LAS VEGAS — Mario Barrios’ chances of defeating Keith Thurman on Saturday at Michelob Ultra Arena are being dismissed out-of-hand by some because of size.
Barrios began his professional career in 2013 as a super bantamweight and has competed for most of it as a super lightweight. Thurman was a super welterweight in his earliest professional days but has primarily been a welterweight during his career.
But then they pose nose-to-nose at Wednesday’s news conference and lo and behold, the size difference wasn’t pronounced. Barrios was clearly taller and didn’t look physically outmatched standing next to Thurman.
That complicates matters from a betting perspective. Barrios has been active and Thurman has not been, but Thurman is nearly a 2-to-1 favorite. At BetMGM, Thurman is -185 and Barrios is +150.
In June, Barrios was stopped in the 11th by Gervonta Davis in a super lightweight bout. In Davis’ bout prior to facing Barrios, he weighed 129 3/4 against Leo Santa Cruz.
So now Barrios is going the other direction and facing a lifelong welterweight.
Thurman hasn’t fought since July 20, 2019, when he lost a split decision to Manny Pacquiao in a fight he could have and probably should have won. But he started slowly, got clipped by Pacquiao late in the first and gave up early rounds that cost him the fight.
He had another hand surgery after the fight, and it’s always difficult to know what to expect when a fighter competes for the first time following hand surgery.
That’s why I can’t recommend a play on Thurman to win at -185. My sense is he’ll win the fight because I believe he’s a more skillful boxer than Barrios and has beaten a higher level of opposition.
But Barrios will be highly motivated and he figures to be at his best. He fought well against Davis before Davis’ power began to take its toll on him. Can Thurman punch harder than Davis? The answer to that is an equivocal perhaps. Davis is a big puncher despite his size, and when one takes Thurman’s hand surgery into account, it may diminish his power a bit.
So I don’t want to lay that kind of money, especially because I believe the line is going to move more in favor of Thurman as the fight gets closer.
BetMGM has Thurman to win by decision at +160 and that piques my interest. Thurman hasn’t won a fight by KO since 2015 when he stopped Luis Collazo, and it’s not like he’s any quicker now than he was then, when he was also fully healthy.
Taking a guy at plus money who has wins over the likes of Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter, Josesito Lopez and Robert Guerrero, among others, is more to my liking.
So I’ll take the +160 and bet $100 on Thurman to win by decision.
Best bet for Chris Eubank Jr. vs. Liam Williams
The other bout that intrigues me from a betting standpoint this week is in Cardiff, Wales, a middleweight bout between Chris Eubank Jr. against Liam Williams. Williams is coming off a one-sided loss to Demetrius Andrade, though it’s probably fair to note that everyone Andrade faces usually loses in one-sided manner.
Having said that, Eubank is a cut above in terms of skill and talent. Eubank is -300 at BetMGM and Williams is +250.
Like in the Thurman-Barrios fight, I’m not eager to lay that kind of money on Eubank, but I can get Eubank at +160 to win by decision. Williams hasn’t been stopped since 2017.
So I’ll take +160 on Eubank to win by decision.