Is There Value In Fight With 9/1 Favorite?

canelo alvarez boxing saunders

The sportsbooks are telling you that on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is the Buffalo Bills and Caleb Plant is the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The odds for the Showtime Pay-Per-View boxing match are almost identical to Sunday afternoon’s most lopsided NFL contest, for which the Bills range from -900 to -1115 on the moneyline and the Jags pay between +650 and +700. The shortest price found at any of the legal U.S. sportsbooks on Alvarez is -900 at Caesars, while the longest on Plant is +700 at bet365.

It’s a strange thing with boxing. Alvarez and Plant are No. 1 and No. 2 in the Transnational Boxing Rankings at super middleweight, the fight will crown an undisputed champion, and Plant is as live an underdog as anyone in this 168-pound weight class could be against Canelo … but Alvarez is basically a two-touchdown favorite.

That’s boxing. The very good don’t beat the truly great all that often. Canelo has compiled a record of 56-1-2 since turning pro in Mexico 16 years ago at age 15 (!). As he has completed his rise from red-haired curiosity to by far the most bankable star in the sport and arguably its finest pound-for-pound fighter, a gambler could have squandered quite a bit of cash making upset picks against him.

And even though Nashville native Plant, undefeated at 21-0 and in his physical prime at 29, has just the sort of clever style that could give Alvarez fits, the sportsbooks are daring you to take a shot on him.

Does Plant get style points?

Switching from my gambling writer hat to my boxing journalist hat, the quick breakdown of the matchup looks something like this: Canelo has struggled at times with highly skilled boxers, most notably losing to Floyd Mayweather and winning a controversial decision over Erislandy Lara — but those bouts were eight and seven years ago, respectively, and he’s a much more complete boxer-puncher now.

Plant has an excellent jab and a 5-inch height advantage over Canelo and will undoubtedly look to use his feet and control the distance. The challenge Plant faces is threefold:

  1. Outboxing Canelo is easier said than done, as the Mexican superstar is as proficient and efficient a boxer as exists currently in the world, both offensively and defensively.
  2. Even if Plant appears to be piling up rounds, Alvarez has enjoyed friendly judging throughout his career, as boxing’s cash cows often do.
  3. No lead is safe against Canelo, who, while not headed for the all-time greatest punchers list, is more than capable of turning out the lights with one or two well-timed shots.

So what outcomes are in play? Alvarez by knockout (or TKO or DQ) is priced as the most likely — the price keeps widening on that, from an industry-best -160 on Thursday to -175 at FOX Bet on Friday morning. Alvarez by decision (or technical decision) is as high as +225 at BetMGM. Next most likely is Plant by decision, a 14/1 payout at FOX Bet. And Plant by stoppage is the real longshot, as high as 18/1 at Caesars.

If Plant is going to find a way to prevail, decision seems far more likely than KO, as he isn’t a devastating puncher and Canelo hasn’t been visibly hurt in a fight since Miguel Cotto’s brother Jose clipped him midway through the first round way back in 2010, when Alvarez was still a teenager.

As for Canelo’s method of victory, it’s debatable whether the stoppage is more likely than a distance fight. Five of Canelo’s last nine fights have gone the full 12 and, against mostly limited competition, we’ve never seen Plant — a disciplined defensive boxer — hurt.

It’s the props that pop

A straight-up bet on Alvarez at -900 or wider is a tough ask for even his most hardcore fans as they roll into Vegas. In 2017, you could get Mayweather at -500 against a guy who’d never been in a professional boxing match before, Conor McGregor, in what sharp bettors viewed as the steal of the century. It’s not as easy to lay $9 for every dollar you get back when the opponent is an actual championship-caliber pugilist.

So this feels like a fight for which bettors will want to identify their favorite prop. If you think Canelo wins, you choose Door A or Door B on method of victory. The over/under 9.5 rounds is worthy of consideration on either side, priced at up to +105 on the over or -115 on the under. You can get up to +163 on the fight to go the distance, or -215 on it not to.

Then there are some of the outside-the-box props, like these offered at FanDuel Sportsbook:

fanduel alvarez plant specials

Or maybe you want to try a ridiculous longshot at better than 50/1:

fanduel alvarez plant longshots

Speaking of ridiculous longshots at better than 50/1, there’s an underdog parlay that’s been staring us in the face since the opening paragraph of this article: The Jags to beat the Bills and Plant to beat Alvarez pays +5900 at Caesars. Sure, Canelo has only lost once in 59 fights so far, but what fun would longshot parlay betting be if we let math, logic, or reason dictate our decisions?

Photo: Jerome Miron/USA TODAY

Author: Wanda Peters