In 1967, a boxing match was nearly made between Muhammad Ali and NBA superstar Wilt Chamberlain. Promoter Bob Arum was ready to put it on.
The men appeared on Howard Cosell’s television show, and when they squared off, the 6-foot-3 Ali was dwarfed by the 7-foot-1 Chamberlain. Despite the size disadvantage, no one who knew boxing felt Chamberlain stood much of a chance against Ali.
On Thursday, when Canelo Alvarez and Callum Smith posed together at a news conference to promote their super middleweight title fight Saturday in San Antonio on DAZN, the size difference between them was equally as stark.
Smith is 6-3 and will have a 7-inch height advantage on Alvarez, who is 5-8.
Smith will clearly have a better chance of defeating Alvarez, who is Yahoo Sports’ No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer in the world, than Chamberlain ever had against Ali. Smith is 27-0 with 19 knockouts and is a solid, above-average fighter.
Alvarez, though, is far more than solid. He’s skilled in every area and is a -600 favorite at the MGM Grand sports book to defeat Smith. MGM has Smith at +425.
Smith’s greatest advantage in most of his fights is his height and reach. But he often doesn’t fight tall and likes to get inside and work the body, which negates his size advantage. That would be playing into Alvarez’s hands.
If Smith pops a jab consistently in Alvarez’s face and drops the occasional right hand behind it, he’s going to make Alvarez work very hard to get the victory and Alvarez will pay a price in the process.
It behooves him not to fight along the ropes and to try to keep Alvarez at the end of his jab.
Alvarez, though, is one of the smartest fighters in the sport and he’s always got multiple plans in case the first one or two don’t work. He’s able to adjust on the fly.
He’s going to try to feast on the body and break Smith down with thudding shots to the midsection. If he digs consistently to the body, he has the power to stop Smith. The MGM has “won’t go the distance” at -180, while “will go 12 full rounds” is +140.
The best thing that could happen to Smith is to get stung to the ribs early, so he learns a lesson and boxes, creates angles and uses his height and reach.
Smith is skilled enough to do that, but I don’t see him beating Alvarez. So while I shudder to lay $600 to win $100, I’m going to do that to bet on Alvarez. But I’ll bet $100 that the fight does go the distance, with the potential payoff being $140. And I’m going to lay $100 on Alvarez to win by decision, with the potential payoff of $180.
Gennadiy Golovkin is a -2800 favorite Friday night on DAZN over Kamil Szeremeta. Szeremeta is +1200. I won’t lay $2,800 to win $100, but I will lay $600 to win $100 that Golovkin wins by KO/TKO/DQ.
Jaron Ennis is -2500 to defeat Chris van Heerden Saturday on Showtime in their welterweight bout. Van Heerden is +1000. I won’t lay that, though I like Ennis to win. If you can find a line on Ennis by knockout, take that. I feel he’ll stop van Heerden in the back half of the fight.
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