Betting on Boxing

Boxing betting has going on in one form or another ever since the first documented account of bare-knuckle fighting happened in England back in 1681. You can even make a case that betting on the sport has been going on since the ancient Greeks named it an Olympic sport back in 688 BC. Yes, boxing’s origin goes back that long, and yes, betting on boxing has been around as long as the sport has existed.

These days, boxing is considered as one of the more popular sports to bet on, largely because it’s one of just two sports (mixed-martial arts being the other in the world that bettors are free to bet on people trying to beat each other up. At its highest level, there’s no greater thrill than watching a boxing match with money tied up in the action.

It’s fun to bet on boxing, and if you know how to play your cards right, you can make good money out of it.

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Boxing betting odds are more straightforward compared to other sports. Since it only involves two individuals in the ring together, bettors only have to rely on odds for both fighters.

Match odds

The most common bet boxing has is match odds, which is pretty much picking who wins between the two fighters. One fighter is typically listed as the favorite based on record and performance while the other fighter is listed as the underdog. Depending on who’s fighting, match odds can range from the comical to those that are too close to call. Heavy favorites taking on long-shot underdogs usually get lines in the neighborhood of 1/5 all the way up to 1/10. That means a $100 bet on a heavy favorite returns just $120, bet included. In rare cases where a favorite is so heavily favored like Mike Tyson was in his fight with James “Buster” Douglas back in February 1990, the odds on “Iron” Mike to win that fight came in at around 1/27. The perception of it being such a lopsided fight even forced some sportsbooks to drop the match odds from their offerings. Conversely, Douglas came in the fight as a huge 42/1 underdog, which meant that a $100 bet on the challenger would have returned a cool $4,200. Well, we all know what happened in that fight.

Round betting

Another popular form of boxing bets is round betting. Again, the premise is pretty simple. Bettors get to choose which round their fighter wins the fight. Since most boxing fights end in a decision, sportsbooks also offer “on points” betting, which means that whoever wins the fight via a decision also wins the offer. Betting on specific rounds usually come with high odds, often ranging from 25/1 to 50/1, because of the number of rounds to choose from (rounds 1 to 12) and who ends up winning in that specific round. Let’s take the upcoming Miguel Cotto vs. Canelo Alvarez fight for example. A Cotto stoppage in Round 5, for example, comes with 40/1 odds. Likewise, an Alvarez stoppage in the same round comes with 22/1 odds.

Method of victory

Round betting can get pretty exciting, but there’s also a lot of randomness tied to it. If bettors want to limit their options, they can opt for method of victory. This type of bet consists of choosing among three types of ways that a fight can end. The choices range from “draw or technical draw”, “KO, TKO, or disqualification”, and “decision or technical decision”. Unlike round betting, there are only five choices to choose from as both fighters each have a decision or KO choice while the draw offer is a choice onto itself.

Total rounds

If a bettor isn’t keen on betting on a particular fighter, boxing bets also have the total rounds offer. This works like traditional over/under bets in other sports. Books offer anywhere from O/U 3.5 rounds to O/U 11.5 rounds. Odds vary depending on the O/U of each round. Let’s take the O/U 3.5 rounds for example. An over bet on 3.5 rounds has odds in the range of 1/30 all the way up to 1/100 while an under bet on 3.5 rounds can go as high up as 10/1 or 20/1. Since most fights last longer than three rounds, the odds are skewed to reflect that.

Prop bets

There are rare instances when a fight is so big that sportsbooks open prop bets to further drive up the action. That was the case during the Floyd Mayweather - Manny Pacquiao fight back in May 2015. Since there was an unprecedented amount of interest surrounding that fight, some sportsbooks offered props like “who throws the first punch?”, “what kind of punch is thrown first?”, “who gets knocked down first?”, and oddities like “how long will Floyd Mayweather’s entrance be?”

Know What You’re Betting on

Understanding the types of bets available in a boxing fight is important for any bettor who wants to get as much value as they can when making their bets. The usual trends that apply in other sports don’t work in boxing because fighters have long layoffs between fights. Up-and-coming fighters normally have anywhere from four to five fights per year while established superstars like Mayweather and Pacquiao fight only twice a year.

So in the absence of trends and statistics, bettors who bet on boxing have to rely on other means of information, including age, size, fighting styles, and in some cases, the fighter’s sentiments towards each other.

Fighting style

Let’s take fighting style for example. Just because a fighter has been rampaging through the sport, that doesn’t mean that he’s going to lay waste to all his future opponents. Tyson found that out the hard way when he got knocked out by Douglas back in 1990. Same with thing Lennox Lewis when he got sent to the mat by Hasim Rahman back in 2000. Even Pacquaio’s rise to stardom began when he beat up Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003 as an unknown fighter from the Philippines. A more recent example happened in 2013 when Adrian Broner, who at that time was being hyped as the box office successor to Mayweather, was knocked down twice by Marcos Maidana on his way to losing the fight.

Look beyond the odds

There’s no magic pill in boxing that allows a fighter to become invincible in a fight. Anybody can get beaten at any point in time, and a big part of that is because an underdog possesses a set of skills that the favorite isn’t used to or, in the case of Tyson and Broner, didn’t prepare for. The smart thing to do is always to look beyond the odds that are being offered and try to determine if a fight is a lot closer than people make it out to be. That’s where you find the value when you make boxing bets.

Tales From the Boxing Betting World

The best way to make money on boxing bets is not to get caught up in the hoopla of a particular fight and learn as much as you can about the fighters. Knowledge is key, even if the results are never pre-determined. If after doing your studying you remain confident in a particular favorite, then by all means, lay money on that fighter. If you think a fight isn’t going the distance, then put your money on a stoppage.

And if you find enough reasons to believe that an underdog has a puncher’s chance, confidently put a decent chunk of change on that fighter. History has reminded us time and again of instances when that’s happened. That Tyson-Douglas fight is always the first example people bring up of a long shot underdog shocking the world. But it’s not the only one. The first Lewis-Rahman fight had the little-known challenger as a 20/1 underdog before he put the defending champ to sleep in the fifth round.

Then there’s the last resort and in some cases, it’s the smartest one. If you find no betting value in a fight, there’s no shame in walking away to live to fight another day.

The Future of Betting on Boxing

Boxing isn’t going to surpass football or soccer in terms of betting popularity, but over the past few years, it’s become increasingly more popular with fighters like Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao leading the way. Now that both are likely headed for retirement, a crop of young and exciting fighters are beginning to make their names in the sport. Guys like Roman Gonzales, Gennady Golovkin, Andre Ward, and Guillermo Rigondeaux are beginning to make some waves in the sport. It won’t be long before they replace Money Mayweather and PacMan as the faces of boxing.

Once these fighters enter the mainstream spotlight, they’re going to be the ones that will elevate the sport to new heights. That’s going to be great for sportsbooks because they’ll have quality prizefights to offer boxing odds on. Just as important, it’s going to be great for fans and sports bettors who will continue to have a vested interest in the sport in one form or another.