Frank Maloney, the boxing promoter and former manager of now retired heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, is one of the biggest names in British boxing. He spoke to Joe Morgan and gave us his advice for our guide to betting on boxing.
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Know the Game Before You Bet
Maloney says you can find value by knowing boxing intimately or picking up insider tips. Bookmakers mainly rely on the boxing trade press to calculate the odds on a fight and, according to Maloney, they do sometimes get it wrong. ‘I’ve seen laughable odds,’ he says. ‘If you know the sport and see odds of 3/1 or 7/2, it’s often worth a bet because it’s a two-horse race.’
Maloney doesn’t, however, recommend placing wagers on a heavyweight bout. ‘Heavyweight contests are unpredictable. One big punch can change everything. You can have a safer bet with the lighter weights.’
Who’s the Wanker at Ringside?
One factor you must always take into account when betting on boxing is the judging panel. Boxing is one of the most political sports there is, so it’s naive to overlook the potential for surprising decisions to be made if a fight goes to the judges after 12 rounds.
Gambling on a fighter in a contest away from home can be bad for your financial health. German and Italian judges in particular are often accused of giving so-called ‘home-town decisions’. Sven Ottke, Germany’s 36-year-old WBA and IBF super middleweight champion is a textbook case. Click ‘How To’ to read more on why Ottke is a ‘home banker’. As Frank Maloney puts it, ‘He’s never fought outside Germany, and you can see why.’
What influences the judges? Are they subconsciously affected by partisan support for one fighter, or could the frequency of so-called home-town decisions have anything to do with how the judges are paid?
In boxing, the world sanctioning body will decide the judge’s fee before the fight. However, it’s down to the promoter of the show to pay the judges, and the promoter will often be backing the local fighter. This can obviously lead to a conflict of interest. It’s yet another reason why boxing lacks transparency in the eyes of so many sports followers, and why it makes sense to bet on a fight that’s likely to be decided inside the distance and not require the judges’ input.
Another factor to consider is the nationality of the judges. In theory, this shouldn’t affect the outcome, but if you fancy a bet it’s always wise to check the pedigree of judges, especially little-known judges who are allowed to take charge in title fights. In the WBC welterweight world title fight between title holder Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad at the Mandalay Bay Events Centre in Las Vegas in September 1999, which was overwhelmingly scored in favour of De La Hoya by most observers, Belgian judge Bob Logist gained notoriety. When asked after the event why he had awarded rounds to Trinidad when De La Hoya appeared to be in complete control of them, the hapless Logist replied: ‘I guess I lost my concentration.’
Good Champs are Everywhere
To confuse matters further, there’s an array of world sanctioning bodies. Gamblers shouldn’t dismiss the champions of newly-formed governing bodies such as the WBU if they come up against title holders of the more established belts, however.
Stockport’s WBU light welterweight world champion Ricky Hatton has won 33 fights out of 33. As he puts it: ‘The WBU may be regarded as Mickey Mouse, but I’m not Mickey Mouse.’
The career trajectory of a boxer is also a crucial factor to take into account, because young, up-and-coming fighters are often fed hand-picked opponents to help them develop their skills. While a defeat is unlikely, punters shouldn’t rule out betting against rising stars in such contests – upsets do happen.
When the big fights do happen, the punters will be piling in. That’s because – if you know what you’re doing – gambling on boxing can prove extremely profitable. But be sure to check every area, from the form and style of the fighters, to the judges and weigh-ins. All these factors, as we’ve seen, can play a vital part in the outcome – and decide whether you’ll have a winning night.