Freelance: How to Gauge How a Fight Will End

As has been mentioned before, perhaps one of the most important aspects to betting on boxing is not just betting on which fighter in a given bout will win but betting on exactly how that boxer will achieve victory. Like any bettor, you want to have an edge. Check out the list of tips below to best predict the outcome of your next boxing bet!

Understanding Boxing Styles

Combat sports are human chess. A fight style is a lot like how a notable general prepares for war and while some approaches have become standard over boxing’s long and illustrious history. Ultimately though, the name of the game is unpredictability.

  • Most Common Styles

The Outfighter is the type of boxer that uses the various defensive tactics and mostly space to win a fight as the aim is to hit and not get hit. If you are betting on a fight that involves a known outfighter, you can almost consider some kind of decision outcome to be a certainty.

Punchers can move like outfighters but tend to have more power (while being more on-point than brawlers.) They can definitely end fights with one shot, but it is very common to see these fighters string along blows to form combinations. Fighters like these include Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, the late Muhammad Ali (see “Unusual Styles: Rope-A-Dope”,) Wladimir Klitschko, and more.

Counter-Punchers are exactly what they sound like. Similar to outfighters thanks to their constant movement, counter-punchers tend to be more quick precise as they wait for their opponent to make the first move, make the first mistake and then make them pay for that mistake.

Brawlers (also known as Sluggers) are those who obviously rely on weights in training and natural strength the most. An important factor in their game is cardio/stamina as they typically fall short in the footwork and speed categories. They are fairly easy to figure out but tend to have great chins (they can take a punch.)

Brawlers include Micky Ward, Arturo Gatti, George Foreman, Roberto Duran and others.

Swarmers are also volume strikers, but tend to land more quickly, forcing opponents to fold under the pressure of their bombarding attacks. Swarmers include boxing greats like “Iron” Mike Tyson and the active Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao, and “Triple G” Gennady Golovkin.

Pacquiao is fresh off of a return bout (having occurred on July 1) in which he was controversially upset by Jeff Horn. You can see Pacquiao’s approach in his final number per Compubox. It’s because of those numbers that an appeal of Horn’s win is currently underway.

Combox’s figures show that “...Pacquiao had a 182-92 edge in total punches landed, hitting on 32 percent. Pacquiao had a 123-73 edge in power landed, bolstered by a huge ninth round. Jeff Horn threw more punches in nine of the twelve rounds, but landed just 15 percent.”

  • Style vs. Style Match-Ups

It’s not always exactly correct, but it’s considered general knowledge that In-fighters will win over Out, Outfighters should top Brawlers, and Brawlers should do well opposite In-fighters. Essentially, this is a “rock-paper-scissors” approach but is worth knowing when placing your bet.

Analysis of a Fight

  • Knockouts: A Fighter’s Reaction to the Four Basic Punches

A particular fighter may have a greater likelihood of suffering a knockout or TKO depending on how they take a particular punch and whether or not their weaknesses become public knowledge like “Fighter A has a weak hook, so Fighter B should be able to hold up against it. However, in his last fight, Fighter A suffered two knockdowns from uppercuts, so watch for that.”

For some, a fight then becomes a matter of volume striking (wearing opponents down with jabs for example) which tends to lead to a decision of some kind. Other boxers just use raw power and precision to get a finish, waiting for the right moment.

The four punches are the jab, hook, cross, and uppercut.

The jab is perhaps the most basic but most important strike as it wears down opponents. This is the rapid-fire shot of the group and takes time to really mean anything. The fist will rotate a full 90 degrees while the torso and hips move clockwise just ever so slightly.

The cross is a straight line of a punch thrown from the chin using the rear hand that travels across the body to the intended target.

The hook is a lead-hand punch that should connect with the side of an opponent’s hand after in complete a partial circular motion. One hand is tucked specifically to the jaw to serve as chin protection while the elbow of the punching hand is reared back, locked and loaded. The torso and hips will move in a clockwise motion as the punch does as well.

The last of the big four is the uppercut, an upward-facing rear-hand blow that will rise from just below chest level almost straight up. KOs are likely if one particular punch is successful over the course of the fight but are also likely if the puncher has that punch as his lone attack.

