is to watch Sky Sports’ Friday Fight Night, a programme he describes as the “bread and butter of the domestic game and a real reference point for fight fans”. He also recommends Boxrec.com, a website containing the records of boxers past and present, explaining that it’s even used by fighters themselves to research opponents.

As a further resource Steedman recommends getting hold of DVDs of fights that weren’t shown on TV over here, perhaps because they were only broadcast in America for example. Adverts for such products can usually be found in boxing magazines. “Watching as much as you can is a must and is the edge you need,” Steedman says, adding: “If you like the sport it won't be a chore.” If you don’t want to fork out for DVDs then video sharing sites like YouTube are another option.

One thing you will probably learn quite quickly is that upsets occur regularly in the boxing world, so lumping big on odds-on favourites is generally unadvisable. “Boxing is as unpredictable and unreliable a sport as there can be,” says Craig Eddie, former amateur boxer and now writer for Fighting Tips. “Any fighter can knock any other fighter out with one single punch.” He compares a David v Goliath situation across boxing and tennis, explaining that “if a tennis player ranked 250 in the world is to beat a player ranked number one, he must outplay his far more talented opponent for three hours. In boxing the number one ranked fighter could beat on his less talented 250th ranked opponent for eleven and a half rounds only to walk onto a desperate haymaker, then just like that it’s over.”

Such occurrences should be used as a learning curve, as Steedman explains. “Sometimes you will have the right idea but it doesn't quite work out,” he says. “One punch in boxing can turn a fight and there is also the possibility of cuts playing a part, the referee intervening or a corner withdrawing their fighter. That’s before you even consider how the judges are viewing the fight. Therefore definitely make an attempt to record your bets and, importantly, the reasons for them.”

On the subject of records, a fighter’s win-loss count is obviously worth noting but shouldn’t be taken as a definite indicator of how a fight will go. “Records don’t always tell the truth,” says Eddie. “Just because a fighter is 20-0 with 20 knockouts doesn’t mean they’ll beat a fighter who is 10-10, if that fighter has been matched tougher than his unbeaten opponent.” He says that “styles make fights” and encourages punters to “try to figure out the strengths and weaknesses in each fighter and how they match up against one another”.

The build-up to a fight these days involves the usual media hype, something that can prove distracting for a would-be punter. “British fighters, particularly those with a celebrity lifestyle, tend to get heavily over-hyped in this country’s tabloids only to be exposed when they are moved into world class,” says Eddie. Steedman agrees, adding that bookmakers “definitely favour home fighters”; a factor that he feels punters can take advantage of. He cites the recent Kevin Mitchell v Michael Katsidis bout as a good example. “Mitchell had the style to beat the Aussie slugger,” he says, “but Katsidis was a hard punching, top level operator. He really should have been an odds-on favourite on records alone. He wasn't and KO'd Mitchell very early”.

It can also be worthwhile betting on fights that haven’t even been announced yet in order to maximise potential value. “The likes of Muhammad Ali and Prince Naseem Hamed made boxing a member of the entertainment business,” says Monkhouse. “So we now expect a bit of trash talking and ‘will they, wont they’ pantomime. I would advise taking a chance and looking for the value about potential fights. For example, David Haye v Wladimir Klitschko is a fantasy bet offered by a lot of firms but we all know there is too much money at stake for this bout not to go ahead. So don't wait until the last minute and take a price which has been jumped all over.” The added bonus here is that most bookmakers will refund your stake if the fight doesn’t actually happen.

Much like a fighter who trains hard for an upcoming fight, the key to successful boxing betting is to put in the hours between bouts. As Monkhouse puts it: “There are profits to be made on the sweet science for backers wishing to put in a bit of ground work.” Make use of whatever footage you can get your hands on and form your own theories and opinions. Just be wary of the fluke knockout and before you know it you’ll be delivery some sucker punches of your own to the bookies’ balance sheets.

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