Unbeaten WBA light heavyweight titleholder Dmitry Bivol seeks to continue his rapid rise among the talent-laded 175-pound division against American contender Joe Smith Jr.
Bivol-Smith will be streamed live this Saturday on DAZN from the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, NY, beginning at 9 pm ET.
According to 888Sport, Bivol is a heavy favorite in the contest at -2000, with Smith’s chances a considerably narrower +850.
Bivol (15-0, 11 KOs) appears to be one of the top fighters in the 175-pound division. The 28-year-old is a hard puncher, a precise boxer and has the ability to carry himself around the ring with good balance. All things considered, he has the look of a longtime light heavyweight champ.
As he rose through the ranks, there was some thought among fight watchers that he might be a straight butcher the way a young Sergey Kovalev was during the early part of his career. After all, Bivol tore through many of his opponents the same way a true knockout artist would, dominating them with snapping punches that delivered a host of highlight reel knockouts.
But there’s definitely been a power outage over his last two fights.
Bivol boxed well against tough veterans Isaac Chilemba and Jean Pascal, earning hard-fought victories over two of the grittiest competitors in the division. The cagey and tough Chilemba has particularly proven difficult to stop over the course of his career, and Pascal is a former world champion in the weight class.
Since those two fights, some have started to wonder whether Bivol might be more of a pure boxer than originally thought. His bout against Smith (24-2, 20 KOs) shouldn’t be a huge test for the fighter, but it will at least provide more data to consider on that point.
While the 29-year-old isn’t considered a truly elite 175-pound threat, the New York native is ranked among the top 10 light heavyweights in the world by The RIng magazine. Plus, he turned out to be the unlikely nail in the coffin of legendary boxer Bernard Hopkins’ career just two years ago. That has to count for something.
Still, betting Bivol-Smith is much less about picking a winner than it is about picking how Bivol will win. While Smith is a tough and proud professional, it’s unlikely he has the skill set to defeat as good a fighter as Bivol, one fighting in the prime of his career.
Bivol should handle Smith, so backing him at -2000 is the sharp move. However, because the bookies have the line set so well, it’s hard for boxing betting fans to get much of a return on the three-way moneyline.
There’s a temptation to jump all over Bivol by KO, TKO or DQ at -230 with Karamba. After all, that number provides decent value on a good puncher who seems to have all the advantages headed into the fight.
But while Smith has been stopped by a much weaker opponent, one you’ve probably never even heard of in Eddie Caminero, the truth of the matter is that it happened all the way back in 2010. Since that fight, Smith has grown considerably as a fighter and has carved out a solid little career for himself.
During more recent years, Smith has turned in solid performances against notable names. He stopped Andrzej Fonfara in 2016 in just one round and went the distance with Sullivan Barrera in a 10-round decision loss a year later. Those outings, along with is knockout of Hopkins, indicate he can’t really be considered a pushover at this stage of the game.
Those performances, coupled with Bivol’s reliance on precision over brute force in recent outings, suggest the better bet might be Bivol by points at +200 with Karamba. Sure, Bivol should dominate the fight, but he probably won’t be able to quite put away from Smith as easy as his handlers would like.
If still unconvinced, and completely set on backing Bivol by stoppage, hedging it with another wager on the fight going the distance at +188 with 888Sport seems like a good move.
After all, if the unthinkable happens and Smith does manage to pull the upset, he’s just as likely to do it in on points than by stoppage, especially considering he’ll be fighting in front of hometown judges.
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