Despite the fact that the "mainstream" boxing press has not been affording
much "ink" to the forthcoming fight, the Laila Ali/Christy Martin bout,
this Saturday, in Gulfport, MS., attained "big time" status this week. The
New York Daily News, on Monday, in its "America's Line" listing of betting
propositions, had the following item: Laila Ali -$360, Christy Martin
+$280, Draw +$900, Over/under 9.5 rounds.
For the uninitiated, this translates as follows: If you wish to bet on
Ali, you have to lay $360 to win $100; a $100 dollar wager on Martin will
win $280; in the very unlikely event you think the fight will end in a
draw, a $100 bet wins $900, and the "smart money" thinks the fight will go
the distance, given the "over/under" (you can make an "even money" wager,
either way, that the bout will go more or less than nine and one-half
rounds.... if for instance the fight ends in the seventh round and you
have the "over", you lose).
Its only the last "prop" that I think is a smart line. Neither fighter
seems to have the punching power to take her opponent out. Martin has had
only one KO in her last seven fights, over a period of almost four years,
and that was a one round "walkover" with an overmatched Sabrina Hall, in
Las Vegas in December, 2000. Ali, on the other hand, in the past year, has
fought Valerie Mahfood over 14 rounds, in two bouts, and never come close
to knocking the tough Mahfood off her feet. Thus when Ali boasts about the
upcoming bout, that "I'm knocking (her) all the way out. She's not going
past five", it sounds like just that.... a boast.
As for Ali being a 3.6-1 favorite, it seems to me, to be a bit of an
overlay. Ali, given her size advantage, six inches and least 20 pounds,
should be the favorite, but nearly 4-1 is, in my mind, a bit "long".
Martin has had 48 fights and never been off her feet (although Sumya Anani
can lay a fairly valid claim to scoring a knockdown during her fight with
Martin in December, 1998; however, it was ruled a slip). Nonetheless,
Martin has a strong chin, knows how to "roll with a punch", doesn't often
get hit with "big shots" and Ali has not, to this point in her career,
exhibited the punching power to KO Martin. The only caveat to this theory
is that Martin, throughout her career, no defensive wizard, has been
fairly easy to hit and has, on occasion, been prone to cuts. Should Ali be
able to land her long left jab, early and often, she may be able to "open
up" Martin and that could lead to a stoppage.
The case for Martin begins with the fact that she has had three times as
many fights as Ali. Ali has not been in with anyone approaching Martin's
experience (there probably isn't anyone in the sport). Martin also has a
very underrated left jab, which she has exhibited, with great skill, in
several past wins, notably against Andrea DeShong and Kathy Collins, both
of whom Martin "jabbed to death". If Martin can jab effectively to the
body against Ali, get the taller woman leaning over, Martin may have the
opportunity to land some effective punches throughout the fight and wear
down the bigger woman. The downside to that scenario is that Martin no
longer seems to have the big KO punch that she exhibited early in her
career. Whether this is due to the fact that, as her career winds down,
Martin's power has lessened or Martin has simply been in with "stronger
chins" later in her career, it does not seem plausible that she can take
out an opponent who will come into the ring at least 20 pounds bigger.
Thus, the bout seems, to me, destined to go to decision. Can Martin win a
decision? I doubt it. As the bigger fighter Ali will continually maintain
the attention of the judges throughout the bout; in this case, size does
count. Add to this, the fact the judges have been selected and will be
paid by the fight's promoter, Johnny "Yahya" McClain, who is Ali's manager
and husband. Martin, at the very least, has no chance of getting a close
decision. Ali may be from Los Angeles but she will have a "home field
advantage" in Mississippi.
So who is it in the big fight? Well, I wouldn't lay 360-100 on a fighter
who is clearly "out experienced". On the other hand, the old adage about "a
good big fighter beating a good little fighter" is hard to ignore; but you
can't teach experience, and Martin brings a ton of it to this bout. If she
can use that experience to get inside on Ali, she can take Laila into the
type of "deep water" Ali hasn't been near in her career and that's always
a tough place for a fighter to go for the first time. I think the smartest
wager is to take the "over" on 9.5 rounds, but while I'm "at the window"
I'll also grab those 2.8-1 odds on Martin.