After taking a brief timeout last weekend, big-time boxing is back.
Heavyweights Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz go at it for prize fighting’s premier belt and Callum Smith defends his world title against John Ryder in a battle of Britain.
There are also two undercards crammed with action, so let’s get stuck in.
I am a Deontay doubter, always have been, but his recent form is hard to dismiss. The 6-foot-7 Tuscaloosan showed stamina, patience and grit in his draw with Tyson Fury at the end of last year, and he reminded us of his ungodly power when he flattened Dominic Breazeale in one round in May.
Back in early 2018, Wilder took on Ortiz for the first time. Cuba’s ‘King Kong’ caused the champ all sorts of problems before Wilder finally folded up his challenger and put him away in the 10th round.
It looks like Ortiz is in the shape of his career but under the hood is a 40-year-old veteran, and, like an old car, some of the power has gone and it’s creaking. Ortiz could still beat most heavyweights but Paddy is right to make him a 4/1 underdog for this rematch on the Las Vegas strip.
Wilder has two first-round KO wins in his last four fights and you can get 14/1 on another one this weekend.
It’s worth noting that those blink-or-you-miss-it KOs came against an opponent who didn’t want to be there and one who didn’t bother moving his head as Wilder teed-off.
‘The Bronze Bomber’ might attempt another spectacular start but more often than not he waits until an opponent is shaken before he wades in with the haymakers.
As champ, most of Wilder’s KO’s have come in rounds 7-12 and I am backing that result again.
Bet of the bout: Wilder in rounds 7-12 at 13/5.
Vegas undercard, Sunday, 2am-5am
Featherweight world champion Leo Santa Cruz only seems to do one high profile fight every two years and his bout this weekend (Sunday, 4am) isn’t one of them.
In the opposite corner is the mediocre Miguel Flores – expect an energetic scrap until Santa Cruz shows his class and finishes it in rounds 5-8 at 13/8.
Earlier in the night, Luis Nery versus Emmanuel Rodriguez is a must-see fight (Sunday, 3am) and rising superstar Brandon Figueroa can put on a show against Julio Ceja (Sunday, 2am). The best bets are Nery on points at 7/2 and Figueroa in rounds 1-6 at 16/5.
Ryder has scored four consecutive knockouts to get his world title shot, but that doesn’t mean he has a chance against Smith.
Liverpool’s champion had bigger ambitions than facing Ryder this year and I think he will make the Londoner pay for taking this bout.
‘The Gorilla’ is a good fighter but he’s not world-class, and Ryder especially struggles with tall opponents who can jab – and Smith is the best of the lot. The stocky southpaw super-middleweight has been stopped once before and Smith is just 2/5 to win by KO.
The Scouse favourite is back in front of his home fans for the first time in two years and I believe he’ll want to put on a show. I am tempted by the 5/1 for Smith to win rounds 1-3, but Ryder can be a tricky boxer to work out, so I’m backing Smith to win inside six sessions.
Bet of the bout: Smith in rounds 1-6 at 13/8.
Liverpool undercard, Saturday, 8pm-10pm
The highlight of the undercard should be the Commonwealth title bout between cruiserweights Craig Glover and Chris Billam-Smith (Saturday, 9pm).
Both boxers have banged out a string of journeymen, but I think Billam-Smith’s skills will get him the win in Liverpool, and I like the 9/2 for him to take the belt on points.
Northern Ireland’s James Tennyson doesn’t do boring fights and he’s a big favourite to win by stoppage in his contest with Wales’s Craig Evans (Saturday, 8pm).
The thing is, Tennyson has also been stopped three times, so I am going to have a little dabble on the massive 12/1 for Evans by KO.
* All odds correct at time of posting.