The reason punches are thrown in combinations is not just for the sake of more volume, but because smaller shots like the jab help disguise the bigger shots like wide, powerful hooks or the aforementioned uppercut. Changing things up will also allow for weaknesses to be hidden as best as possible.

Once an opponent finds something to use a kryptonite, the likelihood of a knockout could go up drastically.

  • Unusual Styles

A style made famous by Ali was that of Rope-A-Dope. The style would use the various aspects of boxing defense (see the section below) to make the fighter who looks to be dominating tire out even in the event of a landed punch. Another awkward tactic that has been used sparsely at the Olympic level is the Bolo punch.

The Bolo punch is largely seen as ineffective because it involves a lengthy win-up prior to landing the strike itself meaning that it is mostly used in cases of showmanship.

Breaking Down Boxing Defense Strategies

Predicting the outcome of any sport (fighting or not) is relatively simple if you think about it in terms of output of damage versus damage taken (goals for versus goals against in hockey.) You can still when a fight with point-shots, but more defensive fighters tend to go to the ringside judges.

Techniques used include: the slip (rotation of the hips and shoulders to avoid a strike just before impact,) ducking (dropping the head down so that the strike misses entirely,) covering up involves simply shielding one’s face/head with their gloves. Clinching is the closest thing to grappling that boxing hands and include tying/lacing up the arms and/or waist of an opponent.

A parry or block in boxing involves letting your shoulder take the brunt of a blow. Swaying is simply moving the head shoulders backward out of the way of the shot. Other options are to use your footwork to move or fully disengage the opponent by backing away.

If you have a fighter that knows how to employ these tactics correctly, the fight could look pretty one-sided, if you are watching a fighter that is too

Decisions and Boxing Scoring: What Judges are Looking For

  • Controlling the Ring

This is also known as “Ring Generalship.” This applies to the fighter that controls the flow of this metaphorical dance. Can you cut the ring off to isolate your opponent? Can you back your opponent up, back him against the ropes or against a corner? Basically, this factor is all about setting a trap.

  • Effective Striking

Even the fighters who spend more time running than anything else must not only control the ring but land hands on their opponent. Point shots get the job done in a lot of cases, but the judges are looking for powerful strikes and strikes that are clean (no partial blocks, etc…)

Does the fighter you bet on have a history of at least getting knockdowns against opponents? One is the loss of a point, a second is a second point and completely dominance could lead to a 10-8 round as well. Track that tendency.

Stance is important as well as being able to switch between orthodox and southpaw (a growing but not entirely unique trend in the neighboring sport of MMA) allows for shots to come from weird angles most fighters aren’t used to. If you bet on a fight with a known switcher, that should be a plus.

  • Defense

Judges want to see a balanced defense, someone who can evade when need be but doesn’t spend the entirety of the contest doing so.

Outside Factors

  • Quality of Opponent

Start your research by finding leading boxing news sources and writers. The people that know the sport inside and out will be able to help you navigate your way through a world of padded records (in boxing, if you compile more than a handful of losses, you’re pretty much considered to be “done” in the sport’s court of public opinion.)

BoxRec also has a five-star rating system that could be of great use.

  • Age/Damage

After even just their first amatuer fight, no combat sports athlete enters into another fight at 100 percent. The older a person gets, the easier it becomes for them to bruise and weakening bones also become a concern. Age is also tied to speed. The volume striking that has been mentioned throughout this post doesn’t just win fights, but affects the ability of the loser to even get back in the ring again.

Read up on how many times/how quickly your fighter has either earned or taken a KO/TKO win and how quickly as well as “war of attrition” decision fights.

  • Inactivity/Speed

When you are a professional fighter, it isn’t your job but your life. This is because boxing involves things like weight management and how much exercise you get. For example, 43-year-old Manuel Marquez (56-7-1, 40 KOs) wants a return fight, but has not competed in over two years. Although, he has never been finished, so the fight could definitely happen.

Boxing has a tradition of training its greats since childhood, so it’s not like Marquez will suffer a case of “use it or lose it with muscle memory,” hopefully it will be just like riding a bike as has the cliche goes. His biggest test should be speed but he is known for being a hybrid of a combination and counter puncher.

