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LAS VEGAS — The script in nearly every Canelo Alvarez fight over the last several years is identical: He launches a withering body assault early in the fight. His opponent, fighting the biggest fight of his life, battles back hard. Eventually, the body shots begin to take their toll and Alvarez then targets the head.
Finally, the referee steps in and pulls Alvarez off his defenseless opponent.
On Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, it will be WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol’s turn to try to figure out the Alvarez puzzle, which has only been solved by Floyd Mayweather.
Alvarez is a vastly superior fighter now, and that’s why he’s left quality opponents in his wake since 2013. He’s expected to roll through Bivol. Alvarez is a -500 favorite at BetMGM, with Bivol at +333. Alvarez is +200 to win by KO/TKO/DQ/Technical Decision, and is -120 to win by decision.
Bivol is +800 to win by KO/TKO/DQ/Technical Decision and is +700 to win by decision.
On the surface, Bivol doesn’t offer much of a threat. He’s not noted as a great puncher — he has 11 KOs in a 19-0 career — and most of the stoppages he got came against lesser opposition. He’s not an unnaturally large light heavyweight either, so he won’t be able to use his size against Alvarez.
But Bivol is a conservative fighter, judicious with his punches, and that may help him against Alvarez. If he doesn’t throw, it doesn’t create openings for Alvarez. Bivol is also slightly awkward in his approach and doesn’t throw punches from conventional angles.
That will take Alvarez a while to figure him out. I don’t believe there’s much of a chance of Bivol pulling an upset, because in order to do that, you must make Alvarez respect what is coming back and not plow forward like a dump truck down a steep incline.
Alvarez is much better defensively than he was as a young fighter, but he doesn’t mind taking one if he has to in order to deliver three or four in return.
Bivol will perhaps frustrate Alvarez in the early going, but Alvarez is patient and will stick to his plan. Bivol’s best bet will be to keep the fight in the center of the ring and try to turn Alvarez and limit his output.
Alvarez would be best served by trying to go down the middle. A jab to the body as well as the head would be appropriate, but the money punch for Alvarez in this fight could be the uppercut. Bivol uses a high guard, but can get out over his toes and that would allow Alvarez to score with an uppercut down the middle.
Bivol will attempt to slow the pace of the fight and tie Alvarez up when he starts to gain momentum.
That’s why I’m leaning toward Alvarez by decision. I don’t see Bivol doing enough offensively to win, particularly in Las Vegas where Alvarez seems to get every benefit of the doubt.
But while Bivol is good, maybe even very good, Alvarez is great. So it’s Alvarez’s fight, barring a disastrous and highly unlikely mistake.
As a result, I’m going to make three plays on this fight. I will bet two units on Alvarez by decision at -120, risking $240 in the hope of making a $200 profit. I will bet one unit on the fight going the distance, which is -200. Won’t go the distance is +150. So I’ll lay the $200 hoping to add another $100 profit.
And then BetMGM has a proposition wager about fight length. Less than 11 full rounds is +175. Going 11 full rounds or more is -225. I will lay the -225 and risk $225 to win $100.
In full, I’m going to risk $865 and hope to win $400. I’d be a loser if Alvarez gets the finish, but I’m willing to take the risk for the decent payout odds in my favor.
I’m expecting Alvarez to win eight, maybe nine rounds of the fight, so it should be comfortable and nothing I’d have to sweat out in the 12th. But wagering on the fight going 11 rounds or more gives me that little breathing room in case Alvarez gets a late stoppage.