Jason Decrow / Associated Press
Thursday, July 17, 2008 | 2 a.m.
For a boxing match righteously hyped as a fight of the year candidate, the gambling action in the July 26 welterweight world title bout has been decidedly lopsided in favor of Miguel Cotto.
After opening as a minus-170 favorite (risk $1.70 to win $1) against Antonio Margarito in the pay-per-view fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Cotto has been bet up to minus-270, according to MGM Mirage odds.
The price on Margarito stands at plus-230, up from an opener of plus-150.
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The round proposition is listed at over/under 9 1/2 with a premium of minus-175 on the “over,” indicating either man could score a knockout but probably not until late in the fight.
Promoter Bob Arum said the match shapes up as a classic clash between a Mexican (Margarito) and a Puerto Rican (Cotto), a rivalry that has produced a number of memorable bouts throughout the sport’s history.
Arum compared Margarito-Cotto to fights such as Sixto Escobar vs. Rodolfo Casanova (1934); Wilfredo Gomez vs. Carlos Zarate (1978); and Hector Camacho vs. Julio Cesar Chavez (1992).
It also pits a fierce puncher who has evolved into a virtually complete fighter in Cotto against a tall, rangy opponent who figures to attack relentlessly in Margarito.
Las Vegas handicapper and radio personality Dave Cokin sees the matchup as closer to even than the betting line would indicate.
He likes Margarito — at the price.
In a poll of media members and boxing experts, Cokin wrote: “Potential bloodbath with definite fight of the year possibilities. Relentless Cotto will work endlessly to get inside taller Margarito in order to land punishing body shots. But Cotto will likely absorb some powerful Margarito hooks as that height advantage pays off. I can’t see anything less than a grueling battle and I expect it to go to the cards for what looms as a very tight decision.
“From a Las Vegas standpoint, Margarito at plus-200 or better would be the choice.”
Expired tickets redux
The staff at the Planet Hollywood sports book earned high marks for its professionalism and courtesy from a local sports bettor who recently cashed several tickets that were past their official expiration dates.
The tickets, involving wagers on the Super Bowl, had passed the 120-day limit printed on the betting slips.
The bettor brought the tickets in to Planet Hollywood to redeem them on a recent Saturday. The supervisor told him they were too old to find in the book’s computer system, but that he would make copies of the tickets and have the accounting department check them the following Monday.
The bettor was given the options of returning Monday to cash them or having a check mailed to him once they were verified as winners.
He chose to return Monday, when he cashed the tickets with no problems.
Although unrelated to the story involving another local bettor’s dispute with another property (Sun, May 16, May 23), this one illustrates the appropriate way to treat sports wagering expiration dates: as an accounting guideline rather than an excuse to weasel out of paying off bets.
Research by sports betting analyst R.J. Bell of Las Vegas has turned up an intriguing pattern involving NBA referee Scott Foster, who received 134 phone calls from disgraced ref Tim Donaghy between October 2006 and April 2007, according to a news report this week.
Seven games officiated by Foster during that period had point-spread moves of at least 2 points in the betting line, according to Bell, proprietor of the Web site Pregame.com.
In those seven games, the side moving the money won every time.
Acknowledging it’s circumstantial evidence, Bell called the findings “noteworthy.”
Two games in particular stood out, Bell said:
• On Jan. 19, 2007, the Sacramento Kings were bet from a 1 1/2-point favorite to a 4 1/2-point favorite before beating the Boston Celtics by 5. The Kings shot 25 free throws to the Celtics’ 14.
• On March 20, 2007, the Denver Nuggets were bet from a 2 1/2-point underdog to a 1-point favorite before winning by 4 at New Jersey. The Nuggets shot 32 free throws to the Nets’ 22.