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When Betting on Boxing, it’s ‘Buyer Beware’ as Conor McGregor Reminded Us

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  • When Betting on Boxing, it’s ‘Buyer Beware’ as Conor McGregor Reminded Us

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    By Arne K. Lang

    On Wednesday of last week, MMA superstar Conor McGregor was released from an L.A. hospital where he had surgery to repair fractures of his tibia and fibula. He says that the surgeons implanted an unbreakable titanium rod in his leg from his knee to his ankle.

    The injury occurred the previous Saturday in his bout with Dustin Poirier at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. With seconds to go in the opening round, McGregor’s lower left leg snapped as he stepped backward after throwing an ineffective punch. The ringside physician would not allow him to come out for the next round.

    On the day after the fight, McGregor released a video on Instagram on which he alleged that he was damaged goods heading into the fight. “People are asking me ‘When was the leg broke? At what point did the leg break?’ Ask Dana White. Ask the UFC. Ask Dr. (Jeff) Davidson…They know I had stress fractures in my leg going into that cage.”

    Few people outside of McGregor’s die-hard fans are taking the allegation seriously. (Hampered by federal health privacy laws, Dr. Davidson, UFC’s chief medical consultant and a former Nevada ringside physician, hasn’t commented.) Regardless, Conor's complaint is a reminder that fighters are sometimes damaged before the first punch is thrown. With the possible exception of horseracing, in no other sport is inside information more relevant from a gambling standpoint.

    Over the years, many fighters entered the ring with a pre-existing injury or injuries that compromised their ability to fight to their established level. Two bouts involving Oscar De La Hoya come quickly to mind.

    On Sept. 9, 1995, De La Hoya opposed fellow Los Angeleno Genaro “Chicanito” Hernandez at Caesars Palace. A week before the fight, Hernandez suffered a broken nose while sparring up-and-comer Shane Mosley.

    In round six, De La Hoya landed a left hook that shattered Hernandez’s nose even worse. Hernandez did not leave his stool for the next round.

    The wiseguys caught whiff of the pre-existing injury and hammered the Las Vegas bookies who took a bath before the bout was taken off the board. Oscar was bet up from a 7/2 to a 6/1 favorite.

    The following year, De La Hoya caught up with fading legend Julio Cesar Chavez at Caesars Palace. Five days before the fight, Chavez suffered a cut on his left eyebrow.

    The bout was barely a minute old when Oscar cracked open the soft tissue with a caustic jab. The cut bled profusely. Chavez’s chest and his trunks were soaked with his blood when referee Joe Cortez waived the fight off in the fourth round.

    Unlike De La Hoya’s fight with Chicanito Hernandez, there was no flood of late money on Chavez. The odds favoring De La Hoya were nicked up somewhat, but that was to be expected. Chavez’s people did a good job of keeping the cut a secret. Moreover, El Gran Campeon de Culiacan, who entered the contest sporting a 96-1-1 record, had such an ardent following that he would have attracted wagers even if he were being made to fight with one arm tied behind his back.

    The bad gash redounded to the profit of promoter Bob Arum. Had De La Hoya dominated the fight in a match free of extenuating circumstances, there would have been no clamor for a rematch. But because De La Hoya’s win was tainted, Arum was able to match them up again. In the sequel, billed as “Ultimate Revenge,” Chavez shot his bolt in an action-packed eighth round and didn’t come out for the ninth.

    The opening and ultimately the final round of the McGregor-Poirier fight was one-sided in favor of Poirier. Had there been another 30 seconds or so left in the round, it may have been stopped, even if McGregor was competing on two good legs. But because the match ended unsatisfactorily, it seems inevitable that McGregor and Poirier will meet up again someday.

    A cynic would suggest that McGregor’s allegation was contrived to chum the water for a do-over. We doubt that. The uncouth Irishman is too narcissistic to believe that someone could beat him up on the square. But UFC honcho Dana White must have laughed all the way to the bank.

    Odds and Odds

    Dustin Poirier closed a 13/10 favorite. The odds, we are told, remained relatively firm, evidence that “wiseguy” bettors had no inkling of any pre-fight stress fracture. Ergo, we suspect there was none.

    The event, UFC 264 if you’re keeping track, drew an announced crowd of 20,062 that included former U.S. President Donald Trump. Scalpers were reportedly getting upward of $15,000 for a pair of premium ringside seats.

    Assuming no change in the Covid-19 situation which would render comparisons specious, it will be interesting to see how Pacquiao-Spence (Aug. 21) and Fury-Wilder (Oct. 9) measure up. Both events are also being housed at T-Mobile.

    Genero Hernandez passed away in 2011 at age 45 from a rare form of cancer. A two-time world champion at 130 pounds who was greatly respected for the way he comported himself outside the ring, “Chicanito” finished his career with a record of 38-2-1.

    Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel