FIGHT ONE: Andre Ward 1.33 The Draw 26.00 Chad Dawson 3.25
Oracle Arena, Oakland, California, USA, Sunday, 3am.
Two of the best technicians in the sport, light heavyweight champ Chad Dawson and super middleweight king Andre Ward, fight for Ward's WBC and WBA super middleweight straps this Saturday. Ward is one of those rare fighters with no obvious weakness in his game. His last performance against Carl Froch in the Super Six final showcased his ring generalship superbly as he dictated the pace and controlled the real estate at the centre of the ring but what was shocking to many was how easily he was able to push a brute like Froch around, walk him back across the ring against the ropes. For a slick fighter Ward is freakishly strong.
In Dawson he faces a smart southpaw with decent power and excellent jab who comes into the fight with a 5½ inch reach advantage and his success in keeping that distance will determine the outcome of this fight. His problem is that Ward has the exceptional footwork, timing and inside game that you need against an opponent with a greater reach. Once inside, where his shorter arms are an advantage, he ties up his opponent and punches out of clinches beautifully. Dawson is mobile and disciplined but also predictable and Andre Ward laps that up.
If you're looking for a chink in the Ward armour it's worth remembering that in his seventh professional fight he got knocked down in the fourth round of his six rounder against journeyman Darnell Boone. He recovered and escaped with a points victory but if you fancy Dawson's chances of finishing him inside the distance then Dawson by KO, TKO or DQ is at 8.00 On the other side of that coin bear in mind that Dawson has been knocked down by Erik Harding and Thomas Adamek as well as being wobbled seriously in the 10th round by Glen Johnson. Ward by KO is at 5.00.
Best Bet: Taking into account both fighters’ cautious technical styles, the bet I recommend is Ward on points at 1.55. Fighting in his hometown of Oakland, California, he is likely to get the nod on the cards even if Dawson makes it close. Wherever he fights I don't see anybody outpointing Ward for a long time.
FIGHT TWO: Vitali Kiltschko 1.01 The Draw 40.00 Manuel Charr 16.00
Olympiyskiy Sports Arena, Moscow, Russia, Saturday, 10pm.
Meanwhile over in Moscow we welcome the 47th professional fight of Vitali Klitschko's career. We all know the Klitschko juggernaut can't roll on forever but will the wheels come off Saturday night as he faces unbeaten Syrian-German Manuel Charr? Don't hold your breath. A CV consisting of the likes of a 38-year-old Danny Williams and Owen "What The Heck" Beck doesn't inspire and his marching forward with no head movement style should offer no problems at all for Klitschko and given that half of his opponents last the distance his chances of a shock KO over the iron jawed Ukrainian are close to non-existent. The question isn't whether Vitali wins, it's how.
The line for total rounds is 8.5 and Klitschko's huge 87% knockout ratio immediately steers you towards the under. Only four have gone the distance with Vitali although it's telling that three of those have happened in his last six fights. In fact, Klitschko hasn't had a genuine knockout before the eighth round since Kirk Johnson in 2003 (Odlanier Solis was unable to continue after a twisted knee). There's no doubt that the champion has looked sluggish in recent outings. Dereck Chisora looked competitive for much of the fight even if he was never in danger of winning and it does make you wonder whether the snapped anterior cruciate ligament that forced Klitschko's retirement in 2005 has affected the concussive power of his shots long-term.
Best Bet: For these reasons I think it's worthwhile taking the over 8.5 rounds at 2.12. Charr may be a punching bag on legs but against an ageing champion who has long preferred a gradual wearing down strategy it's worth a punt on him stumbling into the ninth round.