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How to Bet on Boxing

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For about 100 years starting in the late 1880s, arguably the most well-known individual sports figure in the United States was boxing’s heavyweight champion. It started with John L. Sullivan in 1885 and then James J. Corbett, James J. Jeffries, Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, James J. Braddock, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Floyd Patterson, Sonny Liston, Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield.

Boxing was extraordinarily popular and a big heavyweight bout was a major event and drew huge betting action. Really, since the night Tyson bit Holyfield’s ear and lost the title, the sport has gone hugely downhill in this country (much more popular in Europe and Mexico than America these days). 

A big reason why boxing fans started losing interest – other than a lack of personality for its champions – was money. All these different alphabet organizations started popping up. A champion of one organization might only be third-ranked in another. It was too hard to tell who was truly the best fighter in each weight class in the world because of the convoluted structure of boxing. 

Sadly, there’s no indication it will change soon with the four main organizations currently being the WBA, WBC, WBO and IBF. As of this writing, each of those organizations has a different No. 1 contender and they only tend to promote the guys they have highest ranked. It’s a mess. Meanwhile, everyone knows who the best MMA fighters are because the UFC is king. That’s partially why the UFC has vastly overtaken boxing in popularity in America.

Another is that the best fighters aren’t from the USA so Americans tend to lose interest. Retired Floyd Mayweather might go down as the last American boxer to be an extremely popular mainstream athlete.

All that said, boxing still has very devoted fans and there are a handful of fights per year that can’t be missed. In fact, some MMA fighters are trying to expand their profile by going into the boxing ring. Conor McGregor fought Mayweather, for example, and that was a pay-per-view bonanza. Mayweather won but it wasn’t some embarrassing exhibition spectacle. 

Here’s quick look at how to bet on boxing.

Boxing Odds

Moneyline

Being as this is an individual sport, there can’t be a point spread in a boxing match. A boxer can win by various scenarios, from a knockout to a technical knockout, a split or majority decision, or by disqualification. There also can be draws.

We will use two of the best pound-for-pound fighters currently as a betting menu example on a boxing match:

Canelo Alvarez -230

Gennady Golovkin +180

Favorites are always represented with minus signs (-). Underdogs are always represented with plus signs (+). This means Alvarez is the favorite – if you want to convert the odds to a percentage, he is given about a 70 percent chance of winning – and it would take a $230 bet on Alvarez (the most popular athlete in all of Mexico) to return $100 while it while a $100 wager on Golovkin would return $180. All bets would be returned for a draw. 

Obviously, oddsmakers take into account a boxer’s record, style, age, reach, height and if the boxers fought previously – Alvarez and Golovkin fought twice – or have any opponents in common and how they fared against those. 

Keep in mind that a moneyline price doesn’t indicate how confident oddmakers are in a fighter to win but at what number they think will draw the most action on both fighters. A 50-50 split is ideal for any sportsbook. Heavy action on either fighter will move the numbers.

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Round Betting

All major fights are scheduled for 12 rounds – they were 15 years ago but that was proving too dangerous to fighters’ health. In fact, one fight in particular led to the shortening from 15 to 12 rounds. The rounds were taken out mostly because of one fight.  Ray Mancini vs. Duk Koo Kim happened on November 13, 1982.  This fight's grueling nature led to Kim's death, which, while a tragedy, is part of the risk in the sport.

Rounds are three minutes long. In a typical bout, bettors can wager whether it will go the distance or not. So one betting option could look like this:

Over 11.5 rounds (-180)

Under 11.5 rounds (+240)

This means oddsmakers clearly believe the fight will go the full 12 rounds because it would cost $180 to return $100 if it does, while a $100 wager on the fight ending before the halfway through the final round would return $240. There also will be alternate over/under round bets with different prices. 

Other round options with the example above might look like:

Alvarez/Golovkin goes distance        +240   

Fight won't go distance        -300   

Alvarez wins inside distance        +300   

Not Alvarez inside distance        -390   

Alvarez wins by 12 round decision        +1300   

Not Alvarez by 12 round decision        -2600   

Golovkin wins inside distance        -115   

Not Golovkin inside distance        -110   

Golovkin wins by 12 round decision        +310   

Not Golovkin by 12 round decision        -420

Bettors can also wager on each fighter to win by each individual round, although that’s obviously fairly random. Or in a group of rounds. For example:

Alvarez wins in round 8        +1200   

Any other result        -2250

Golovkin wins in round 1-4    +1100   

Any other result        -2200

Or just the fight ending in a certain round of any group of rounds.

Fight ends in round 3        +1300   

Any other result        -2575

Fight ends in round 4-6        +325   

Any other result        -440   

Or that the fight actually sees the start of a round.

Alvarez/Golovkin starts round 6        -325   

Fight won't start round 6        +250

Method Of Victory/Props

There also will be other prop bets available, with a popular one being the method of victory. For example:

Alvarez by KO, TKO or DQ    +100   

Alvarez by Decision        +375   

Golovkin by Decision        +425   

Golovkin by KO, TKO or DQ    +450   

Draw                +1000   

Alvarez wins only        +256   

Golovkin wins or a draw        -311

Alvarez wins by KO only        +300   

Any other result        -280

Fight ends in odd-numbered round            +160   

Fight ends in even-numbered round/goes distance     -190

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