Kovalev vs Yarde: Is It a Yard Too Far?
By Jonny Rashman
Boxing is a sport littered with subplots, fairy tales and underdog stories. The Rocky films will always have a place in fight fans hearts, the story of hope, determination and beating the odds, is what makes us go on when quitting seems like the only option.
Anthony Yarde’s (18-0) date with destiny is fast approaching, as the young lion challenges WBO Champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (33-3-1) this Saturday, in the industrial city of Chelyabinsk Russia.
An underdog travelling to Russia to face a fearsome brute of a man, has a somewhat rocky theme to it. The difference being in this story is the challenger has just as much firepower at his disposal compared to the champion.
A peculiar undertone engulfs this contest with a hint of secrecy, everything from the fight announcement to the location has been bizarrely kept under the radar.
This is meant to be the Londoner’s grand unveiling on the world scene, a changing of the guard, the young pretender against the old master. With the fireworks on display, this should be one of the most hyped fights of the year. why has the fight promotion been virtually non-existent?
Both fighters and their respected teams have done nothing to promote this contest. No press conferences, no head to heads (as of yet). Apart from some rumblings a few months back that Arsenal’s Emirates stadium would unrealistically host the fight, team Yarde has been strangely quiet, that of course if you exclude his eccentric trainer Tunde Ajayi.
In an interview with iFL TV in March, when asked if the fight was going to take place in America, Ajayi stated “we aren’t going to America, it’s in London. Frank was vocal about the judges a few weeks back, why would Frank say that and have his boy fight in America?” So, they opted to travel to the champions backyard, to a city they probably never knew existed.
Another interview back in February raises more questions marks to the timing of this bout. The Hackney man explained how he was offered a world title shot before Christmas and that Ajayi told him “it’s not time yet” and to be “patient.”
How a victory over little known American Travis Reeves in the interim, would suddenly convince Ajayi the timing was right to step up to world level is baffling to me.
I struggle to understand why team Yarde has taken such a massive gamble in taking this fight, especially in Russia, it just doesn’t make any logical sense, perhaps it makes financial sense.
A step up in class against the likes of Sullivan Barrera or even Britain’s Callum Johnson would have given the challenger some much needed experience. There’s a case to say Yarde is not even the best fighter in Britain. If a sustained beating takes place, his career could be over before its begun
Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren is usually incredibly astute at guiding a prospect up the ranks, Hatton vs Tszyu is testament to this.
Is Warren banking on Kovalev being a shell of his former self? or has his faith in his young charge clouded his judgement?
The British fighter has the charisma and ability to be turned in to a superstar. Less than 12 months ago he penned a deal with sports giants Adidas, making him their global brand ambassador, alongside stellar names such as Messi, Stormzy and Kylie Jenner, subsequently, his face has been coated on television screens and billboards nationwide.
The Londoner is a physical specimen, built like an Adonis, with the athletic attributes befitting of any sportsman, coupled with a Social Media presence as big as his biceps, makes Yarde a promoter’s dream.
As a relatively late bloomer into boxing, Yarde’s amateur career was very limited, consisting of twelve fights, eleven wins (all by knockout) and one loss. With very little ring experience to his name, his venture into the professional ranks has been carefully manufactured.
Learning on the job has been the order of the day, opponents have been carefully deployed with the premise of giving him the ring time needed to step up in level.
Fortunately and unfortunately, his freakish power has cut short his apprenticeship. Opponents have simply crumbled from the speed and ferocity that’s been dished out.
“There’s levels to boxing” is a term that accurately reflects the harsh reality of professional prize fighting.
The quality of Yarde’s opposition is a cause for concern, just 48 rounds, resulting in 32 minutes of ring action is all that’s been accumulated. Conventional wisdom would suggest overcoming one of the worlds best at this stage of his career is a gap too far to bridge.
Former world champions Bernard Hopkins, Andre Ward and Jean Pascal are elite level names on the champions record, you would struggle to find any British class opposition on the challengers.
Saturday’s fight is a fascinating clash. A potent mix of speed, power and explosiveness will fill the ring with a cloud of suspense at the Traktor Sport Palace in Chelyabinsk, Russia.
Once the dust settles the unknown awaits us. Is Yarde just a stepping stone? or is Kovalev a yard too far?