It was a victory, and maybe a bit of an upset, for Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. when he made weight for his Saturday night showdown with Canelo Alvarez.
Chavez has been criticized in the past for being lazy and undisciplined. His commitment to boxing has been questioned more than once. But he proved his commitment to this Cinco de Mayo weekend duel in Las Vegas by stepping on a scale Friday afternoon and stepping off triumphantly after slipping under the catch-weight limit of 164.5 pounds.
The betting public is buying into the new, improved Chavez and his chances of scoring another win when he faces Alvarez at T-Mobile Arena.
The South Point sports book opened Alvarez (48-1-1, 34 knockouts) as a minus-800 favorite, and the price had plummeted to minus-500 by Friday night. Betting tickets on Chavez, book director Chris Andrews said, were being written at a 10-to-1 ratio.
It’s the skill of Alvarez against the size and strength of Chavez (50-2-1, 32 KOs). The underdog has a four-inch height advantage, and he’s expected to step into the ring at more than 180 pounds. That’s why Chavez might have a shot at the upset.
“I don’t think he’s got much of a shot,” Mirage sports book manager Jeff Stoneback said. “I think Alvarez is by far the better fighter.”
A majority of boxing analysts and oddsmakers appear to agree. The 26-year-old Alvarez has emerged as the sport’s biggest draw in the absence of Floyd Mayweather Jr. Alvarez is faster and more talented, and he seems most likely to win a competitive fight by decision.
Stoneback said MGM Resorts books have written 16 times more tickets on Chavez, who’s at plus-450. The MGM line of minus-625 on Alvarez is the highest in the market.
“We are expecting a couple large wagers on Alvarez, probably six-figure bets,” Stoneback said.
Andrews said the biggest bets at the South Point are on Alvarez, including a $15,000 wager to win $3,000.
“Chavez has got the name, but that’s about it,” Stoneback said. “I’m not sure he would be here if his name was Joe Smith.”
That’s one perception Chavez is fighting. If he missed weight, he faced a $1 million penalty. The son of a Mexican boxing legend has a strong chin and ample toughness, but it’s Alvarez who has more big-fight experience. Alvarez was outclassed by Mayweather in a 12-round majority decision loss almost four years ago in Las Vegas. Mayweather told ESPN this week that he’s predicting Alvarez to win in a late-round knockout.
At MGM books, Alvarez is plus-120 to win by knockout and minus-140 to win by decision. The price for the fight to go 10 full rounds is minus-200. A draw offers 20-1 odds.
“It’s obviously not as big as some of the marquee fights,” said Stoneback, who termed the wagering handle “decent.”
Still, it’s possible boxing, a sport that has taken a beating in recent years in the mainstream media, is taking a turn for the better. If Alvarez wins Saturday, there will be increased optimism that he could face Gennady Golovkin in a hyped fight this fall.
And, of course, the possibility of Mayweather returning from retirement to box UFC star Conor McGregor is fascinating, even if boxing purists are scoffing at the carnival-themed matchup.