Sports bettors & boxing fans would have loved to see Floyd Mayweather & Manny Pacquiao get in the ring five years ago. Will there still be enough interest in the boxing odds?
We’ve all seen what happens when performers hang on a little too far beyond their prime. That band you used to love can still pack the stadiums, but the music isn’t very good anymore. Actors end up in movies that should be beneath them. Athletes are no different; we hate it when old quarterbacks can’t throw the ball more than 30 yards downfield anymore without hurting themselves. But at least those players are pushed into retirement pretty quickly.
Prizefighters never retire soon enough. They keep on fighting long after they’ve reached their peak; occasionally, you’ll get someone like Bernard Hopkins who ages more gracefully than the rest, but that’s the exception rather than the rule. Which brings us to Floyd Mayweather (age 38) and Manny Pacquiao (age 36). They’ll no doubt bring in millions of PPV buys when they meet this May in the so-called Fight of the Century. But do they still have enough left in the tank to make the boxing odds worth our time?
Pictures at an Exhibition
When we say “our” in this case, we mean those of us who aren’t just interested in a casual wager for entertainment purposes. If you’re not a boxing purist or a dedicated handicapper, and you want to put a few dollars down on your favorite fighter just for fun, then there’s no reason to be concerned about this matchup. Mayweather and Pacquiao can still throw some leather. It’ll be a good time.
It’s the people with more on the line who should be concerned. A prizefight is indeed a lot like a concert; it’s the people who draw the biggest crowds who are on top of the food chain, not the best performers. The promoters and the networks decide who gets to fight whom. The belts are relatively meaningless now. Compared to other sports, boxing is less of a competition and more of an exhibition. And that’s when everything is legit and on the up-and-up.
When you’ve got this dynamic in place, making an educated boxing pick is difficult. On what do you base your handicapping? How much is there to learn when Pacquiao faces someone like Chris Algieri (+500), or Mayweather ends up fighting Marcos Rene Maidana twice (Boxing odds of +550, +425)? These good-but-not-great boxers didn’t really put the favorites to the test. Without a truly competitive fight, we don’t know what the ceiling is anymore for Mayweather or Pacquiao – we can only tell that the ceiling is lower than it used to be.
This isn’t a problem for the sportsbooks, at least not in the short term. When they set their boxing odds, they’re just looking for a line that will split the action down the middle, and they can adjust that line based on the dollars that are coming in. There doesn’t have to be much guesswork involved. But if you’re betting on Mayweather-Pacquiao, how can you really tell whether or not Pac-Man is a bargain at +200 (down from +270 at the open)? It’s not like he’s had 50 fights with Mayweather and beaten him 20 times.
This is always a problem when you bet on boxing, of course. And there are always things you can learn from each fight. But when you don’t have enough reliable data on your side, and you don’t have competitive fights that force boxers to pass the “eye test,” that leaves you in the dark on both sides of the analytics/scouting balance. In this situation, sharper handicappers get driven even further toward the more easily predictable side bets, like whether the fight will go the distance (–330). That’s like going to a concert just to see if they can make it all the way to the encore.