Dillian Whyte and Oscar Rivas headline London’s O2 Arena in a heavyweight scrap that could go either way. Also on the card in the ‘big boy’ division is Dave Allen’s shootout with David Price and Derrick Chisora’s dust-up with the equally eccentric Artur Szpilka. The support is some cracking domestic action in the cruiserweight and light heavyweight divisions.
Lighting up Vegas this weekend is Manny Pacquiao’s latest assault on the welterweight world championship when he faces elite titleholder Keith Thurman. In the prelims, Caleb Plant defends his super middleweight strap against unbeaten challenger Mike Lee.
We like to think that if we put the graft in we’ll be rewarded, but that’s not the case for poor old Dillian Whyte. The Brixton boxer has beaten one contender after another, he’s held the number one challenger position for two years and he’s talked the finest smack – yet, instead of a title shot he gets matched with the next up-and-coming heavyweight killer.
Colombia’s Rivas is an undefeated pro with an impressive KO record and his amateur pedigree includes an Olympic appearance and a win over current unified champ Andy Ruiz. In his last bout, Rivas starched Bryant Jennings in the 12th round after a close contest.
There are still question marks over the stocky heavyweight though – why has he progressed so slowly since his pro debut in 2009, how will he fare against his first big-punching opponent and will he be able to resist the ‘Full English’ on his first trip to the UK. Whyte is justifiably the favourite but there’s lots of value in Rivas to win at 16/5.
‘The Body Snatcher’ is on a nine-fight winning streak since he was sparked out by Anthony Joshua in 2015 and an interesting pattern has emerged – he alternates winning by KO and on points. As Whyte’s last victory was an 11th round stoppage of Chisora, he’s set to win by decision this Saturday – which is priced at 11/10.
The truth is, that when Dillian has been in against his best opponents – Joseph Parker and Chisora – they’ve been really close fights. If Rivas can handle Whyte’s strength and roughhousing he has the skills to win, but that’s even a big ask for the best heavyweights. I think it’ll go the distance and the judges will have a tough time splitting the pair.
Bet of the bout: Draw at 25/1.
The outcome of Allen versus Price is a simple coin flip. Either the big Scouser can knock out Allen in four rounds or the ‘Donnie’ man can take the power and stops Price before the midway point – and I think ‘White Rhino’ is going to come up heads.
Price was a Beijing 2008 bronze medalist but now, at 36, he’s lost three of his last six. His mean streak has gone and the Liverpudlian’s worst nightmare is getting rushed by a granite-chinned brawler.
Let’s not pretend that Allen is a world-class boxer. Pricey’s right hand will always be a massive threat, but Allen has all the attributes to put Price to sleep. The Olympian has lost six times, each time by knockout, and all have come before the bell has rang for the end of the seventh round. Allen may approach the first round with some patience, but I think he’ll go after the KO sooner rather than later.
Bet of the bout: Allen in rounds 1-3 7/2.
While the heavyweight division is wide open, a single win can get you in the conversation for a title shot. Chisora and Szpilka are outside fringe contenders after a couple of recent losses apiece, but a victory could make them viable options for whoever holds the world titles in six months time.
‘Del Boy’ is 35 and Szpilka is only 30, but their trajectories are going in opposite directions. Chisora has never looked more motivated, while Szpilka has been indifferent since getting blasted out by Deontay Wilder in 2016.
‘The Pin’ throws lots of shots but moves a lot too, and it will be Chisora’s job to track him down. Both men fight fire with fire, but when it comes to trading blows the Brit has the power and the chin to win.
Bet of the bout: Chisora in rounds 5-6 at 17/2.
It’s taken a while to catch on but matching decent British prospects seems to be in vogue. I’m all for it – they get a proper test, more exposure and one fighter gets a credible win, while the other can learn and come again. And, best of all, these are usually really good scraps.
Pick of the bunch this Saturday is Richard Riakporhe against Chris Billam-Smith in the cruiser-weight division. Both are nine fights into their pro careers but it’s Riakporhe who has made a splash with his devastating power. Billiam-Smith is the slicker fighter though and with Shane McGuigan in his corner, he can take the win at 7/4.
Charlie Duffield versus Dan Azeez is a ‘pick-em’ fight on paper for the southern area light heavyweight title, but I like Azeez at 4/9 to take the victory. Lawrence Okolie is also on the card and he can score a KO win against his Argentine journeyman opponent.
Conventional wisdom claims that at 40 your body is past it’s best – so you shouldn’t be odds on (8/11) to beat an elite welterweight world champion at boxing. Pacquiao is no ordinary 40-year-old but I am having a hard time seeing why he’s favourite against American Thurman.
Thurman had almost two years out of the ring with injury before he returned to action in January, and sneaking a result against Californian hardman Josesito Lopez didn’t convince everyone that ‘One Time’ was back to his best. I am, however, in the camp that believes those 12 rounds in winter were perfect to shake off the ring rust.
‘Pac Man’s’ form over the last 24 months has been patchy. He was poor when he lost against Jeff Horn, he was scintillating beating up Lucas Matthysse, and he was decent when disposing of Adrien Broner most recently.
Expect all action on Saturday – but not necessarily the stoppage. Thurman has one KO in the last five years, Pacquiao has one in the last 10. I see this being a split decision either way or a draw, but the value lies with Thurman.
Bet of the bout: Thurman on points at 15/8.
The contest to look for on the undercard is the world championship bout between Plant and Lee at 2am. Plant picked up the belt in his last bout, and he has fast hands and an entertaining style. However, Lee’s a 21-fight unbeaten contender at 14/1. I’m backing him to rise to the occasion.
Bet of the bout: Mike Lee to win at 14/1.
*Prices correct a time of publication but are fluid