The biggest star in North American boxing, and quite possibly the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world, super middleweight Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, will step into the ring in Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium Saturday night as a 50/1 favorite to defeat challenger Avni Yildirim.
In most professional sports, a mismatch of 50/1 proportions would be an impossibility. The most lopsided moneyline odds in the NFL all season in 2020 saw the Kansas City Chiefs in the range of -2200 at home against the then-winless New York Jets, who were about +1100 ‘dogs. And that was an extreme outlier. Most weeks, the biggest NFL underdog is about 5/1.
On Friday night’s NBA slate, no ‘dog is deeper than +300. The biggest underdogs in an MLB or NHL game tend to fall in that same range. Even in UFC, a +350 underdog winning last weekend qualified as the biggest main event upset in five years.
In college sports, it’s a little easier to find a Canelo vs. Yildirim-level mismatch, as schedules sometimes pit elite programs against teams without a single player who could even get recruited to that nationally ranked school.
But as far as professional sports go, it is to the great shame of the boxing business that massive mismatches are a routine component of the operation. In this case, one of the sport’s for-profit sanctioning bodies deemed Yildirim, fresh off a loss in his last fight and without a meaningful victory on his ledger, to be a “mandatory” challenger to Alvarez. Canelo has chosen to fight him and collect a payday rather than risk being stripped of that organization’s belt, and here we are.
Sometimes, massive upsets happen in boxing, so even if logic dictates that Canelo will beat Yildirim more than 50 times out of 51, it’s just not worth it to most bettors to lay $100 for the chance to win $2. Or $1,000 for the chance to win $20. Or, for the whales out there, $100,000 to collect $2,000. A flukish perfect punch can happen. A freak injury can happen. Rare is the bettor who will find the reward worth that (admittedly tiny) risk.
Big ‘dog, bigger vig
So with a fight like Alvarez vs. Yildirim, you need to find other ways to bet it. Thankfully, the sportsbooks provide an assortment of options.
Unfortunately, you can’t get close to a 50/1 price on that side of the equation. The highest number we’re seeing is +1600 at FanDuel Sportsbook. Yildirim was stopped in three rounds by Chris Eubank Jr. in 2017, he lost a close technical decision to Anthony Dirrell in his last fight two years ago, and the most meaningful win on his record came in 2017 against non-contender Marco Antonio Periban. Canelo is coming off an utterly dominant win over Callum Smith, who would himself be a substantial favorite over the fighters Yildirim has lost to.
So, in short, 16/1 on Yildirim probably isn’t worth it.
Here are some other ways to bet Saturday’s fight:
Method of victory
Not only would Yildirim winning be a Douglas vs. Tyson-level shocker, but him even lasting the distance would be a huge upset. Therefore, you still have to lay a hefty price to take Alvarez to win by KO, TKO, or disqualification. The best we’re seeing is -1200 at FOX Bet. That might actually be a +EV bet, but you again have to ask yourself whether it’s worth it to risk $100 to win $8.33.
Alvarez by decision is priced as high as +800 — but make sure the sportsbook you’re using will pay out on a technical decision that comes if the fight is stopped earlier than round 12 due to an accidental foul and goes to the scorecards. With that technical decision possibility added in, there’s arguably some value in an 8/1 longshot. But some books specify “Canelo Alvarez By Points (after 12 rounds).”
Pick the round in which Canelo KOs him
This is basically picking a number on the roulette wheel, except determining the target here is not entirely random. Canelo hasn’t stopped an opponent prior to round 3 in more than 11 years. He’s powerful, but also patient, and logic suggests he’ll want to give the paying fans allowed in the stadium a show and not turn Yildirim to dust in the opening round or two. Logic also suggests Yildirim, whose aggressive style should be to his detriment here, will not make it into the late rounds.
So if you want to take a shot on a particular round between, say, the third and the ninth, you can get +550 on the third round at both FanDuel and DraftKings; +600 on the fourth at FanDuel and BetMGM; +700 on the fifth at those same two sites; +1000 on the sixth at FanDuel; +1100 on the seventh at FD and MGM; +1500 on the eighth at FanDuel; and +2200 on the ninth at FanDuel.
It’s likely that none of those prices offer actual value, but just like a multi-leg parlay where you should know going in that you’re sacrificing EV, they offer a fun sweat to possibly put a jolt in your bankroll.
Bet on a group of rounds
If individual rounds are a number on a roulette wheel, then group round betting is akin to a row or a column or putting a chip on the corner of four squares.
The groupings vary from sportsbook to sportsbook. Canelo by KO in round 4-6 pays +185 at DraftKings. In round 7-9, he’s +400 at BetMGM. In rounds 5-8, he’s +200 at FanDuel. Canelo anywhere in the first six rounds is -250 at BetMGM. And so forth.
Bet on an over/under or a more creative prop
Then there are the oddities:
- FOX Bet has a boost from +450 to +550 on Yildirim to get knocked down in the opening round. You can also take the challenger to be knocked down anytime in the first six rounds at -400, or take a flyer on both fighters to be knocked down sometime during the fight at +700.
- Yildirim not to score a knockdown is just as likely as Alvarez to win the fight, according to FOX Bet. The book has the “no” on the challenger scoring a knockdown at -5000, and the “yes” at +1000.
- BetMGM has Canelo to win after being knocked down at +1000, and Yildirim to get off the canvas and win at +4000. Buyer beware on the first option: Through 57 pro fights, Alvarez has never suffered an official knockdown.
Photo by Ed Mulholland/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports