Mayweather-Alvarez fight tops big gambling weekend

Too frequently, when Floyd Mayweather Jr. takes center stage, fans overpay to see something resembling a dance competition and a pillow fight.

That’s not necessarily a criticism of Mayweather, the man who is saving his sport these days. He’s such a technically gifted boxer, so much better than most of his opponents, that his fights turn into uneventful decisions.

This one will be different. Mayweather might outclass Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in their junior middleweight title fight Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden, but no one should wake up Monday disappointed.

Dull weekends in Las Vegas are few and far between. Really, there are none. This is not Omaha. This is a big event city, and the Mayweather fight is the main attraction.

“This will be the biggest betting weekend of the fall, without question,” said Vinny Magliulo, a former sports book director who was in the middle of countless big weekends, many involving boxing’s glory days.

This weekend is about more than boxing. It’s also about an action-packed Saturday of college football followed by an intriguing NFL schedule on Sunday. It’s a confluence of major events designed for bettors and bookmakers.

It is expected the masses drawn here for the Mayweather-Alvarez bout will generate the largest weekend wagering handle of the fall for Las Vegas sports books. Jimmy Vaccaro has had these dates circled on his calendar for months.

“There’s no doubt,” Vaccaro said from the South Point sports book. “It’s an energy that you feel that you normally don’t feel.”

The college day begins at 9 a.m. Saturday with UCLA at Nebraska. Around the time that score is settled, fun-loving coach Nick Saban will lead No. 1 Alabama against Texas A&M and the most polarizing player in the game, quarterback Johnny Manziel.

“When the Alabama game ends, people will turn around to see what’s next, and the fight is what’s next,” MGM Resorts sports book director Jay Rood said.

For those who would rather not fork over $100 or so to watch boxing, college football still is an option. Wisconsin-Arizona State and Central Michigan-UNLV kick off in the evening. The Rebels always are entertaining, win or lose.

“The fight is one of three betting highlights for the weekend,” Magliulo said. “The first highlight is Alabama-Texas A&M. We wrap up the weekend with San Francisco at Seattle.”

The NFL has a big-time lineup, starting with San Diego-Philadelphia and Washington-Green Bay. The Manning Bowl, Denver at the New York Giants, is in the afternoon. Two heavyweights, the 49ers and Seahawks, finish off a sleepless weekend with a battle in Seattle.

Some of the biggest bets will be made on boxing, and this is a rare show with a strong undercard. As for the main event, MGM books are posting Mayweather (44-0) as a minus-260 favorite, with a plus-210 takeback on Alvarez (42-0-1).

“It’s probably the best fight we’ve had in quite awhile,” Rood said. “It’s a blue-light special on Mayweather. If you’re going to back Mayweather, this is the cheapest you’re ever going to find it. I think come fight day we’re going to have more Canelo money than we can handle.”

Rood said Mayweather by decision at minus-160 was the most popular bet Thursday. Alvarez has “a great shot,” Rood said, if he attacks Mayweather, gets physical and has success early.

Underdog money will show up in small stacks, said Vaccaro, who is seeing Alvarez tickets at a 5-to-1 ratio. Vaccaro said the “right number” is around minus-350, meaning most sharp bettors will see value in Mayweather.

“If there’s 220 people in the room, we might have 180 with a ticket on Canelo,” said Vaccaro, who is offering a minus-240, plus-210 fight line.

These weekends remind Magliulo, who ran the Caesars Palace sports book from 1986 to 2000, of fights such as Marvin Hagler-Sugar Ray Leonard in April 1987.

Leonard won the brawl, staged at Caesars, by split decision.

“The fight that had the most excitement and also had a tremendous handle was Hagler-Leonard,” said Magliulo, an analyst for “The Linemakers” on “I would say that was one of the most exciting events I’ve ever been a part of. That was pretty controversial. They were Las Vegas events, and they energized the whole town.”

Mayweather, a hard-core sports bettor, wrapped up a teleconference last week by saying, “What I’ve been doing lately, I’ve been betting on college football.”

■ CLOSING NUMBERS — Mayweather is my pick. Here are four more for college football, as I try to turn around a losing start to the season (Home team in CAPS):

COLORADO (+9) over Fresno State; Ucla (+4) over NEBRASKA; TEXAS (-2½) over Mississippi; CALIFORNIA (+16) over Ohio State.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.

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