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The incredible shrinking odds: Saunders v. Eubank Jr.

Billy Joe SaundersGary J. Cooper: I don’t know exactly what the opening odds were for Billy Joe Saunders vs. Chris Eubank Jr. What I do know, is that on September 23, at 4:15 p.m., I took Saunders(-150). Since the betting site has some rules limiting bet size, I made several bets on Saunders in the next few minutes, including an additional straight bet at (-185), and parlays on Saunders at (-170), (-185), (-215) twice, and (-260). That last bet, at (-260), was placed at 4:27 p.m. The odds may have risen slightly after that, perhaps to (-280) or so, but I don’t remember for sure, and I don’t have a record of it, because I didn’t bet.

So the odds on Saunders surged from (-150) to (-260) in 12 minutes. Not long after this, they backed off to (-210) or so, and held steady until a couple of weeks ago. Since then the odds dropped back to (-150), and a couple of days ago, they dipped to (-140).

Why?

British boxers generally don’t get covered that much in the U.S., but from what I can tell there is no injury news that would swing the odds.*

While there may be sharp money on both sides of this fight, I believe that the initial move was largely sharp money, while the later deflation of the line was largely public money. I expect the sharps formed their opinion of this match up before the odds posted, and were ready to bet immediately when they were released.

The public no doubt had formed their opinions as well, as this fight has been talked about for a while, but they would not be poised to drive the number up as soon as it was released. The wiseguys would.

Having said that, I expect that most of what drove the odds back down to (-210) was sharp money as well, as they found value at those inflated numbers. The slow slide back down since then is the public finally having their say. The odds seem to be stable right now, but I expect to see more movement on Saturday, most likely towards Eubank Jr.

Chris Eubank Jr. passes the eye-test, with outstanding hand speed, and apparently power to match, though his string of KOs have been over a string of tomato cans, so I’m hesitant to be too confident about it. Either way, the kid is indisputably all muscles and abs, if you’re into that sort of thing, and he does have his ex-champ dad’s DNA. I have no argument for anybody who thinks he could be a champion someday.

On the other hand, Billy Joe Saunders currently holds the British, Commonwealth, and European middleweight belts, and whatever you think of his opposition, it has undoubtedly been superior to anything Eubank Jr. has faced. I realize many do not take amateur boxing too seriously, but Saunders’ amateur career easily outshines Eubank’s as well.

If none of that convinces you, take a look at their fights. Saunders is constantly busy, moving in and out and peppering opponents with his right jab. Eubank Jr. spends a lot of time moving his head around and giving his opponents unusual targets, daring them to hit him. Eventually he grows bored with this, and gives them a flurry of combinations, wobbling them, but often allowing them the chance to toil on for another round or two before finishing them.

At present, only Saunders’ cardiovascular endurance is a proven commodity. Chris Jr. tends to only work for 30-40 seconds per round. Having said that, I don’t believe he is tired or saving himself for later rounds. He knows his opponents are so bad that he will finish them in one round if he applies himself. He is doing everything he can to stretch his fights out to five or six rounds, but the chumps he has taken on aren’t up for it.

If he fights anywhere close to his past style** vs. Saunders he will be behind on points, as Billy Joe will outwork him every round. To win he will need a knock-out, or at least to hit Saunders hard enough to make him slow down and exercise some caution. All the talk of his sparring sessions with Carl Froch, George Groves, and Floyd Mayweather Jr. may make you think he is powerful or skilled enough to take over this fight. Maybe he is.

On the other hand, I bought into the hype about Shawn Porter sparring with Manny Pacquiao before he fought Kell Brook. Guess what? Pacquiao wasn’t there to beat Brook. Brook owned Porter, and I lost a bundle. If sparring partners are the best evidence you can find that a fighter is ready, you just may be grasping at straws. At least Porter had a few noteworthy scalps to his name.

