Yarde Gets Kovalev in Russia
By Sina Latif
Finally after some delay, it has officially been confirmed that Anthony Yarde will be challenging Sergey Kovalev for his WBO light-heavyweight title on August 24 in the champion’s hometown of Chelyabinsk, Russia.
Yarde has won all of his 18 fights thus far, with 17 KO’s. The Brit now faces a massive step-up, fighting the veteran three-time world champion in the champ’s backyard.
Yarde is untested at world level as things stand. As the 27-year-old had a limited amateur career with only 12 fights, his career has been moved forward slowly in the early stages of his professional career for him to gain experience in the ring.
His unbeaten record looks great on paper, but understandably against limited opposition.
Fans have grown impatient and have been demanding better opposition, but in comparison, the following is the number of amateur fights the current light-heavyweight champions have had:
Oleksandr Gvozdyk: 250
Dmitry Bivol: 283
Artur Beterbiev: 300
All the current champions, including Kovalev, have had extensive amateur careers and have had plenty of time to hone their craft.
Yarde has had 30 fights during both his amateur and pro career and is now set to take on Kovalev as the mandatory challenger, that speaks volumes in itself.
He now faces a challenge as great as any which a challenger could face, and criticism of the level of Yarde’s opponents must cease to exist permanently.
Yarde’s first title shot will be against a man who has been a feared world champion at light-heavyweight since 2013 when he beat Nathan Cleverley in Cardiff to become WBO champ, contesting for a world title in 15 consecutive fights ever since.
There is currently uncertainty whether Kovalev is the force of old, when he was unified champion and one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world, before his two back-to-back losses to Andre Ward a couple years ago.
Kovalev then suffered defeat to Eleider Alvarez, before defeating Alvarez in the rematch to regain his WBO belt in his last fight.
Although Kovalev’s link-up with respected Brooklyn trainer James “Buddy” McGurt seemed to reinvigorate the Russian for the rematch in which he dominated Alvarez, whether this reinvention is long-term is unclear.
If Kovalev has faded, Yarde can capitalise. The Russian may be on the decline, having been knocked out by Alvarez just under a year ago.
On the other hand, it might be too early for Yarde to be able to cope with the heat that Kovalev could potentially bring. Kovalev is a seasoned champion. If the Russian brings his A-game, Yarde and his corner could go to a previously-unknown dark place to attempt pull ing off a special win. It is unclear and equally intriguing how circumstances will unfold in Russia.
There is no ambiguity, however, in the fact that there is no longer exercise of caution in who to pit Yarde against and the short-term ambitions to challenge for world titles.
After looking impressive since his pro debut in 2015, Yarde is now stepping up both in terms of occasion and the quality of opponent. If Yarde beats Kovalev in Russia, he will become a well-respected champion and a star overnight.
In a recent interview with the Evening Standard before the Kovalev fight was announced, Yarde said:
“Now I feel as if I have the beating of all the world champions out there and if I get the Kovalev fight, I won’t be fazed.”
Yarde’s self-confidence is refreshing to see. There is no doubt that Yarde will be the underdog going to Russia, but if he can pull this off, boxing will have a new star!
A young fighter who has received so much criticism, and now that he has stepped up, he’s stepped up in style, Sergey Kovalev in Russia.
If Yarde pulls this off, it has to be one of the best wins by a British fighter on foreign soil in history. For a 27-year-old with less than 20 fights and his future ahead of him, that would be incredible. The stage is set!