What’s Next for Anthony Yarde?
By Sina Latif
On Saturday night, Sergey Kovalev survived an eighth round scare to knock out Anthony Yarde in the eleventh round and retain his WBO light-heavyweight title in a thrilling fight.
Yarde displayed great bravery and heart during the fight, recovering from a slow start to land a series of big punches in the eighth round, being two or three punches away from a big upset victory. However, the step up in class and contrast in experience ultimately proved too much for the previously undefeated Brit.
The veteran Russian used his experience and showed great strength of recovery to regroup and knock Yarde out after being on the verge of being stopped himself, proving what a great champion he still is.
Yarde had it easy prior to this fight during his professional career. He had been given time to develop after a minimal amateur career by being pitted against underwhelming opposition, whom the 28-year-old had ravaged his way through with vicious intent, gaining a record of 18-0 with 17 KO’s.
However, boxing is all about timing, as they say, and after perhaps believing prior to the fight that Kovalev is there for the taking, the Russian proved that he still has something left at 36 years old.
Going from Travis Reeves to Kovalev proved to be too much of a huge jump and the fact that Yarde still came so incredibly close to finishing Kovalev in the eighth, making the champion have to use all of his experience and know-how learnt throughout his decorated career and 15 world title fights to survive and overcome Yarde, is testament that the Brit has great potential to be a world champion one day.
After entering the ring in Chelyabinsk, Russia to face by far the toughest test of his career, the ‘careful matchmaking’ talk has been put to bed. Yarde’s heart certainly cannot be questioned. Doubts about his chin were answered emphatically, as Kovalev landed with some hard accurate punches and Yarde held firm. The stiff jab which ended the fight was once the Brit’s tank was completely empty. Yarde also proved that he can hurt the very best.
Yarde’s inexperience was a huge factor, and he will have learned so much from this loss. The brit threw the kitchen sink at Kovalev, he gave everything he had to get the Russian out of there in the eighth round and when Kovalev was still in the fight at the end of the round, it was over for Yarde. This was due to inexperience at world level.
There is no denying that Yarde can certainly take positives away from this fight and come back better. However, for this loss to be a lesson and a blessing, lessons must be comprehended and acted upon.
The main concern for Yarde’s career moving forward, which involves a tough personal decision for the British light-heavyweight but may be for the greater good of his career, is adjustments to his team.
Yarde was in the fight of his life, was losing and the only ‘instructions‘ he was being given throughout was “Lions in the camp”, “this is your time” and “this man is done”.
Meanwhile, Buddy McGirt was giving Kovalev constructive instructions throughout related to the Russian’s actual boxing. When facing a fighter like Kovalev, positive thinking alone does not result in success.
Yarde shouldn’t necessarily get rid of the likes of trainer Tunde Ajayi, who has helped him get this far to a title shot, but additions to his team would be the best move for Yarde’s career. If not, then changes must be made to his training methods with the same trainer.
Ajayi’s belief that hard sparring is not necessary in preparation for fights could affect Yarde’s career. Sparring is the best practice for a real fight. Repetitive pad work is good, but not when it’s at the expense of hard sparring.
There are great champions at light-heavyweight. Yarde could have success against the likes of Dmitry Bivol, Oleksandr Gvozdyk or Artur Beterbiev, but only with sufficient preparation and more experience under his belt.
Good options for Yarde moving forward could be to have one or two ten-rounders to return to winning ways, then perhaps fight Dominic Boesel for the EBU European light-heavyweight title. That is a very winnable fight for Yarde and a European title would be a good stepping stone to once again challenging for a world title in the future.
Another good fight for Yarde could be a domestic showdown with former British and Commonwealth light-heavyweight champion Callum Johnson. If Yarde could prevail in such a tough fight, he would gain further experience which would be invaluable for his future when challenging for world titles again. A fight against seasoned challengers like Sullivan Barrera and Isaac Chilemba prior to another tilt at the title would also be a great experience if he could prevail.
Full credit to Yarde. He travelled to Russia to face Kovalev in a move which the majority of fighters would not even contemplate and in the eighth round alone, the slick combinations that Yarde and Ajayi had been repeatedly practicing on the pads came into reality in the fight and Yarde prematurely made Kovalev look every one of his 36 years. In that round alone, Yarde showed the world his enormous potential.
Experience is now the key for Yarde. He will be back.