All the talk amongst British boxing fans in February concentrates on the fast-approaching meeting of James DeGale and Chris Eubank Jr at the 02 Arena, London on 23 February, a bout shown live on ITV Pay-Per-View when the pair decide the future of the vacant IBO world title. Read on for our best Leo Santa Cruz v Rafael Rivera betting tips.
Our boxing team have previewed that clash and go with a smart price pick, designed to help you mark the evening with a winner. The boxing schedule is building as we head into the thick of 2019, however, and before looking to solve DeGale – Eubank, fans have the little matter of Leo Santa Cruz’s clash with Rafael Rivera this weekend.
Santa Cruz – remembered by casual followers of the game as the man who dethroned Carl Frampton back in 2017 – defends his WBA world championship belt at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles in the early hours of Sunday morning. UK followers will be able to catch the fight live from around 1.00am. With a decent undercard planned to support the main event, it’s advisable to get settled in early to enjoy the show.
Ramp up the Excitement
Drama is guaranteed as two talented operators from the featherweight division meet; however, one sure-fire way to ramp up the excitement and ensure you keep your eyes peeled heading into the wee small hours of Sunday is by placing a bet.
Major bookmakers have done the groundwork to ensure you have something worth backing, with a list of eye-catching markets on offer, including fight winner, method of victory, total number of rounds, a knockdown in the fight, and much more. There’s something for even the fussiest of punter, and prices to suit every pocket.
Which bet should you place to ensure you land a profit in good time for a hectic Sunday of sport? That’s where our team come in. We’ve run the rule over both combatants, including form, stats and even gossip, before returning with our views on how best to invest your cash. Not only do we suggest who to back, but we’ve also done the research to advise where to bet, picking out the major online firms offering market best price, ensuring your stake money is working hard on your behalf.
Let’s take a look at both gladiators on the approach to this one…
El Terremoto Near Perfect
30-year-old Leo Santa Cruz has some big shoes to fill as a featherweight world champion from Mexico; however, the California-based fighter has been near perfect since making his professional debut with a second-round KO win over fellow countryman Pedro Silva back in 2006. El Terremoto has put together a professional record reading 35 wins from 37 starts, with one draw and a single defeat added to his card.
The 5ft 7inch orthodox played his part in a fascinating double-header with British fighter Carl Frampton in 2016 and 2017. The Jackal won the first bout at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in the summer of 2016, nicking a majority decision. The scorecards read 114-114, 116-112, 117-111, but it was the kind of close battle that no one could’ve argued strongly against either result. The fact one judge gave it to Carl by six rounds and a colleague called it a draw explains everything.
The clash was so competitive the next move simply had to be a rematch and the pair renewed rivalries in January 2017 at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas where we got another thriller. Again, the result read majority decision, but this time Cruz got the nod on the scorecards. The scores read 114-114, 115-113, 115-113, gifting Leo revenge by the tightest of margins. It looked like we’d get a trilogy, with a third fight expected, but that now seems unlikely. Frampton has since lost to Josh Warrington and his future in the sport remains unclear.
Disappointing for Fans
Since beating The Jackal in January 2017, Santa Cruz has fought only twice, which is disappointing for his growing army of followers. He stopped Californian Chris Avalos in eight with the beaten man halted on his feet under local rules, referee Thomas Taylor judging him in no fit state to continue following a heavy-handed attack.
Cruz was last seen out-pointing Abner Mares in Los Angeles in June of last year, despite the victor receiving a cut midway through the contest. Bookmakers certainly seem impressed by that form and are falling over themselves to keep the champion on side, offering no more than 1/40 on a successful defence. Tight, but the vast majority of traders are closer to the 1/100 mark and that’s a polite way of saying they’re not accepting bets on a Cruz win.
So, what to do? Well, the fight winner price can’t be touched, so backers are driven into the specials markets and the method of victory field promises to be popular. Here players must predict both the winner and how he will achieve the result – points or knockout.
Points win Picked
If following the betting on this one and taking for granted that Leo Santa Cruz will win the bout, a flick through his recent form nudges us towards a selection at a better price. The jolly has won each of his three since losing to Frampton, with two of those results coming on the scorecards.
Four of his last five starts have all travelled the 12-round distance, including that wide points win over Mares in the summer. With a 51 per cent knockout average from 37 bouts, there’s no doubt Cruz has power in his hands, but he’s more likely to use his boxing skills to rack up a comfortable win on points.
There’s value in that and we suggest taking a chance and backing Leo Santa Cruz on points in the method of victory market. Those looking for a bit more of safety net can try adding this contest to go beyond 8.5 rounds to their accumulators. Both bets should keep you on the right path and make much sense than taking the favourite to score a 20th career stoppage and first since October 2017.
Big Bang Targets an Upset
24-year-old Mexican Rafael Rivera has won 26 of his previous 31 bouts, losing two and drawing a couple. It comes as a bit of a surprise to see Big Bang fight for major honours after losing two of his last three, with the spare coming over Jose Ramos, a fighter who has lost more than he’s won.
Rivera was beaten on points by Joseph Diaz in Las Vegas when contesting the WBO NABO featherweight title in the summer of 2017 and ended on the losing side of the draw next time, beaten on a split decision by Joet Gonzalez last summer. Two defeats in three, extended periods of inactivity. Not the form of a fighter who deserves to be mixing it at elite level and that should show very quickly.
Traders certainly think so and they have put a line through the chances of Rivera causing an upset in this one. There’s not a lot to inspire confidence amongst backers, but those who see something in the challenger most of us don’t will be interested in his price. Bet365 have been bold enough to send out a market best quote of 18/1, with most of the competition stuck around the 16/1 mark. The draw is 33/1 across the board, including at Unibet, but that’s another bet that really doesn’t interest us too much and we’re happy to stick with the form and back Cruz to win on points.