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Gaming Guru

Jeff Haney

Betting lines on the rumored Pacquiao-De La Hoya bout would show a close matchup

20 August 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Given the shaky state of negotiations between the relevant parties, a megafight pitting Oscar De La Hoya against Manny Pacquiao could be considered a long shot in itself.

Uncertainties surrounding high-profile potential boxing matches have never stopped oddsmakers from posting early betting lines on them, however.

So it's a little surprising bookmakers in Nevada or elsewhere have not offered odds on a De La Hoya-Pacquiao fight, a bout promoters had been hoping to put together for December, according to those on-again, off-again rumors boxing thrives on.

A line for gamblers to bet real money into, of course, always serves as the great equalizer in sports (or just about any other arena), an ideal opportunity for know-it-alls and loudmouths to (literally) put up or shut up.

In the absence of such a line, boxing was left with wild speculation and divergent opinions on the proposed showdown, which would pair two of the sport's most prominent figures.

So here it is: Boxing and betting insiders believe the opening Las Vegas line on the fight would favor De La Hoya at odds of a bit less than 2-1.

On the betting board, De La Hoya would probably be listed at about minus 185 (risk $1.85 to win $1), with the price on Pacquiao about plus 165 (risk $1 to net $1.65).

Odds in that range, it turns out, would reflect a competitive matchup and quash at least some of the concern of boxing purists who object to a De La Hoya-Pacquiao fight because the two men come from such disparate weight classes.

De La Hoya has fought, and won, in as high as the middleweight division (160 pounds). Pacquiao, wildly popular in his native Philippines, started his pro career as a 106-pounder and just this year moved up from super featherweight to lightweight (135 pounds).

If you put stock in the betting odds — and I certainly do — De La Hoya-Pacquiao, far from being a one-sided affair, would actually be the most evenly matched major boxing match of the late summer and fall.

In the two big fights officially announced for Las Vegas, for example, Juan Manuel Marquez is a 3-1 favorite against Joel Casamayor on Sept. 13, and Ricky Hatton is a 5-2 favorite against Paulie Malignaggi on Nov. 22.

Also, Shane Mosley is nearly an 8-1 favorite against Ricardo Mayorga on Sept. 27 in Los Angeles; Kelly Pavlik is about a 4-1 favorite against Bernard Hopkins on Oct. 18 in Atlantic City; and Jermain Taylor is a 5-1 favorite against Jeff Lacy on Nov. 15 at a site to be determined.

Forging an agreement on a weight limit and a split of the purse has been the obvious obstacle to making the match.

It's likely the fight, if it's made, would take place at welterweight simply because De La Hoya cannot get much lighter than 147 pounds.

The money presents a stickier issue. Pacquiao wants as much as 40 percent of the proceeds and turned down an offer of 30 percent — even though, considering the magnitude of the promotion, that could amount to as much as $15 million to $20 million in Pacquiao's pocket, according to The Philippine Star.

Even though I just touted how closely matched a De La Hoya-Pacquiao fight would be, at least vis-a-vis the betting odds, if this megabout is made I'll be backing the physically larger man at the window.

The pick is not a slight of Pacquiao's formidable talent. Rather, it's an acknowledgment of De La Hoya's strength, reach and sheer size.

As someone taking bets, I'd be inclined to hang a number in the neighborhood of De La Hoya minus 220, Pacquiao plus 180, shading it toward the favorite.

As a bettor, at any price less than minus 200, I'd invest in a ticket on De La Hoya.