Golovkin-Lemieux title unification fight is close to sellout

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Three years ago, Gennady Golovkin was largely unknown outside hard-core boxing circles. In two months, he’ll take on David Lemieux in an HBO pay-per-view fight for their four combined middleweight title belts at a sold-out Madison Square Garden.

Although the Kazakh star’s charisma and his Canadian counterpart’s passionate fans played roles, Golovkin’s reputation for violent knockouts is the biggest reason these fighters have already sold more than 15,000 tickets. Only the cheap seats are left in New York’s famed arena for the Oct. 17 fight.

Golovkin (33-0, 30 KOs) said he won’t allow his soaring stardom to distract him from the goal of unifying every middleweight championship. He already holds the WBA 160-pound title, the WBC interim title and the IBO belt, while Lemieux (34-2, 31 KOs) is the IBF champion.

“Right now is an interesting time for me,” Golovkin said before a packed news conference in downtown Los Angeles, his adopted hometown. “I don’t lose motivation. My goal is all the middleweight championships. This is a big year for me, and next year will be even bigger.”

It’s tough to get much bigger than a title unification fight at Madison Square Garden, where Golovkin will try for his 21st consecutive stoppage victory. Golovkin’s promoter, Tom Loeffler, deliberately set the ticket prices slightly lower than other high-profile New York fights to entice fans – and they responded even more aggressively than he expected, guaranteeing an eventual sellout.

Golovkin and Lemieux also will make their debuts as HBO pay-per-view headliners on a card featuring vaunted Nicaraguan flyweight champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez against Brian Viloria.

The pay-per-view decision rankled some Golovkin fans who have tracked his rise from relative obscurity in Germany to major bouts in New York and Los Angeles in the past two years. Yet Golovkin’s camp made a major financial offer to entice Lemieux into the ring after years of getting turned down by champions and well-known stars wary of Golovkin’s power and skill.

“This is the first time anybody would agree to step in the ring with Gennady when they had something to lose,” said Loeffler. “I figured it would sell out (Madison Square Garden), but the response now, that exceeds whatever we thought. With every fight, he grows.”

Golovkin’s stateside rise also led to a spike in his popularity back home in Kazakhstan, where he’s greeted as a hero whenever he returns.

“I’m not a hero,” Golovkin said. “I’m a regular man. I’m a boxer.”

Sure, GGG. On his last trip home to visit his mother, Golovkin stopped in at a soccer game and got a raucous, lengthy standing ovation from the crowd of 30,000 when it realized he was in the arena.

Golovkin is even getting recognized regularly in Los Angeles, where he moved with his wife and young son. Although the champ doesn’t mind the attention, he doesn’t invite it, either.

“I go to kindergarten, and I go to the gym,” he said with a grin. “That’s it.”

Lemieux said he didn’t hesitate to take the biggest test of his career, and he could land legions of new fans with his brawling, relentless style. He claimed the vacant IBF title in June by knocking down Hassan N’Dam four times in a decision win.

“What’s a better time than now?” Lemieux asked. “He’s at his best. I’m at my best. I’m confident in my abilities. I’m not scared of him. He’s a smart guy. He knows what he’s in against, but he’ll be surprised by my power.”

Golovkin and Lemieux got along well during a three-city publicity tour this week, exchanging compliments on the dais before laughing at each other during the staredowns. Golovkin also enjoyed the chance to be around Bernard Hopkins, a partner in Golden Boy Promotions, which backs Lemieux.

Those good feelings will evaporate in October when Golovkin goes after the victory that would move him to the next level of stardom in his meteoric three-year rise.

“Right now, I more understand Bernard and what he did,” Golovkin said of Hopkins, who famously made 20 consecutive middleweight title defenses. “I promise an amazing show. Everybody understands this is a new step to the story.”