Researchers for The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness conducted an experiment in 2014 among 96 college-age (mean age of 21.9) amatuer boxers testing their reflexes and reaction times (speed.) The fighters had to have won at least one bout in a single elimination tournament.

The fighters were tested using a cognitive assessment tool but were also required to have no significant drop in cognitive function one full day after competition. The results concluded that:

“The 18 winning boxers who advanced to the finals had significantly faster mean reaction times at the baseline assessment before the competition began (speed composite z-score F(1,94)=4.14, P<0.05, effect size 0.54). Winners also had more sparring experience (Mann-Whitney U=302.5, P<0.001) and higher pre-competition rankings (Mann-Whitney U=288.5, P<0.001)....

In highly motivated amateur boxers, finalists performed significantly faster than those who failed to reach the finals on measures of pre-competition reaction time. These findings suggest that winners of boxing tournaments might be predicted using pre-competition measures of processing speed.”

This is a young man’s game!

Reviewing Past Performances

It may seem like the obvious is being stated when you get told to just review fighter records. Every fight and every fighter is different but records do give you a good general idea of how things should go.

It’s been brought up time and time again that Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. hasn’t had a win by way of a knockout since 2011. However, he more specifically has scored five unanimous decision victories and two majority decisions (two of three judges being in his favor) since that time. That should tell you a lot about how he fights given the information above.

Simply put, it’s both a case of “what have you done for me lately?” and the average of outcomes compared to a total number of fights. Mayweather is 49-0-0 overall with 29 KO/TKOs (59 percent, high but again, he hasn’t finished a fight for seven years straight.) or paid sources like CompuBox (which provides in-depth bout-specific figures for a multitude of boxers) are great sources to check out!

Why All the UDs?

There are so many boxing organizations located around the world that their may never be a truly accurate way of measuring how many fights take place in a given year or how many of them have specific outcomes, but hopefully the above information helps you out.

However, the number of fights that go this distance in both boxing and MMA seems to be on the rise. In MMA, it might be a little easier to tell that a bout went to the scorecards because two competing styles “cancelled each other out” or because they have short bout times at maximum of 25 minutes.

In boxing however, the key to guess the end result could just come down to knowing a fighter’s motivations, the biggest factor in the journal study mentioned above.

A starving child from Puerto Rico that wants to be a world champion (Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran, see above) is going to be a lot more competitive than a Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. who has been at the top for years and sleeps in silk sheets (possibly.)

The trend is growing because it’s the hunger that fighters have early on in their careers that get them to the top of of the proverbial mountain, then they adopt what can often be viewed as a more tentative approach (similar to Mayweather’s) to stay atop that mountain. They want to keep their big houses, fancy cars and other trappings of a champion’s lifestyle.

Across both MMA and boxing, a standard training camp appears to usually be about 12 weeks in length (three months) with camps preferably being no shorter than eight weeks in length (two months) if it can be helped.

Comparing boxing and MMA is also a bit like comparing apples and oranges. High-profile boxers that may still be active like the recently un-retired Mayweather only fight about twice a year with 1-3 fights seeming to be the rule of thumb. They become their own bosses and want to do things on their own terms in similar fashion to the instances where an active pro wrestler gains creative control and books himself to win the world title.

Today’s big names in boxing aren’t fighting to win, they’re fighting to not lose.

In Conclusion: So what does betting on the exact outcome ultimately come down to? This is a case of youth versus experience, offense compared to damage, and keeping track of an individual’s patterns and/or tendencies.

For more high-profile title bouts, it might be worth checking out the worldwide rankings at BoxRec and keeping an eye on the top ten fighters in each weight class or, if you prefer, the pound-for-pound section and looking at the tendencies of the leaders there.

Here are your top five pound-for-pound best boxers in the world right now (considered active by BoxRec):

  • Boxer-Puncher, Saul “Canelo Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 KOs, the rest are decision wins)

  • Andre “Soldier of God/S.O.G.” Ward (32-0-0, 16 KOs, 1 win by RTD, 1 win by disqualification, the rest are traditional decision wins)

  • Terence “Hunter/Bud” Crawford (31-0-0, 22 KOs, 2 RTD wins, the rest are traditional decision wins)

  • Vasyl “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko (8-1, 6 KOs, 2 RTD wins, the rest are traditional decision wins)