- With a knockout Saturday, Gennadiy Golovkin could prove he’s primed for a trilogy with Canelo Alvarez.
- Alexander Volkanovski headlines multiple interesting fights on the UFC 273 card.
- Ryan Garcia returns to the ring as a -3000 favorite against Emmanuel Tagoe.
Distracting and meaningless narratives surround Gennady Golovkin’s Saturday morning middleweight title unification in Japan against native son Ryoto Murata.
Yes, Golovkin (41-1-1, 36 KOs) turned 40 on Friday. And yes, he looked uninterested in the three victories he posted after that heartbreaking majority decision loss to bitter rival Canelo Alvarez in September 2018.
But now, Golovkin and Alvarez have a signed deal in place for a September trilogy bout Golovkin so achingly yearned for. There’s one stipulation: Golovkin must first beat Murata.
So, as he ventures across the Pacific Ocean for a 5:10 a.m. ET DAZN-streamed unification against Murata (16-2, 13 KOs), that burning desire to attain revenge must be raging.
Knocking out Murata would prove Golovkin — who once flattened 23 consecutive foes — is primed for Alvarez at 168 pounds. It would also fuel an avalanche of riches beyond what’s already expected.
The other two options take all the air out of the trilogy.
Lose, and the Alvarez fight goes away. Struggle with Murata (as as he did in a narrow October 2019 victory by decision over Sergiy Derevyanchenko) and the intrigue and investment from fight fans likely flattens.
So Golovkin best maximizes revenue for the bout by finishing Murata in a highlight-reel knockout.
Factoring in that added motivation, Tipico Sportsbook odds for Golovkin-Murata has “GGG” as a -500 favorite to win, with Murata at +330.
At other shops, however, the odds shorten to -135 by betting on Golovkin to win by KO or technical knockout. And if you’re feeling especially daring, there’s a +450 payoff if he stops Murata in rounds 4-6 or 7-9, and a +650 reward if he knocks out the home fighter in rounds 1-3 or 10-12.
Tipico places the bout’s over/under at 9.5 rounds.
The best bet: Golovkin by knockout/TKO -135.
Golovkin headlines a busy fight weekend that includes two title fights on the UFC 273 pay-per-view card in Jacksonville, Florida. Unbeaten lightweight Ryan Garcia will return from a mental-health break, and there’s a 154-pound title eliminator between unbeaten Sebastian Fundora and former title challenger Erickson Lubin.
Let’s take a look at some of the other best bets this weekend.
VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, Jacksonville, Fla.
Dominant featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski, coming off two triumphs against former champion Max Holloway, is a sizable -800 in his title defense against “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung.
And interim bantamweight champion Petr Yan is -475 versus champion Aljamain Sterling.
Sterling, 32, of Uniondale, New York, won the belt when Yan delivered an intentional illegal knee in the fourth round of their March 2021 fight — and Sterling cited neck issues from surgery, postponing the rematch until now.
“The fights are better than the lines on this card,” said John Morgan at MMA Underground, who has sharply followed these fighters. “Aljamain was winning the early rounds (last year) before he gassed out. Everybody remembers the end and how bad he looked. I don’t think they’re remembering how good he looked. And now you’re talking about him being surgically repaired, changing his diet. He’s got a real shot to win (at +320).”
Morgan views the Volkanovski fight as a “career reward” for Chan Sung Jung’s years of service.
“Picking against Volkanovski right now is very difficult. Alexander is just so good … one of the best pound-for-pound fighters,” Morgan said. “You don’t just win 20 straight fights without being an absolute stud.
“We know ‘Zombie’ has great grappling ability. We’ve seen him in wars, with two fight-of-the-years. This is the one I feel most confident in.”
The odds can be shortened by picking Volkanovski to win by decision (-125) or KO/TKO (+270).
“I lean to decision,” Morgan said. “He does have power, but, man, we’ve seen the durability of the ‘Zombie’ throughout his career – that’s his nickname for good reason. Shortening those odds might be a good play.”
The most intriguing non-title fight is the welterweight meeting between second-ranked Gilbert Burns (+340) and unbeaten No. 11 fighter Khamzat Chimaev (-500).
Morgan sees Burns as the worthiest underdog in the top three bouts.
“When I think about a guy to beat Khamzat, I want a guy with some power in his hands, because you’re going to get out-wrestled, that’s for sure, and you need a chance to catch him at some point,” Morgan said. “Plus, I want someone who can work off his back and be a submission threat in transitions.”
Burns is a +1600 underdog to finish Chimaev by KO/TKO and Russian-born Chimaev is +140 to finish Burns early by KO/TKO, +250 by submission and +385 by decision.
“The great thing about this fight is we don’t really know what we’ve got with Khamzat. We think we’ve got something special. If Khamzat destroys Gilbert Burns, then he is special and everything that’s been said about this guy being a monster and a terror is validated,” Morgan said. “But … the hype train can get derailed. You look at the odds and think, ‘Why do this? It’s not even competitive.’ I think it’s a very competitive fight.
Also, on the pay-per-view are a couple 50-50 fights: Women’s straw-weight Mackenzie Dern is -115 over veteran Tecia Torres and lightweight Vinc Pachel is -125 against Mark Madsen (11-0).
Morgan advises letting those bouts play out for a round, then employing some live in-fight options based on how the fight’s proceeding.
“Madsen is either going to try to control everything with his wrestling, or he’s going to get clipped by a shot,” Morgan said. “Both are competitive matchups.”
The best bets: Volkanovski by decision (-125); Sterling to win (+320); Chimaev by KO/TKO/DQ (+140).
Ryan Garcia (21-0, 18 KOs) vs. Emmanuel Tagoe (32-1, 15 KOs)
Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
Garcia, 23, won praise from his promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, for tending to his mental health during a 13-month break following his January 2021 knockout of Luke Campbell.
Boxing veterans also have expressed admiration for Garcia aligning with no-nonsense trainer Joe Goossen after defecting from the camp of Alvarez’s trainer, Eddy Reynoso.
As a -3000 favorite, Garcia’s return should go smoothly Saturday. He likely aims to ramp up competition before finally getting to bouts against his fellow “Four Horsemen,” as he calls the group of young, talented lightweights.
The best bets: Garcia-Tagoe over 4.5 rounds (-133); Gabriel Rosado to win (-280) over Shane Mosley Jr.
Erickson Lubin (24-1, 17 KOs) vs. Sebastian Fundora (18-0-1, 12 KOs)
Virgin Hotels, Las Vegas
This 154-pound title eliminator should propel the winner to a shot at the winner of the May 14 four-belt unification rematch between Texas’ Jermell Charlo and Argentina’s Brian Castano in Southern California.
Fundora, a 24-year-old from Coachella, California, is one of boxing’s rare specimens — a 6-foot-6 southpaw who dares to engage in entertaining exchanges.
He probably shouldn’t try that against Lubin, who has won six consecutive fights, including a sixth-round knockout of former champion Jeison Rosario in June.
Lubin is hell-bent to return for a rematch against Charlo, who embarrassed him by knocking him out in the first round of their 2017 World Boxing Council title fight.
Should Fundora, nicknamed “The Towering Inferno,” defeat Lubin in a toe-to-toe scrap, he has the ability to elevate as one of the sport’s most compelling fighters.
The best bet: Erickson Lubin by decision (+225).