The odds are astounding, at least on the surface. Shakur Stevenson is a -700 favorite to defeat Oscar Valdez on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden in their super featherweight unification bout.
Valdez is an unbeaten world champion with a 77% knockout ratio, and the odds would suggest he’s little more than a tune-up. At BetMGM, Valdez is +425.
Those odds don’t signify anything bad about Valdez, but are a sign of the trust and belief in Stevenson. Stevenson, who is ninth in Yahoo Sports’ pound-for-pound rankings, has the talent to not only be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, but to lap the field.
He’s got great physical gifts, but he’s got a brilliant mind for boxing. He’s an accurate puncher and has an innate sense from where punches are coming from, so he’s able to get off his shots and get out of the way before getting harmed.
The fight is reminiscent of the legendary 2001 super featherweight unification bout between Floyd Mayweather and the late Diego “Chico” Corrales. Like Stevenson and Valdez, both were undefeated. Mayweather was the brilliant boxer with the Olympic pedigree, like Stevenson. And Corrales was the hard-hitting knockout artist like Valdez.
That fight was the one which sent Mayweather to superstardom. He boxed so beautifully and hit Corrales so cleanly so often that he scored five knockdowns and won by 10th round knockout.
Mayweather’s power, particularly at the lighter weights, was vastly underrated. The same is true of Stevenson, though he doesn’t have the kind of punching power that a young Mayweather did. But Stevenson hits plenty hard, particularly since he is so accurate and lands shots that opponents often don’t see coming until it’s too late.
That makes me like the idea of taking Stevenson by KO/TKO/DQ/Technical Decision at +200. But I’m going to pass on that because Stevenson doesn’t need to finish Valdez. He’s going to be conservative, I believe, and use his legs to avoid getting pinned in corners or along the ropes. He’ll create angles, go up and down and move in ways that throws off Valdez’s timing.
Valdez’s best chance to win is to fight in confined spaces and not give Stevenson time or space. Valdez has to make him fight when he doesn’t want to fight and take away not only his lateral movement, but his room to punch.
Valdez can win, but he’ll need to fight a perfect fight and force Stevenson into repeated, uncharacteristic mistakes.
So I’m going to bet two units on Stevenson to win by decision at -150, risking $300 to win $200. Stevenson is a superstar developing in front of our eyes and 20 years from now, it would be no shock if historians look back on a win in this fight as a defining victory of his career.
Serrano has her moment to shine
Amanda Serrano is starting to become a bigger favorite in her bout with Katie Taylor for lightweight supremacy. At BetMGM, Serrano is now up to -150, with Taylor, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist, at +115.
Serrano is one of the few women in professional boxing with legitimate knockout power, which is saying something in two-minute rounds. Serrano is 42-1-1 and has 30 knockouts.
This fight is being contested at 135 pounds, and Serrano has fought 10 women who have weighed 131 or more. In those 10 fights, she’s gone 9-0-1 with seven knockouts. So Serrano, who as recently as Jan. 17, 2019, weighed in at only 114 1/4, clearly can handle bigger women.
Taylor is the most talented and sturdiest woman she’s fought. And while Taylor can be hit, she has repeatedly shown a good chin.
Taylor is 20-0 with only six knockouts, so it’s unlikely she’ll finish Serrano.
The home crowd at Madison Square Garden will be a big boost for Serrano, and I think her versatility will lead her to the victory. But Taylor is tough and isn’t going to be stopped.
So I will make two wagers. I’ll lay the -150 on Serrano to win, risking $150 for a $100 profit. And I’ll drop two units on the fight going the distance. Will go the distance is -275 and won’t go the distance is +200. I’ll bet two units on will go, so I’ll risk $550 to win $200 on that.
Best bet for Liam Smith vs. Jessie Vargas
• I’ll bet the Liam Smith-Jessie Vargas fight will go the 12 full rounds. Yes is -150, so I’ll lay $150 for a $100 profit on a win. No is +110.