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Boxing Odds

Betting on the Fights

It can be argued that there is no better sport to bet on than boxing, or more to the point, no sport that lends itself to betting quite like boxing does. Of course, one of the reasons could be that the sport was essentially created for the purposes of betting, and indeed, the revenues generated from early fights (going back to the bare-knuckle era) came chiefly through the volume in betting “action.”

Through the years, oddsmakers have devised new and different ways for people to wager on pugilism, including over-unders, KO propositions, and round betting. If you consider yourself to be an expert at the fights, this may present a tremendous opportunity for you!’s Guide to Betting the Fights
By Charles Jay

What you need to understand right from the beginning; what you need to know before you ever bet on a fight, is what the odds mean. Not only that, but what they represent.

Let’s say you are confronted with the following proposition on a fight:

Fighter A -400
Fighter B +300

So what does this mean? Well, whenever you see the minus symbol, you are going to be LAYING money on that side of the two-way proposition, so you are going to be risking an amount that is greater than the amount you will make in terms of profit by winning.

In the case of Fighter A, the price of -400 means that for every dollar you wish to WIN, you will have to risk four dollars. So if you bet $400 on Fighter A, you will win $100 profit (and get back your $400 original bet) if you win. Yes, Fighter A would be the “favorite.” Whatever the amount of your bet, it is going to yield a profit that is four times less. So a $100 bet will bring a profit of $25.

Fighter B is the “underdog.” And in this case you will get a return that is proportionately greater than the amount of money you are risking. The plus sign shows us (except in the case of +100, which even money) that you are TAKING a price. Here, the +300 means that for every dollar you risk you are going to profit three dollars. Let’s make sure we’re clear on that; it does NOT mean that you bet a dollar and get back three dollars. It means that you bet a dollar and get back three dollars PLUS your original bet.

One thing to take note of: Just because there is a minus sign in front of a price does not necessarily mean that the fighter is the favorite. In the case of the so-called “pick’em” fights, a sportsbook would always make you lay a price on BOTH fighters, so it might look like this:

Fighter A -110
Fighter B -110

Or, sometimes one of the fighters might be a slight favorite, in which case it might look like this:

Fighter A -115
Fighter B -105

The reason for this, obviously, is that the sportsbook wants to carve out an advantage for itself. So you are not going to be paid at “true” odds. Indeed, if there were true odds available on a pick’em fight, both fighters would be priced at even money (+100). if true odds existed in the first example, one fighter would be -350 while the other would be +350. That is to say, the number would be right in the middle of -400 and +300.

For purposes of conversation, if you wanted to express what the odds were on a fight like that were by using just one number, you would say that is “7/2” in favor of Fighter A; 7/2 converting to a +350 payoff, although that price does not represent what you would find on either fighter.


Okay, now you have seen the price on the fight. From our previous chapter, we laid it out like this:

Fighter A -400
Fighter B +300

Okay, that’s all well and good, but the question is, how do you learn to use this to evaluate which side might be worth your wager?

In other words, which side do you perceive to have more VALUE, and how do you go about determining it?

When doing boxing betting, and in fact any kind of betting, what you are going to be looking for is where you are going to get “value”; in other words, where do you have, in your own estimation, a better chance to win than the odds indicate? Gambling veterans often call this “getting the best of it.”

Of course, I can’t tell you which side to bet on; your own opinion about the two fighters engaged in a contest is going to have to come into it, and very prominently. But being able to use a qualitative analysis is obviously very critical. What you want to continue asking yourself is. “How much of a chance does Fighter A have? Fighter B?” I think it would be helpful to look at this in term of percentages.

When you look at the numbers on a fight, you can get an idea of where the oddsmaker is coming from. Keep in mind that these odds are “to a dollar,” so they are based on having a dollar bet out there. When a fighter is -400, that’s the same thing as saying that he is at 4/1 odds, or a 4/1 favorite. You get paid 4/1 if he wins, and so what the oddsmaker is saying is that there are four chances out of five that Fighter A is going to win, and that converts to 80%.

Follow this closely – when you see a price of +300, it does NOT mean that the fighter has a one out of three chance to win, as many people think. Work this out in a very simple manner. We are talking about a 3/1 payoff, right? Well, if there is a 1/1 payoff, which means that you are getting even money, that means there is as much of a chance of the fighter winning as losing. So the fighter, then, has a 50% chance of winning. Move the price up to 2/1. That means there is twice as much of a chance of the fighter losing as winning, in terms of the simple fraction. That’s 33.3%.

So when we look at odds of 3/1, the fighter would have three times of a chance to lose than to win. That gives him a one out of four chance, and that converts to 25%. Of course, in the two-way proposition like the one we have before us, we are only concerned with the underdog’s percentage chances to win.

So when looking at this prop, you ask yourself two questions:

— Does the favorite (Fighter A) have more than an 80% chance of winning? If so, you may want to consider a bet on Fighter A.

— Does the underdog have more than a 25% chance of winning? If you think so, then a wager on Fighter B should be contemplated.

