Anthony Yarde is a name that the casual boxing fan might not be familiar with as in eighteen fights his career has yet to catch fire under the stewardship of trainer Tunday Ajayi and promoter Frank Warren. Unlike the likes of Daniel Dubois, Yarde and his team shunned the usual route of taking over the British scene before venturing further field. They instead decided to strategically climb up the rankings in the light-heavyweight division which lead to Yarde making himself the number one contender for Sergei Kovalev’s WBO world strap.
And thus now, the Hackney born fighter has thrown himself into the lion’s den that is Kovalev’s backyard, the city of Chelyabinsk in Western Russia. Many within the industry, including Andre Ward who famously beat Kovalev twice, have claimed that this fight has come far too early in Yarde’s career. And when looking at the caliber of fighter that Yarde has faced so far, it’s difficult to argue with Ward and those who say Yarde and his team are a year or so premature in taking on this type of challenge.
Even taking into account that you often have to roll the dice at world level to become a great in the sport, jumping from a man in his late thirties in Travis Reeves in Yarde’s last fight to a man in his late thirties in the vein of Kovalev looks like a gargantuan step to take. Yarde still openly his asserts that is a ‘novice’ in the sport, citing his extremely limited amateur background and his general lack of time in the ring so far (Yarde has never been past seven rounds in his career thus far in what will be a twelve round affair on Saturday night.)
However, despite being the heavy underdog in the fight, Yarde and his trainer’s unshakable confidence is hard to dislike as they head into what will easily be the biggest test of either of their careers thus far. Their infectious tagline of ‘Lions in the camp’ reflects the unfaltering faith they have in their ability. Yarde claims that ‘Yarde by KO’ is all he thinks about late at night and is in full belief that his inexperience in the ring can be conquered by his impressive size and knockout power.
Additionally, Frank Warren perhaps correctly asserts this is a good time to fight Kovalev as he enters the Indian summer of an excellent career. It was widely reported that Kovalev’s team offered Yarde money to step aside to let Kovalev fight Canelo Alvarez at light heavy and with that fight still in the horizon for Kovalev, it’s safe to say he may be subconsciously overlooking an opponent that has an extremely limited boxing CV thus far in his career. And AJ fans will tell you how that goes!
Moreover, it’s a little over twelve months since Kovalev was stopped by Eleider Alvarez to lose his world titles before regaining the WBO belt in a unanimous decision victory in the rematch back in February. Many have questioned Yarde’s untested chin coming into this fight but perhaps they should also wonder how much Kovalev has left after some brutal encounters in the past few years.
Also the Russian’s hometown advantage, after a good few years years living and fighting in big city America, might put inadvertent pressure on Kovalev’s shoulders as a bloodthirsty crowd will no doubt be seeking a knockout versus a fighter that is probably a complete unknown in that part of the world.
Though of course, the size of Yarde’s task is huge and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he simply isn’t anywhere near ready for such a step up. But with the appearance of a superstar and the potential talent to be one, Saturday night could be the night where Anthony Yarde brings ‘Lions in the camp’ to the masses.
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