We certainly haven’t lacked things to bet since the Super Bowl, with college and pro basketball and even the XFL. But we’re really excited here in the Tuley’s Takes home office about the Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury heavyweight title bout Saturday night in Las Vegas in the middle of a crazy weekend that also includes NASCAR in town and the Nevada caucus.
I grew up in the 1970s, when the heavyweights were the thing. My favorite was Muhammad Ali, while other friends sided with Joe Frazier, Ken Norton or George Foreman. In the late 1980s, I was in college and starting my journalism career at small newspapers in suburban Chicago while Mike Tyson was rising to be the youngest undisputed heavyweight champion of all time and then falling historically. In fact, the 30th anniversary of his 1990 loss to Buster Douglas took place last week.
By the time I moved to Las Vegas in 1998 and received my first press passes to the big fights here, it was after Tyson’s rape conviction and the “bite fight” against Evander Holyfield in 1997. Even though I covered Lennox Lewis-Evander Holyfield II in November 1999 at the Thomas & Mack Center, my most memorable heavyweight fight was Tyson vs. Orlin Norris a month earlier at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Tyson was trying to work his way back for another title shot. It’s a footnote in history for most people, but it was memorable for me as Tyson punched Norris after the bell to end the first round and Norris was injured and unable to continue. The fight was declared a no contest, and I feared for my life in an arena of angry fans on the verge of a riot. All sorts of items were hurled at the boxers as they headed to the locker rooms. I considered myself lucky to get hit only by a cup of beer.
That was Tyson’s last fight in Vegas. I got to see Tyson in the ring only twice and actually saw him more at Nevada Athletic Commission hearings because his license was always in jeopardy.
A few years later, the Klitschko brothers took over the heavyweight division and took their bouts overseas. Oh, I had fun covering Oscar De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao, most of Floyd Mayweather’s fights and the best fight I’ve ever seen live — Diego Corrales’ KO of Jose Luis Castillo in their lightweight title fight in May 2005. But I’ve felt deprived by this long heavyweight drought in Vegas.
That ends Saturday, with Wilder-Fury II at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. This is a rematch of their controversial draw 14 months ago at Staples Center in L.A. and is as close to pick-’em as we see in a major fight. Fury opened as a short favorite at a few books when the fight was announced. But Wilder had been bet up to -125 as of Tuesday afternoon at most other Vegas books, including the host hotel, with Circa Sports the lowest at -115. The “Will Go/Won’t Go” (aka Over/Under) was set at 10.5 rounds at most books, with the Will Go juice as high as -140, though MGM books have gone to 11 rounds with Will Go -120 and Won’t Go + 100 (even money).
I see this as a toss-up. Wilder has the better chance at a knockout, but Fury outboxed him the first time despite being knocked down twice, so he has the better chance to benefit from the previous meeting and avoid Wilder’s big power punch. As I said Monday on VSiN’s “Betting Across America,” the only bet I’ve made on the fight is the draw at 20/1, though the best bet is probably on the Will Go. I lean now to going Over 11 rounds with less juice as opposed to 10.5. Despite both fighters talking big this week about knocking each other out, I don’t see how this doesn’t go the distance. Fury got up twice in the last meeting, and I don’t see Wilder getting knocked out either.
To those saying it can’t end in a draw again, I ask: Why not? Drawing last time makes me think it’s more, not less, likely — and I would have taken a shot if only offered 12/1, so 20/1 is really an overlay. Besides, the judges are scoring each round individually and can’t go back and change previous rounds, so splitting the 12 rounds isn’t so far-fetched. And just like last time, it doesn’t have to be on all three cards.
Takes on NBA
We like to come out of the All-Star break with some future wagers and a look at which teams to bet and fade (odds are from the Westgate SuperBook as of Tuesday afternoon). I can’t decide between the Lakers (+ 120) and the Clippers (+ 175) in the Western Conference, so I’ll wait until playoff time. In the Eastern Conference, I think the Celtics (7/1) and the Raptors (8/1) are capable of knocking off the Bucks. Their NBA title odds of 20/1 and 30/1 are tempting, but I’d take those only if planning to hedge in the finals against the Lakers or Clippers.
Teams to play as underdogs: Thunder, Grizzlies and Pacers. These teams are still underrated at times in the market, even though the Thunder are a league-best 34-19-2 ATS.
Teams to fade: Lakers, Bucks and Pelicans. I’m not saying the Lakers and Bucks aren’t on a collision course to the finals, but their lines are probably going to continue being inflated every night. As for the Pelicans, we’ve already seen everyone jumping on the Zion Williamson bandwagon, and there will be plenty of times to fade them.
Takes on NCAA
I’m still treading lightly before we get to the conference tournaments, but as I’ve written, I’ve had a lot of success taking unranked home teams vs. ranked opponents. I actually wish I had been betting more of them. Anyway, here are this week’s potential plays:
— Wednesday: Georgia vs. No. 13 Auburn, NC State vs. No. 6 Duke, DePaul vs. No. 12 Villanova.
— Thursday: Arizona State vs. No. 14 Oregon.
— Saturday: Providence vs. No. 19 Marquette, TCU vs. No. 17 West Virginia, Memphis vs. No. 22 Houston, Xavier vs. No. 12 Villanova, NC State vs. No. 8 Florida State.
— Sunday: Indiana vs. No. 9 Penn State.
— Monday: Texas vs. No. 17 West Virginia.
— Tuesday: George Mason vs. No. 5 Dayton, Wake Forest vs. No. 6 Duke, Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Kentucky, Michigan State vs. No. 20 Iowa.
Takes on XFL
I lost my Week 2 Best Bets on the New York Guardians + 6.5 in a 27-0 loss to the DC Defenders and the Under 47 in the Houston Roughnecks’ 28-24 win over the St. Louis BattleHawks to fall to 1-2 ATS and 0-1 on totals.
I was starting to fear Saturday that the XFL would go the way of the AAF, with two boring games and the Unders improving to 5-1 despite being touted as an exciting, offensively-minded league. Sunday’s games were better, with the Dallas Renegades beating the Los Angeles Wildcats 25-18 as Landry Jones and Josh Johnson started, and the Roughnecks-BattleHawks game being the first with the point spread coming into play. St. Louis covered as a 7.5-point road underdog.
Favorites are 5-3 SU and 4-4 ATS overall with home teams at 6-2 SU and 5-3 ATS. Unders are 6-2, but I wouldn’t assume you should start betting the Unders now. The offenses should start to improve with more practice time and the coaches learning to take advantage of rules that favor offenses. But I’m not advocating to start betting Overs blindly. I’m just saying Over/Unders will probably be close to 50/50 now that the books have adjusted the totals downward.
I’m not locking in any Best Bets right now as I’m waiting on injury reports, and XFL information is much slower than the NFL. But I will say I’m leaning to the three home dogs this week (Tampa Bay + 6 vs. Houston, Seattle + 4.5 vs. Dallas and Los Angeles + 8 vs. DC). I’ll file a “Tuley’s Takes Extra!” to VSiN.com by the weekend.