Always think in terms of the percentages of winning that the prices represent.


I know there are people who look at a big price on a fighter and it looks appetizing on that basis alone. With prominent and accomplished champions, like Oscar De La Hoya, Roy Jones, Mike Tyson, et al, through the years, you would see a lot of prices of +800 and even much higher on the underdogs.

Sure, anything can happen, and sometimes it has. But even though a price may represent a big payoff for winning bet, you do not want to waste your money.

The rule I use is pretty simple, and is most appropriate when applied to high-priced underdogs: no matter what the price, if you cannot see a plausible scenario by which that underdog can win the fight, don’t even bother.

That does mean the dog has to be a better fighter, or even close. There have been many, many cases where the better fighter did not win. In almost all of those cases, there was something the winner had that he could use to his advantage, as long as the conditions were right.

For example, if a fighter can punch with authority, and in your estimation, can do some damage, and at least can turn the tide in a fight if he gets through cleanly, you would want to consider a fighter like that. If the favorite has a questionable chin, that consideration should become even more serious.

When Thomas Hearns fought Iran Barkley in a WBC middleweight title fight in 1988, Hearns was a considerable favorite, and rightfully so. Barkley had been beaten a few times early in his career, and even after a winning streak had lost in his first opportunity for a world title against Sumbu Kalambay, by a wide margin. Hearns had the vaunted punching power, was known for overwhelming opponents in the first few rounds, and had a much better skill set.

But there were a couple of things that told me Barley had a chance. One of them was that I knew Hearns had the kind of chin that would put him in trouble if he got hit on the button. His knees buckled the first time he was hit solidly by Sugar Ray Leonard, sending him into a retreat, and changing the whole nature of the fight. And when he has nailed early in his fight against Marvin Hagler, he lost his legs, which looked shaky for as long as the fight lasted.

In the fight that was immediately before his meeting with Barkley, Hearns captured the WBC middleweight title (his fourth world crown) with a knockout of Juan Domingo Roldan. But before that happened, he was in all kinds of trouble because Roldan nailed him with a right hand. Then he got nailed over and over with it, to the point where he looked on the verge of a KO loss. But Roldan, a very unorthodox brawler who lacked any kind of a chin or stamina (and lacked heart, some say), didn’t have the skill or whiskers to finish the job, and Hearns eventually pounded him into submission.

I knew that Barkley could whack a little, did not exactly come from conventional angles, and was a natural middleweight, something Hearns hadn’t faced a lot of. With Hearns’ chin, this fight contained the kind elements that could produce an upset. So I made a move in the direction of the underdog.

Well, Hearns outclassed Barkley in the early going, had him hurt and cut, but in the third round Barkley cashed in on his great “equalizer,” landing one big right hand, then another, sending Hearns to the canvas. At that point, it was just a matter of nailing a shell-shocked Hearns again, and just like that, it was over.

One major boxing magazine called it their “Upset of the Year.” The interesting thing is, even after losing three of his next six fights, Barkley came back in a rematch and won a decision over Hearns. To some, that may have been an even bigger surprise – that Barkley could actually win on points.

In that first fight, though, it was a matter of identifying the factors that could create a perfect storm for the underdog, having the understanding of how it could happen, and acting on it.


Is there a certain point where a price becomes something that is too good to pass up? And is that the way you should approach what you plan to do when it comes to betting on boxing?

A lot of people have their opinions on this. The rule of thumb that has been used by many boxing bettors through the years is that if you see someone priced at 3/1 (+300) or greater, and think he has a realistic chance to win, it may be worth the bet.

I’m not going to say that the statement is false, but I would say, rather, that the truth covers a much broader scope.

Sure, 3/1 is not a bad “strike” number, but I do not subscribe to the idea that underdogs have to meet a certain criteria in the way of price. I am a firm believer that if one considers that the underdog is the best choice in the fight, relative to the price – whatever that price is – it certainly justifies wagering consideration.

I mean, generally speaking, what are you looking for in a sport where there is no pointspread (well, there is, but not prominently, and we’ll get into that at a later time), but instead, requires you to bet on a winner or a loser as it concerns the ultimate result?

It is simple; you want to bet on the fighter who you think is going to win, or has a chance to win, as the odds are taken into account. And then we just come back to the idea of “value,” if you think it’s there for you to take advantage of. If it is worth it to you, it is time to make the “investment.”

The battle cry of Oakland Raiders’ owner Al Davis – “Just Win Baby” – applies here. No one gets paid for almost winning. There is no reward for losing by less than a touchdown, or anything like that. So you’re not looking to bet on the fighter because you think he’s going to give a good account of himself, or he doesn’t embarrass himself. You don’t get paid for coming close.

The same basic philosophy should apply to favorites. I don’t think you should ever be afraid to bet a favorite, if you are convinced he is going to win. Value is value. If you like the favorite and you think the price is ridiculously high, then pass on the fight, or at least the win-lose proposition that is attached to it. If you insist on betting, take a look at the over-under or the round betting that is available.