by T.K. Stewart
The old saying in boxing is that "Late money is smart money" so it's interesting to note that with the Miguel Cotto vs. Antonio Margarito WBA welterweight title fight a only a day away that a recent and notable amount of money has begun to come in on the underdog, Margarito.
When odds for the fight first opened, Puerto Rico's Cotto, who is undefeated, was a solid 3 to 1 favorite to send Margarito back to Tijuana as a loser.
However, as the fight draws near, the odds have begun to shrink down and Cotto is now a 2 1/2 to 1 favorite at most Las Vegas betting parlors and on-line sportsbooks.
"This is not uncommon in a fight like this, as it draws closer, especially in a fight that is evenly matched, to see late money come in on the underdog," says Boston native Joel Crabtree, who makes his living as a gambler and bettor and who can be found most days inside the sportsbook at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut.
"This fight has a couple things going on," he explained on a rainy Thursday morning.
"Number one is the fact that a lot of Mexican fans are heading to Vegas from California in support of Margarito and that helps swing the odds a bit. Number two is that people see value in betting the underdog in this one. This is a fight that Cotto can lose - or put another way - it's a fight that Antonio Margarito can definitely win. I think the odds on Cotto winning will continue to shrink and that this fight could be close to pick 'em by Saturday night. To bet Margarito, especially if you can get him as the 3 to 1 dog, is a good bet and a lot of people are beginning to realize that."
Crabtree makes his living betting on the ponies, but he always keeps his eyes on the big fights.
"I've been a boxing fan my whole life," he says in between puffs on a cigarette. "I grew up in Boston, so it's hard not to be. I was in Vegas working construction when Marvin fought Tommy Hearns and I put a bundle on Marvin that night," he says with a wry grin.
"This fight reminds me of that one a bit," he said. "Think of Margarito as the tall, skinny Hearns and Cotto as the short, aggressive Hagler type. I think this fight has a chance to be like that one was."
Crabtree has one note of caution though, especially for the uninitiated bettor.
"This fight is in Vegas," he says as he shakes his head. "And you never know what you're gonna' get there if this thing ends up going to a decision."
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