IBF and WBA 140 pound champion Josh Taylor (17-0, 13 KOs) will meet WBC and WBO champion Jose Ramirez (26-0, 17 KOs) in a title unification bout on Saturday. The bout will headline an ESPN televised card from Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas, NV.
As of this writing Taylor is a -250 betting favorite whereas Ramirez can be had for the underdog price tag of +195. The over/under is currently set at 10.5 rounds with the over sitting at -345 and the under at +240. Finally the fight to go the distance is at -305 whereas the fight not going the distance sits at +215.
When this fight was first announced I saw it as a true 50/50 fight. But Taylor has consistently held as a decent sized favorite in the betting markets. Why is this the case?
The biggest reason Taylor is a sizable favorite in my opinion has to do with recency bias. What do I mean? Right now sitting in the memories of boxing fans are the recent performances of both Taylor and Ramirez. Many in boxing expected Regis Prograis to take apart Taylor in the 140 pound title fight in October of 2019. Instead, Taylor generally controlled that fight showcasing his vast set of skills to win a twelve round majority decision.
Taylor also made quick work of mandatory challenger Apinun Khongsong this past September.
Ramirez on the other hand was expected to have a relatively easy time of it when he defended his 140 pound title belts against Viktor Postol this past August. Instead Ramirez struggled with the style of Postol and did not put on an impressive outing. In the end Ramirez narrowly escaped with a twelve round majority decision win.
Taylor not only took care of business in his most recent outings but did so in very impressive fashion. The last time we saw Ramirez in the ring he was struggling to squeak out a win against an opponent whom he was heavily favored to defeat. This is what I mean by recency bias and a big reason why Taylor is sitting as the favorite on Saturday.
Another reason Taylor is favored has to do with Ramirez’s performance against another southpaw similar to Taylor in Jose Zepeda. Zepeda used lateral movement to nullify Ramirez’s constant forward moving pressure and found plenty of opportunities to land his quick left hand on the oncoming Ramirez. Ramirez struggled with Zepeda’s movement all night and did not land as cleanly as we had seen against other opponents.
Many boxing insiders thought Zepeda might have pulled off the upset but in the end with maybe some hometown cooking on the scorecards Ramirez saw his hand raised in victory.
So the thought amongst those in the sport is if Ramirez struggled against Zepeda then what will happen when he steps in against a much better version of Zepeda in Taylor?
Okay, so this is why Taylor is sitting at a -250 favorite at the moment. But is it justified? I don’t think so and there are several things that I see that point to this being a true 50/50 fight.
First to that performance by Taylor against Prograis.
One of the reasons Taylor looked so impressive is that physically was able to have his way with Prograis. I rewatched that fight and early on it is apparent that Taylor was much stronger than Prograis. And Prograis' punches could not get Taylor’s respect. Taylor was able to push Prograis around and do what he wanted as he was just so much stronger inside the ring.
To my eyes Taylor won’t be able the replicate that bullying like effort against Ramirez. Ramirez may even be physically stronger than Taylor. If Taylor can walk down Ramirez like he did Prograis, then yes, Ramirez will be in for a long night. But I simply do not see that happening.
What about Ramirez’s effort against Zepeda? Does that portend trouble against Taylor? Well maybe, but it’s hard to tell. First off Zepeda is a much better fighter than anyone thought when he faced Ramirez back in 2019. There is no question Zepeda is in the top five at 140 and probably in line for a title shot in the near future.
Second, as I mentioned earlier, that fight was in Ramirez’s hometown (Fresno, CA). Could he have not been entirely focused with all the distractions of fighting at home and maybe not put his best effort forward that night?
And the Postol fight for Ramirez? Well remember, Taylor also fought Postol and it wasn’t necessarily Taylor's best outing either. It could be that Postol’s style is tricky enough to cause just about anyone outside of Terence Crawford fits in the ring.
So just how will Taylor-Ramirez play out on Saturday? Well, Ramirez is going to be the bull aggressively pressing forward and Taylor is going to play the role of the matador. I don’t think anyone disputes that.
Taylor is very solid all around in his game. He keeps a tight, high guard and is extremely fluid in both his movements as well as in his punches. Taylor is particularly good at side stepping his opponent to create just the right angles to land clean shots upstairs. He did a masterful job of this against Prograis.
Taylor’s defense is above average with that aforementioned tight high guard and good head movement. I wouldn’t consider Taylor to be a one punch knockout guy (despite his last outing) but he carries enough behind his shots to get his opponent’s respect. And his hand speed is above average for the division.
Ramirez is a classic aggressive pressure fighter. He possesses a very strong, well-timed left jab that he uses to get in range and once in range will fire off combinations. He has a particularly strong left hook to the body that can have a debilitating effect on his opponents.
Something that Ramirez is not given enough credit for is his hand speed. He has very quick hands and I’d go as far as saying has the hand speed edge over Taylor. Ramirez also carries big power behind his punches. However, defense is not his strong suit and as with a lot of pressure fighters he is often willing to eat a few punches to set up opportunities to land his own shots.
I think Taylor is going to have success in the early going with his lateral movement. But unlike the Prograis fight Taylor will not be able to push Ramirez around the ring. Ramirez will walk thru fire to land his own shots and that is just what he will be able to do more and more as the fight progresses. Like I said earlier, I do think Ramirez has a hand speed edge and the quickness of his hands along with the power behind those shots will be something new for Taylor. The left hook in particular to the body of Taylor I think will play a major impact as the fight moves into the later stages.
My inclination here is that Ramirez ends up stopping Taylor late. But if Taylor does build an early lead and this fight makes it the distance we could see some very close cards. Therefore although my lean is Ramirez I will be hedging ever so slightly with a small play on the draw line. You know, just in case…
Jose Zepeda (-3335) vs. Hank Lundy (+1100) – Zepeda is coming off a brutal war with Ivan Baranchyk. It is the kind of war that takes a significant toll on both participants.
Nobody knows how much was taken from Zepeda but this does seem like a “safe” spot for him to get a win. Lundy is not a big puncher, not a high volume fighter and on the downside of his career. But if anything Lundy has proven to be durable. I think the fight goes rounds and the current over at 6.5 rounds at -110 is a miss by the sports books. I even like the +240 for this fight going the distance.
Sam Eggington (-360) vs. Carlos Molina (+260) (05/22/2021) – Call me biased but I have never been a Sam Eggington fan. He is maybe the worst defensive fighter I have ever seen. And though he is just 27, it's more like 47 in boxing years. Carlos Molina is no spring chicken but he did give Abass Baraou a tough fight two years ago and since has won eight straight. The play is the underdog here in Molina and if you are feeling a bit greasy may want to throw a little on Molina winning by KO, TKO or DQ at +550.
Final Card (Based on a $1,000 Bankroll allocating more no more than 5%)
Ramirez to win (+195) – $15 to win $29.25
Ramirez-Taylor does not go the distance (+215) – $10 to win $21.50
Ramirez-Taylor draw (+1900) – $5 to win $95
Zepeda-Lundy over 6.5 rounds (-115) – $10 to win $8.70
Zepeda-Lundy to go the distance (+240) – $5 to win $12
Molina to win (+260) – $5 to win $13
All odds in this article are courtesy of SugarHouse Sportsbook as of Wednesday and I will post any updates on Twitter if there are significant line movements.
Good luck to all!