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Josh Taylor and Teofimo Lopez were both undisputed champions in the near past, but each enters their fight Saturday for Taylor’s WBO super lightweight championship with plenty to prove. They’ll meet in the main event of an ESPN-televised card Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Taylor is coming off a less-than-impressive split decision win over Jack Catterall in which he admitted he took Catterall lightly and didn’t train properly. Lopez is coming off a desultory split decision over Sandor Martin and hasn’t really been the guy who made so much noise by winning the undisputed lightweight title from Vasiliy Lomachenko on Oct. 17, 2020.

Taylor is a -190 favorite, with Lopez at +150 on the buyback. The over-under is 10.5 rounds with the over favored at -225. Under is at +160. Taylor by KO is +250 and Lopez by KO is +450.

Lopez is a big puncher who was struggling to make lightweight. Now that he’s moved to 140 pounds, he won’t struggle so much to make the weight and theoretically, that should make him more powerful and thus more dangerous. A play on him to win by knockout at +450 wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. He’s won 13 of his 19 fights by knockout, so he’s clearly a finisher.

A southpaw, Taylor isn’t as physically gifted as Lopez but he’s a better boxer and has the better corner. And he has dealt with the issues that led to his poor performance against Catterall and says he won’t make that mistake again.

It’s easy to understand how he struggled against Catterall. After winning the undisputed title by defeating José Ramírez in Las Vegas, he returned home to Scotland to fight the then-lightly regarded Catterall.

He felt he’d conquered the world, had never been all that high on Catterall’s talents and got caught up in the moment celebrating his win over Ramirez. It added up to a poor performance, though he squeaked by with a controversial win.

Taylor is the smarter fighter, so I think he’s going to keep Lopez at the end of his jab, slow the fight when needed and force Lopez to make mistakes while trying to create something. I’ll lay the -190 and take Taylor to win.

I also expect this to be a long fight, so I’ll play the fight will go the distance. That’s -165, so I’ll lay that and bet it to go the full 12.

Jaime Munguía faces Sergiy Derevyanchenko

Jaime Munguía will face one of his better opponents Saturday when he meets fading veteran Sergiy Derevyanchenko. Munguia is 41-0 with 33 KOs but has feasted upon almost nothing but creampuffs.

He’s a -650 favorite to defeat Derevyanchenko, who once would have been a formidable foe but is quickly approaching the end of the line. Derevyanchenko is +425.

Munguia is definitely talented and figures to win the fight. That said, this is where matchmaking might come back to haunt him. He’s not been tested in so long that if Derevyanchenko can summon up one last good performance, things could get interesting.

I don’t trust Munguia given his level of opposition to be a more than 6-1 favorite, so I’ll pass on him. It’s a gamble taking Derevyanchenko given how close he is to the end. But if he has success early, he could break Munguia.

I’ll take a gamble and lay a half-unit on Derevyanchenko to win at +425. It’s a big gamble but would be a nice payoff if he pulls it off.

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