On Saturday night Anthony Crolla is a huge underdog as he challenges Vasyl Lomachenko for the WBA, WBO and Ring Magazine titles at the Staples Center in LA. The bookmakers make this as one sided a contest as you can have for a world title, with Lomachenko’s best odds at -5000. Not many people give Crolla a sniff, and this tipster agrees with that sentiment. Even with a price of +2100, the Mancunian ex-World Champ is hard to back against the Ukrainian standout.
Crolla has become a popular fan favourite, who has not only delivered some great nights for British boxing but is also one of the most likeable men in the sport. He has overcome adversity, injury and career setbacks to reach the top, fight for world titles (winning one) and be involved in proper, big international match-ups. However, the bookies have probably priced this one right – Lomachenko is a different class, not just to Crolla, but also to most boxers on the planet. Lomachenko stopped Jorge Linares in May last year, a fighter who has comprehensively beaten Crolla not once, but twice. Boxers love the saying “There’s levels to this game”, and in the case of Lomachenko and Crolla, that could not be more accurate.
The challenge with this fight is not predicting the outcome, but finding if and where a smidgen of value is to be found for us to wager our hard-earned cash. The first port of call is looking at the group round betting, and the bookies originally fancied Crolla to be stopped in the first half of the fight, with rounds 1-6 a short price. However, Crolla is tougher than is given credit for, he has only been stopped once in his career and there is an argument for Crolla making it into the second half of the fight. His defence is basic but has served him well in the past. He carries a very high, tight guard and tends to wear his opponent’s punches on his gloves, shoulders and elbows. He does not utilise a huge amount of head movement and his footwork is not the sharpest. While this style is perfect for a boxer with the variety and movement of Lomachenko, it does take some time to break Crolla down and he’s proven he’s tough to get at and hurt. That is not to say Lomachenko will not get to Crolla – eventually he will: his footwork and movement is electric and he changes the angles of his attack better than anyone on the planet; he’s also very adept at stripping his opponent’s guard or punching behind his guard, all of which make this fight a nightmare for Crolla. But Crolla will be obstinate, his defence is robust and it may take Lomachenko time to break it down and create openings and land clean shots. For that reason, I am backing Lomachenko to stop Crolla in the second half of the fight (rounds 7-12), which at +135 offers healthy returns.
To bolster returns, the exact round markets provide chunkier winnings. Expecting Crolla to make it to the halfway point based on defence alone, he will likely be struggling at this point and can see him getting broken up and stopped somewhere around the 8th. Books are offering +750 on the 8th, +800 in the 9th and +1000 on the 10th round. Crolla will be doing well to still be in it at this point, and the earliest of the three at +750 is the pick of the rounds.