I was in Las Vegas this past weekend, in the heart of the action, right where you’d have wanted to be in years past if you were itching to place a wager on a major boxing match. The Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin rematch for the middleweight championship was taking place at the sold-out T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night, and every sports book in town was offer odds and taking bets.
And the best place to be if you wanted to make money on the fight was New Jersey.
This is the strange, but entirely logical, reality of life in 2018. Since the U.S. Supreme Court reversed PASPA and, a couple of months later, Jersey became the first state to offer mobile sports betting without requiring bettors to register in person at casinos, the whole approach to line shopping has changed.
As evidenced by a comparison of the Nevada casinos and the NJ mobile books for Canelo-GGG II, the most attractive numbers, and the most varied options for betting the fights on the card, could be found not in Sin City but in the swamps of Jersey.
The straight-up “who will win” wagers
The simplest point of comparison is looking at the moneyline odds on either Alvarez or Golovkin to win the fight. Canelo, who ultimately prevailed by majority decision in a thrilling, difficult-to-score fight, was the underdog everywhere. But the numbers varied slightly. Here’s a look at the MGM Resorts International odds (which are used at host hotels MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, and other properties throughout Vegas) for most of fight week and four of the NJ online books:
|Sportsbook||Alvarez moneyline||Golovkin moneyline|
|MGM (Las Vegas)||+125||-155|
|Caesars (NJ mobile)||+125||-145|
|Play MGM (NJ mobile)||+135||-155|
|FanDuel (NJ mobile)||+136||-160|
|Play Sugarhouse (NJ mobile)||+130||-157|
With a 30-cent difference between the opposite sides, MGM’s brick-and-mortar numbers were the least bettor-friendly. Caesars and MGM in NJ were the best at 20 cents.
If you wanted to bet on Golovkin, Caesars in NJ was the place to do it. In my betting guide last week, I recommended Canelo as the superior option, writing, “In what looks like a toss-up fight, at least when you consider that Alvarez has always received the benefit of the doubt from the judges in Las Vegas, it’s logical to put your money behind the guy who represents the better payout.” So if you agreed with that and wanted to back Canelo, the best return was at FanDuel’s mobile sportsbook.
Lines on the move
The public money was on Canelo throughout the build-up to the fight, but the big bets came in later on GGG, causing some line shifts. As ESPN’s David Payne Purdum reported, the final days before the fight saw bets on the popular Kazakh of $77,500, $80,000, and, specifically by knockout, $20,000.
By the night of the fight, the odds at Westgate in Las Vegas had moved to Canelo +145 (even better than you could find all week in New Jersey) and Golovkin at -170.
Purdum shared with NJ Online Gambling that he was told the handle on the fight was down slightly from their first fight at MGM and up slightly at Westgate.
The betting was fairly well balanced all over, but generally leaning toward the casinos preferring a Golovkin victory. They didn’t get that. But they made up for it and then some on longshot lovers picking one fighter or the other to win by knockout in a particular round. Golovkin and Alvarez both showed tremendous chins, allowing the house to clean up on all of those round props.
Top of the props
The best opportunities to bet on the fight — and really, on the whole four-fight pay-per-view card — were on some of the less straightforward props.
I shared a few of my favorites in the closing minutes of Friday’s HBO Boxing Podcast, where I stuck with the host hotel’s lines and salivated over Canelo by decision at +200 and “Won’t Go 7 Full Rounds” on the Jaime Munguia-Brandon Cook undercard fight at -140.
Saturday morning, I was messaging back and forth with my DGS Media colleague Robert DellaFave about the options in Vegas and in Jersey (where he was), and we noticed a massive opportunity on that Munguia fight. The 21-year-old Mexican is one of the hottest prospects in boxing and a legit puncher who was up against an overmatched clubfighter in Cook. The fight screamed early KO. At FanDuel, Munguia by KO anywhere in the first six rounds was even money — a similar risk-reward situation to the MGM Vegas line of -140 for the fight to end in seven or under.
But at Play Sugarhouse and DraftKings Sportsbook, Munguia by KO in rounds 1-6 was +155! It was, simply, a huge mistake by the oddsmaker. Getting better than a 3/2 payout on a circumstance I saw as about 75 percent likely? It was a no-brainer. And Robert didn’t hesitate to take advantage of the juicy odds.
Let the boasting commence: pic.twitter.com/qIzwi23q47
— Robert DellaFave (@RobertDellaFave) September 16, 2018
That’s just one example of how there was value to be found at the New Jersey mobile books, but there were also options galore that didn’t exist in person in Nevada. On last week’s Gamble On podcast, I recommended spreading small bets on FanDuel’s props of Canelo by majority decision (+1400), Canelo by split decision (+850), and Golovkin by knockout between rounds 10-12 (+1100). If you placed $100 on all three, two of them lost, of course, but your overall profit was $1,200.
Get in the game
Surely you’re familiar with in-game betting by now, but boxing allows for a wagering opportunity that doesn’t exist in most other sports: postgame betting.
When a fight goes the distance, there’s a window of a few minutes between the final bell and the announcement of the decision. And the New Jersey mobile books took that opportunity to offer some shockingly awful odds on GGG.
GGG on fanduel was -1000 lmao. At the end of the fight they had it up for a minute LIVE.
— Brian C. (@TheKidd973) September 16, 2018
Canelo wins again despite live odds after 12 rds -500 for GGG. Boxing, ladies and gentlemen.
— Gill Alexander (@beatingthebook) September 16, 2018
However you scored the fight (I had it 114-114 from ringside, and the average media scored seemed to be 115-113 for Golovkin), it was crazy to think, after the final bell, that Golovkin was a favorite to win.
If you’ve followed Alvarez’s career, you know he’s always gotten the benefit of the doubt from the judges. This has happened periodically throughout boxing history, that the ticket seller, the man perceived as the “house” fighter, gets favorable scorecards. It’s not 100 percent reliable — at a certain point in his career, Oscar De La Hoya started losing fights he’d appeared to win — but so far, Canelo has consistently enjoyed friendly judging.
He fought roughly even with Austin Trout and was so far ahead on the judges’ cards through eight rounds that he couldn’t lose. He fought on even terms with Erislandy Lara and got the decision. He got shut out by Floyd Mayweather, and one of the three judges, the notorious C.J. Ross, somehow had it even. Then there was the first GGG fight, which was ruled a draw (a decision I agreed with) that inexplicably included a 118-110 card from judge Adalaide Byrd in favor of the red-haired Mexican.
Bottom line: To lay money on GGG to win the decision after a fight this close would have been decidedly unwise.
But, hey, if you backed the wrong fighter or missed the juiciest bets, there’s always next time.
Westgate has already posted odds at -110 on both fighters for their third fight, which conventional wisdom says will happen next May. And at FanDuel Sportsbook in New Jersey, you can already get +132 on Golovkin. It’s never too early to shop around.