Haye was being offered at odds of around 1/6 by bookmakers before the fight, with Bellew installed as the underdog at around 5/1. Whilst Haye undoubtedly had a very good shot at emerging as the winner, the fact was that he had participated in just three fights since 2011, with two of them being in 2016. Bellew, in comparison, had won each of his previous eight fights, had taken no lengthy periods of time away from the ring, and had lost just two fights in his career – the same number as Haye in his. All of that made the betting markets look heavily biased towards Haye, and more than a few bettors were happy to take the exaggerated odds available on Bellew.
The boxing match had been making headlines days before it took place thanks to some vicious trash-talk between the two boxers in the pre-fight build-up. Some of their comments had been deemed unacceptable enough to warrant a warning from the British Boxing Board of Control to rein things in, and a few particularly unsavoury comments made by Haye towards Bellew motivated many otherwise neutral fans to start rooting for the latter.
Anyone who had bet on Bellew winning outright would have been feeling pretty good about the fight from the sixth round, when Haye slipped twice and was then put down by his opponent. Bellew finally managed to emerge victorious five rounds later, when Haye’s corner threw in the towel. Haye has since had surgery on an Achilles tendon, which was ruptured in the sixth round, and it emerged that Bellew had broken his right hand in the second or third round, so the fact that the bout went as far as it did was quite remarkable.
Where the two boxers will go from here remains to be seen, but the fight will no doubt have spooked the bookmakers once again. The betting industry has seen quite a few ‘dead certs’ getting turned over in the last 18 months or so, and ‘shock’ results such as the UK voting to leave the EU and the USA voting to make Donald Trump the President have cost bookies millions.
What bettors can take from all of this is the encouraging confirmation that bookmakers are not infallible, and that the odds-on status of a particular outcome is no guarantee that things actually will turn out as the available price suggests. As always, the best advice for bettors is to follow form, not hype, and to be willing to oppose the favourite when the price available on an ‘underdog with a chance’ is far more generous than it ought to be.