A couple of months back, when Eddie Hearn officially announced Anthony Joshua’s next move, British bookmakers were offering as big as 10-1 for AJ to lose his title in Cardiff. One day out from the fight, the odds for an upset in The Valleys have more than halved.
To quote Welsh hero Tom Jones, it’s not unusual. The betting fraternity often latch on to the outsider in a major fight. Casual fans like bang for their buck; often backing the guy that offers the biggest financial return, especially when it’s a domestic ‘dog. Take last year’s biggest gamble; an emotional and patriotic surge for Connor McGregor saw the cage fighter’s odds plunge in hope of an unlikely victory over Floyd Mayweather. The misty eyed, MMA wagers resulting in nothing more than an unprecedented red letter day for layers all over the land. They like you betting with your heart, bookies. It’s their bread and butter.
It wasn’t the first time Mayweather backers have benefited from an optimistic gamble on this side of the pond, either. Ricky Hatton’s loyal followers punted their man into near enough pick ‘em territory when the Mancunian took on Floyd in 2007. Brits back their boys, often blindly. Frank Bruno’s odds somehow shifted south in the run-up to both Tyson bouts, while more recently, Kell Brook’s price tumbled the week before his tremendously difficult GGG assignment.
When a UK fighter finds himself as big favourite, as Joshua does this weekend, it’s usually the knock out option that collapses, or a few favoured rounds that take a hit. So what’s behind the move for Joseph Parker? Why is a visitor with little UK celebrity, who’s regarded as an inferior athlete by most pundits, receiving the lions share of betting support?
All fighters have their critics, Anthony Joshua being no exception. With Hearn a constant hate figure for a portion of British boxing’s ‘hipster’ community, a small section of hardcore UK fans will be pulling for Parker to shock the world, dealing a massive blow to Matchroom in the process. Yet it seems unlikely the cynics alone have had enough financial sway to drive down the early double figure price that was available for JP. Parker’s no mug, that’s for sure. But few would have been running to the local Ladbrokes to part with their hard earned pounds on the back of his last performance on these shores.
Regardless of the underwhelming and controversial points win over Hughie Fury, it’s clear Parker has struck an unusual gambling chord with both Britain’s casual and shrewd value punter. 10-1 seemed an extraordinarily large quote for any fighter competing in a unification fight, never mind an unbeaten champion in the most unpredictable realm of the heavyweights. The fight will be contested in front of a 90,000 capacity, yet away from main events, boxing in this country is a relatively niche betting sport; way behind the likes of football (soccer), horse racing, rugby and golf in terms of annual turnover. With very few boxing specific traders working in the industry and with no early Vegas line to guide UK bookies, the early offerings for Parker were at best ludicrously generous, at worst a complete oversight.
Those double digit quotes are long gone, but the casuals have sustained Parker’s market momentum; putting patriotism to one side for an invested interest in the Easter action. With the help of Sky Sports ramping up Parker’s chances to sell the fight, British oddsmakers now find themselves in an unusual position of facing a big payout if the visiting fighter topples the domestic superstar.
The fact that Anthony Joshua’s opponent is now as low as 4-1 will do little to change the British champion’s approach to the fight. Both camps will be aware of the move, though, and it may offer an element of belief and encouragement for the travelling team.
One member of that team will be Tyson Fury, who will join Joseph Parker for his ring walk in Cardiff. He was understood to be devastated when news of the contest was announced, worried his pal and sparring partner will shatter the chances of a future payday for himself with Joshua. It may even be the gypsy money that’s had most impact on Parker’s price; Tyson and co attempting to compensate for their potential AJ gravy train derailing.
The Furys have been criticised in some quarters for their support in opposition to Joshua. They’ll not be alone tomorrow night. Gamblers all over the country will be hoping Joseph Parker can dish out a bruising, not only to the British champion, but also its bookmakers.