Boxing in 2017 kicks-off with a world title double header in New York and three outside bets that could brighten up this dreary January.
James DeGale and Badou Jack put their world titles on the line in a winner-takes-all headline fight that promises to be a close call, Jose Pedraza has a hard job keeping hold of his belt when he takes on hot prospect Gervonta Davis, and Immanuwel Aleem can spring a surprise against hype-job Ievgen Khytrov.
DeGale is super middleweight world champion. Jack is also super middleweight world champion. We’ve got ourselves a unification fight and the winner will be the undisputed best 168 pound fighter in the world. Paddy makes the Brit a 4/11 favourite but the fight takes place in Jack’s adopted country, the U.S. of A.
The mouthy 2008 Olympic champion deserved his initial hype as a pro but in 2011 DeGale’s career went quiet after getting shut down by George Groves in their British title grudge match. The silky southpaw had to fight in Norway, Hull and the Bluewater shopping centre before he got his career back on track for a world title shot.
Then, two years ago, DeGale went to American Andre Dirrell’s backyard and came away with his crown. ‘Chunky’ has returned to North America to defend his belt on two occasions already, winning each contest by decision and DeGale is only 4/6 to win on points again, but his opponent might provide better value.
The Swede won his title from Dirrell’s brother Anthony in 2015, and he first defended it with a points win against Groves and then just about hung on to the belt in a draw against Lucian Bute. DeGale schooled Bute when he faced him but the loss to Groves gives Jack the better record.
With almost the same career experience and similar physicality, and with neither fighter scoring a KO in their last three bouts, you can see why the price for it to go the distance is only 1/4.
That isn’t to say the Scandinavian is made of granite. In 2014, Jack got iced in the first round by a second-rate fighter. DeGale’s KOs tend to come early and the 10/1 for him to win in rounds 1-6 is worth a punt.
The Londoner has called the Team Mayweather boxer ‘basic’, and he’s not the only one, but it’s very hard to clearly win a round against someone as fit and fearless as the ‘The Ripper’. Jack is an enticing 7/2 to win on the judge’s cards but I think the best bet might be the 25/1 for the fight to end in a draw.
The second world championship exhibition in New York this weekend is between Puerto Rican super featherweight champion Pedraza and novice challenger Davis. Despite being only 22 and having just 16 pro bouts our bookie makes the American only a slight 11/10 underdog.
Pedraza is a former Olympian and in 2015 he became champion of the world in the pros. Late last year the ‘Sniper’ defended against British hope Stephen Smith and lived up to his name when he dropped the Scouser in the ninth round, although the contest ended in a points win for Pedraza.
The Latin American champ is unbeaten and looks great, but Davis could be special. He’s another one of Mayweather’s protégés and they call this guy the mini Mike Tyson. Davis has a huge 94% KO ratio but that was gained against humble opposition compared to Pedraza.
Davis isn’t just a banger though, and he won plenty of medals as a youth amateur. ‘Mini Mike’ is tough enough to go the distance if he needs to and the hefty 9/2 for him to be victorious on points might end up as the best boxing long shot of 2017.
If you tune in for the undercard, or you just need another bet for your acca, there’s an upset in the offing that could pay big. Khytrov is being billed as a future world champion in the mould of Gennady Golovkin or Sergey Kovalev but last year he needed a last minute KO to save his unbeaten record against a mediocre opponent.
Khytrov has power and is technically sound but he has slow hands and short arms. The Ukrainian was world amateur champion, no small feat, but he lost in the Olympics in only the second round the following year to Team GB’s Anthony Ogogo.
The guy who’s supposed to lose, Aleem, is an unbeaten New Yorker who’s untested but has shown speed and movement in previous fights. If the American has the chin and game plan to match his athleticism he stands a great chance.
Aleem is a lengthy 4/1 to win and even longer for a decision victory – both are proper value bets.
Matt Gipon’s Top Tips: