Boxing betting preview: Can Maurice Hooker upset Vergil Ortiz Jr.?

It’s billed as the toughest fight of Vergil Ortiz Jr.’s young career, and it’s true that Maurice Hooker is a former world champion still in the prime of his career.

Yet the odds favoring Ortiz are overwhelming. At BetMGM, Ortiz is -1250 to win and -300 to win by knockout. Those are pretty daunting, especially when backing a 22-year-old who has yet to fully prove himself.

The bigger question in their welterweight fight is whether there is a way to find value on the +750 Hooker, who is now being trained by Brian McIntyre. Hooker has an astounding 80-inch reach and will have a full 10-inch reach advantage on Ortiz.

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He’s also fought far better opposition than Ortiz and his only loss came in a 2019 super lightweight unification bout with Jose Ramirez, in which he was stopped in the sixth.

Hooker isn’t considered a power puncher like Ortiz, so if he is to win, he’s going to have to walk the tightrope, avoid Ortiz’s power and pull out a decision. Hooker also has three draws and two split decision wins, which indicates he’s often in close bouts.

Working with McIntyre should mean two things are true with Hooker: He’ll be in better condition than he has been, and he’ll improve his fundamentals. That will go a long way.

Ortiz has proven consistent en route to going 16-0 with 16 KOs and he’s a studious, serious fighter. He’s unlikely to be surprised by anything that Hooker might try.

I think there is a talent gap here, and that Ortiz is on the verge of becoming a legitimate player in the top-heavy welterweight division.

But this is a fascinating fight for him and Hooker’s reach adds a unique dimension he hasn’t had to deal with before.

I think he figures it out, and so I’ll lay $300 on him to win by KO/TKO/Technical Decision or DQ, hoping to make a $100 profit.

I was tempted to put $100 on the fight ending in a draw, which is +2500, on the rationale that Hooker has been in so many close fights and that Ortiz may be befuddled by the reach.

I opted against that, though, because I think Ortiz has a chance to be special. While he may have his difficult moments in the bout, I think he’ll find a way to land something big and stop Hooker.

Other boxing betting plays

• I will lay -800 to win $100 (ugh) on Artur Beterbiev to win by KO/TKO/Technical Decision or DQ.

• I’ll take a gamble and bet $100 on Beterbiev to win by KO in the first round at +900.

• I will lay $100 on Lawrence Okolie to win by decision at +275 in his cruiserweight title fight with Krysztof Glowacki.

• I like Seneisa Estrada to win by KO over Anabel Ortiz. There is no line on that currently at BetMGM, so I’ll lay the -800 on her to win hoping to make $100.

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