The dueling doubleheaders next weekend provide at least one bet-worthy fight each. HBO and Showtime are not exactly hurling bricks at each other.
If I had to be at ringside for one or the other, I’d skip both and head to Belmont Park and watch Big Brown deliver the Triple Crown.
That’s the big event next Saturday, but at least boxing has better bets to offer, though not with its top practitioners. Headlining the four-bout buffet will be Kelly Pavlik on HBO, but he is like a 20-1 or 25-1 favorite (-1300 at the Bellagio) over a so-called "mandatory" challenger.
Pavlik will be making his first defense of the middleweight title he won from Jermain Taylor last year. A second victory came earlier in 2008 over Taylor, who was over the weight. Pavlik will be facing Gary Lockett of Wales, whose "talent" is that he is trained by Enzo Calzaghe, Joe’s dad.
This fact affords the chance of building up a possible Joe Calzaghe-Pavlik meeting in the future. Enzo Calzaghe has been in there, throwing darts at Pavlik and the Youngstown, Ohio, icon’s trainer, Jack Leow. That might make for a good buildup, but only if Joe Calzaghe will be the one in the ring.
Lockett has as much chance here as Grenada against the United States. Just look at their last three fights – Pavlik is coming off two victories over Taylor and a knockout of tough Edison Miranda. Lockett has just beaten Kai Kauramaki, Lee Blundell and Ayitey Powers. I haven’t heard of any of those three, either.
Pavlik’s co-feature on HBO from Atlantic City is an actual fight with a good chance of a favored champion being toppled. Daniel Ponce de Leon, 34-1 with 30 knockouts and a genuine puncher, is in peril against the undefeated Juan Manuel Lopez of Puerto Rico, 21-0 with 19 KO’s.
De Leon hurts, when he lands. Trouble is, he can miss by a mile and leave himself wide open. That’s dangerous against a puncher like Lopez. De Leon is a wild southpaw and it showed in his one loss, to a fellow 122-pound titlist, Celestino Cabalerro in 2005.
It showed when he defeated Gerry Penalosa, who completely outboxed him although you could not tell it from the scorecards. In one of the worst jobs of judging in years, de Leon was given all 12 rounds on one card and 11 of 12 on the other two. Believe me, it was a fight that could have fairly gone either way. Penalosa, at least, proved his mettle by moving back down to 118 and winning a title last year by knocking out Jhonny Gonzalez.
Lopez is worth the +145 buy-back rate I’ve seen against de Leon, who I’ve seen as high as -180. (The Bellagio has de Leon at -160 and Lopez at +140).
As for Showtime…
The TV card in Connecticut has a reptilian glow. It features the "Viper," Vernon Forrest, making a defense of his 154-pound title, against the "Latin Snake," Sergio Mora of "Contender" infamy.
Forrest is a deserved 5-1 favorite against an undefeated challenger whose biggest victories were at the "Contender" level – two against Peter Manfredo Jr., another against Ishe Smith. Forrest has two victories over Sugar Shane Mosley, which adds up to a hell of a lot more of all 20 Mora triumphs.
No buyback rate of +300 or +400 could tempt me on Mora.
But there is a snake in the grass here for chalk players to beware. The Viper, at 37 and with all sorts of shoulder problems over the years, is a little long in the fang. He wasn’t that impressive in his last start, against Italy’s Michele Piccirillo.
Forrest, one of the classiest fighters in and out of the ring, should handle the light-hitting Mora (only 5 KO’s on his 20-0-1 ledger). However, no great value here.
The betting fight is the rematch between Carlos Quintana and Paul Williams. I still consider Quintana’s clear decision over the man who had just dethroned Antonio Margarito the upset of the year. The problem is it shouldn’t have happened.
Williams had just beaten one of the true tough guys in the welterweight division. Quintana had upset the over-hyped Joel Julio a couple of years ago, but all that got him was a terrible beating from Miguel Cotto.
The question before anyone risks laying 9-5 on Williams is whether, at age 26, he can reach 147 pounds comfortably enough to have a bit of spark .
My advice is to keep your hands in your pockets.