Then there is Chris Eubank Sr. He may be the best evidence we have of his son’s potential, but more and more he comes off like a weird cross between Yoko Ono and an albatross.***

I’ve listened to interviews where he explains why his son is better than Gennady Golovkin, and why he would beat him. I at least need to consider his argument, since Chris Sr. surely has forgotten more about boxing than I’ll ever know. He also comes off as quite gentlemanly and intelligent, perhaps even educated, and makes it a point to de-abbreviate “DNA” to deoxyribonucleic acid when bringing up his son’s superior genetics. I believe he does this to shut down disagreement. After all, how can we cretins who don’t know what DNA is shortened from argue with geniuses who throw around words like deoxyribonucleic acid? Obviously he’s the only guy in the room who knows what he’s talking about.

On the other hand, if he’s so smart, why does he dress the way he does?

Some of his outfits could fairly be described as dapper, but others…others say he needs a reality check.

Not necessarily a stylist, but a buddy to say: “You’re wearing that? What the hell???

He dresses like a guy surrounded by yes-men. Anybody who dresses like this guy has a strong chance of being delusional.

His get-ups throw his credibility WAY into question.

At best, he is simply so stubborn that his wife has given up trying to fix him.

And the most recent evidence that he’s not all there is his request that Saunders put 50,000 pounds in escrow to insure that he does not slap his son during a press conference.

Now, I’m sure he’s aware of Jon Jones’ recent incident with Daniel Cormier. If so, he must also be aware that Jones paid a fine. Billy Joe Saunders is surely aware of this as well, and won’t be trying to get fined. But if something did happen, who cares? Hype your fight!

Ducking press conferences is bush league, and making excuses afterwards is bush league. I’m not taking him at his word that the possibility of his son getting slapped led the Eubanks to duck a press conference, but if this caution is genuine, it could explain why Junior has fought so many tomato cans.

It’s harder to explain how dad thinks it’s a good idea for him to suddenly step this far up. This isn’t just his first shot at a belt, it’s his first fight scheduled for 12 rounds.

I started out talking about the odds on this fight. While I find it remarkable that the odds shot up as far and as quickly as they did, then slowly slid back to where they are now, the most remarkable thing may be that the odds have wound up almost exactly where they started. Whether or not I am correct that the sharp money is on Saunders, while the public is on Eubank Jr., the books put the number almost exactly at the equilibrium point. It just didn’t feel that way in the beginning, when the betting was so much more one-sided.

I think the public is on Eubank Jr. because they want to see a British champion, and they look at the knock-outs and the deoxyribonucleic acid, and see greatness in his future. They want to believe. On the other hand, the fight is happening now, and Saunders has proven himself in his previous career, while Eubank Jr. has not done so yet. The future may belong to Chris Eubank Jr. (if his father doesn’t hold him back****), but the present belongs to Billy Joe Saunders. I suppose it was more incredible how quickly these odds shot up in the beginning, as they really coasted back to earth pretty gradually, though I’ve never seen odds move that far, that fast, and then come all the way back down.

And there’s still a few days for the odds to move some more. Other than my own financial limitations, the only thing stopping me from betting more on Billy Joe Saunders(-140) is my belief that I will get a better price later in the week. Happy Thanksgiving.

*Because of this, I believe that the action on this fight is almost entirely British, or at least, is not American. This is relevant in that these odds may be dropping on a wave of British emotion.

**Having watched Jr. and Sr., he really is a chip off the old block, for better or worse. While I think he paces himself with his opponents so as not to knock them out too quickly, dad had a low work rate as well. I suspect he has been trained to fight this way, and will have a difficult time changing unless it is something he has been working on in training camp. Also, I may be imagining it, but I swear they both stop to pose during their fights.

***Which might make Chris Eubank Jr. a weird cross between John Lennon and Samuel Taylor Coleridge–I know, I know–it’s an imperfect metaphor.

****Last point–Chris Sr. changed his last name from Eubanks to Eubank. While this may not seem Prince crazy, or Metta World Peace crazy, on one level it seems even weirder to me. What’s the point of changing your name by one letter? So you can correct people when they screw it up? Add in the (alleged) mid-fight posing and the questionable wardrobe choices, and I really think Chris Sr. is a crazy narcissist. As for Chris Jr., I think all we can do is guess, because he isn’t allowed to think for himself, or to at least express himself.


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