Manny Pacquiao loses WBO welterweight title on points to Jeff Horn

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BRISBANE, Australia (AP) Manny Pacquiao lost his WBO welterweight world title to Jeff Horn in a stunning, unanimous points decision in a Sunday afternoon bout billed as the Battle of Brisbane in front of more than 50,000 people.

The 11-time world champion entered the fight at Suncorp Stadium as a hot favorite but got more than he bargained for against the 29-year-old former schoolteacher.

Still, Pacquiao dominated the later rounds and the result could have gone his way.

Pacquiao’s long-time trainer Freddie Roach predicted the fight would be short and sweet but Horn – unbeaten in his 17 previous professional fights – applied pressure by winning some of the early rounds and Pacquiao needed treatment during the 6th and 7th rounds for a cut on the top of his head that resulted from a clash of heads.

The judges scored the fight 117-111, 115-113 and 115-113, with Horn immediately calling out Floyd Mayweather Jr., after the fight, declaring himself “no joke.”

Roach had said earlier in the week that he’d think about advising Pacquioa to retire if he lost the fight, but that would depend on how he fought.

Pacquiao’s camp had talked about a rematch with Mayweather if he got past Horn, hoping to avenge his loss on points in the 2015 mega fight. That seems to be a distant chance now.

Pacquiao, who entered the fight with a record of 59-6-2, 38 knockouts, was defending the WBO title he won on points against Jessie Vargas last November.

Mayweather vs. McGregor odds: Sportsbooks set betting lines, props for fight

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Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor stand to collect a massive payday whether their superfight is a charade or a combat sports classic, and there’s plenty of upside for bettors too.

With the bout set, Mayweather is a -600 moneyline favorite against the +400 underdog McGregor at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.  Mayweather will put a 49-0 ring record on the line in the August 26 bout at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, while McGregor, a UFC champion at two weights, might prove a point just by having a decent showing.

The moneyline has tightened considerably since the first rumors about the fight. Last November, Mayweather opened at -2250 and McGregor opened at +950. Evidently, many MMA fans found McGregor irresistible at that price, as it steadily dropped, falling to +450 by late April. That was also the point where the moneyline on ‘Money’ came down to -700.

The over/under on rounds is 9.5. A 10-round fight is uncharted waters for McGregor, but 13 of Mayweather’s last 14 fights have gone at least 10 rounds. Twelve have gone the full 12 rounds; the Mayweather-McGregor betting odds on whether the fight goes the distance pays +125 if it does, and -175 if it’s stopped early.

McGregor also pays +120 if he wins by decision, which is the standard outcome for his bouts against full-time boxers. McGregor’s method-of-victory props include +700 for a knockout and +3300 for victory by decision.

There is little in the way of past performance to go on here, since McGregor hasn’t boxed since he was a teenager in Ireland. Mayweather’s defensive skills should allow him to parry any early onslaught from McGregor, who is a knockout artist in the UFC octagon and rarely has fights go more than two rounds.

The round prices offer the most potential profit for Mayweather backers. One can assume that the skilled defensive fighter might dance around while McGregor goes out hard. It might be prudent to scale down expectations of a quick finish – +3300 for Mayweather winning in Round 1, +2500 for Round 2 – and look at the slightly later rounds. Rounds 4 through 6 are listed at +1600 and +1400.

While Mayweather’s round prices trace a reverse parabola, McGregor’s round prices are relatively stable. The Irishman offers +4000 for a win in Round 1, or each one from Rounds 4-7. There is a slight drop to +3300 for both Round 2 and 3.

Another way to bet on the Mayweather-McGregor fight is the 4.99 million total for pay-per-view buys. The over hitting would require beating the audience for Mayweather’s 2015 fight against Manny Pacquaio (4.6 million). McGregor also holds the UFC’s PPV record of 1.65 million, set at UFC 202 in August 2016

With boxing and MMA fans creating a larger fanbase and the event being scheduled for the dog days of late August – before the NFL and college football blot out everything else on the sports landscape – 5 million buys seems doable.