Joshua v Parker; follow the crowd but don’t follow the crowd

By T. R. Lewison

Those who followed boxing in its formative, freewheeling and unregulated years were afforded the collective sobriquet ‘The Fancy’, a title bestowed by Pierce Egan in his seminal studies of the noble art; Boxiana, published in the early part of the 19th century. Despite its evolution over the ensuing century or two, boxing remains more closely preserved to its original form than modern reportage would encourage you to believe. A sprawling metropolis of hope and deceit, today as ever it was then, the sport still attracts interest across the social spectrum irrespective of demographics or political persuasion.

The new ‘Fancy’ enjoy the reverie as much as their forebears and for those who attempted to secure a taxi following Anthony Joshua’s last bout in Cardiff there will be a kinship for the travails of earlier followers who traipsed across ploughed fields to find secretive venues in the morning mist.

Yes, much remains the same. Betting on the outcome of bouts was at the heart of those early encounters and events, like the forthcoming unification between Joshua and Parker, and only in the availability of a battery of sophisticated markets to tempt punters and investors is  a distinction to be found. While the fight itself draws yet another enormous sell out crowd to the Principality Stadium on the 31st, it is wise not to follow them in the betting market if you seek to profit on the outcome. 

If you take a scoop at some of the major UK betting brands, you will see some offering markets for Anthony Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder, Joshua vs. Tyson Fury and Conor McGregor vs. just-about-everyone-on-the-planet. The point is, betting on a big fight is still huge business for bookmakers, even if that fight is yet to be confirmed.

Once they get their hands on a big one that has been given the go ahead, such as in the case of Anthony Joshua vs. Joseph Parker, bookmakers go all out in promoting the betting markets. This, in and of itself, starts creating a news cycle for the fight.

Media reports should be ignored when it comes to betting patterns…

For example, a media organisation could confidently report that the majority of bets have been placed on Parker to win the fight. This is, in fact, true – 54.27% of bets have been placed on the New Zealander to win, with 37.64% on Joshua and the remainder on the draw. This can create a false perception before the fight however, i.e. a suggestion that Parker is favoured by punters to win the fight. But, a better assertion is probably to say that Parker’s odds (13/2) are favoured by punters, whereas Joshua’s odds (1/10) are not.

Moreover, when the betting data is released after the fight, it will almost certainly tell us that the majority of large bets have been placed on Joshua, dwarfing the amount placed on Parker. The reason for that is the heavy favourite will usually take the most money, but the underdog will usually take the majority of the (small) bets.

Statistics should still be king when deciding on a big fight winner

Does this help us with our betting predictions in the fight? Well, it certainly tells us to ignore the reports over what the majority of punters are doing. Looking at the markets that offer value – and you should really check out these last minute free bets and betting offers for the Joshua v Parker fight before you bet – there is an argument to be made for a Joshua win by stoppage between the 9th and 12th rounds inclusive at 4/1 (Ladbrokes). It matches up with what we have seen with Joshua recently (10th vs Takam, 11th vs. Klitschko) and is quite generous value in terms of odds when compared to some of the other options.

Similarly, Betfair are running a market on Joshua to get knocked down, yet still to come back and win the fight at odds of 8/1. Again, this looks like outstanding value when you consider there is precedence (he went down twice in the sixth vs. Klitschko). You can get odds of 25/1 for Parker to perform the same trick.

Huge odds for a Parker to knockout Joshua in any round.

There is, of course, also value to be found when betting on Parker too. While punters are often encouraged to stay away from individual round betting, an exception could be made here if you believe Parker’s trash-talk about Joshua’s glass-chin. 100/1 or more available from various bookmakers on Parker winning in a specific round. Worth a few quid, perhaps. Outside of the betting side of things, the fight will hopefully deliver as a spectacle. Joshua has the makings of a good showman and its sometimes easy to forget he is still finding his feet in the sport and, as Steve Bunce suggested in the BBC Podcast this week, Parker may also be the more seasoned Amateur despite Joshua’s 2012 success.

Parker is poised to play the spoiler in front of a partisan crowd of 70,000 in Cardiff. It has the makings of a good one, regardless of who you back.

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