Beterbiev chops down Yarde in eighth to retain unified light heavyweight title
Calls for undisputed championship showdown with Bivol
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Unified light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev, boxing’s fiercest puncher, once again showed why he has earned that reputation.
Beterbiev knocked out mandatory challenger Antony Yarde in the eighth round of an action-packed firefight to retain the WBC, IBF and WBO 175-pound world titles on Saturday at OVO Arena Wembley in London.
In doing so, Beterbiev (19-0, 19 KOs), who made his seventh overall defense, maintained his perfect knockout percentage to remain boxing’s only world titleholder to knock out every opponent he has faced and set the stage for a potential undisputed championship showdown with WBA titlist Dmitry Bivol.
Yarde (23-3, 22 KOs), 31, a big puncher in his own right, who didn’t begin boxing until he was 19, was game to the end, but much like what happened the first time he boxed for a world title against then-WBO titlist Sergey Kovalev, he could not stand up to the brutal power of his opponent.
Yarde was competitive and lasted into the 11th round before falling in that 2019 bout as the WBO mandatory challenger. Against Beterbiev he was once again the WBO No. 1 contender and also had his moments in an enthralling battle, but Beterbiev’s power was too much as he lost in the same venue where he made a successful professional debut in 2015.
“That was one of the great light heavyweight battles I've had the privilege of watching,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, Beterbiev’s promoter, said.
Both fighters were cut and bleeding going into the eighth round but Yarde appeared more tired and worse for the wear, and Beterbiev took advantage.
He rocked Yarde with a clean right hand to the head and then immediately dropped him to all fours with a follow-up chopping overhand right. Yarde looked shaky but made it to his feet at the count of eight as blood streamed down his face from a cut under his left eye that he suffered in the sixth round.
“I want Bivol. Right now, it’s everything,” — Beterbiev
When the fight resumed, Beterbiev, 38, a two-time Russian Olympian, who has lived in Montreal since moving there to turn pro in 2013, cracked him with a right hand and got in one more blow before referee Steve Gray stepped in and stopped it at 2 minutes, 1 second when Tunde Ajayi, Yarde’s trainer, climbed the steps and signaled for Gray to wave off the bout.
“I can’t say I did a very bad fight, but if I could do it again, I’d do it better. But I feel good,” said Beterbiev, who suffered a cut over his left eye in the sixth round.
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The fight opened at a brisk pace and hardly let up. Yarde tried to box and jab from the outside but Beterbiev stalked forward. He flashed his power in the second round when he landed a heavy right hand that moved Yarde into the ropes. But Yarde responded with a good uppercut.
They swapped punches back and forth, although it certainly appeared as though Beterbiev was the heavier hitter.
By the fourth round, Beterbiev had gotten in a groove and was on the attack, landing a left and a right, and Yarde, whose mouth was hanging open, already appeared very tired. But he mustered a strong left hook that backed up Beterbiev, who responded by landing a right hand. By the end of the round, Yarde’s left eye was swelling.
A tired Yarde lost his mouthpiece for the second time in the fifth round but landed a right hand to back Beterbiev up. It was a good round for Yarde until Beterbiev trapped him in a corner and landed several punches in combination in the final seconds.
After both men suffered cuts in the sixth round, the seventh round was a toe-to-toe battle with Beterbiev cornering Yarde and landing uppercuts but Yarde refusing to back down and connecting with his own shots.
“To be honest, I prepared for the all the punches he did,” Beterbiev said. “That’s why I could come back. It’s because we expected those punches. Everyone can punch hard at this level and Anthony did, too. But he’s young. I turned into a professional when I was 28. He has time. I hope he does well in the future.”
Surprisingly, two judges had Yarde ahead at the time of the stoppage, 68-65 and 67-66, while one judge scored it 67-66 for Beterbiev, who did what he always does by taking it out of the their hands.
According to CompuBox statistics, Beterbiev landed 136 of 334 punches (41 percent) — including 46 percent of his power shots (84 of 181) — and Yarde landed 111 of 357 (31 percent).
With Beterbiev taking care of business seven months after he blew away Joe Smith Jr. in the second round on Smith’s turf in New York last June to take his WBO belt, he wants to face Bivol next for the fourth belt in what would be an undisputed title showdown between two of boxing’s pound-for-pound best.
“I want Bivol. Right now, it’s everything,” said Beterbiev, who will have to navigate around mandatory defenses to make the fight possible. “In that fight, we’ll have four belts. It’s really good fight, I think.”
Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs), 32, Beterbiev’s Russian countryman, was the 2022 fighter of the year on the strength of an upset decision over undisputed super middleweight champion and then-pound-for-pound king Canelo Alvarez followed by a wipeout decision over unbeaten top contender Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez.
A fight between Beterbiev and Bivol would shape up as one of the most attractive fights in the sport, although it is complicated to make given that they are with different promoters and aligned with different broadcasters. Still, Arum has claimed he is interested in trying to negotiate the bout with Bivol promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing.
“Artur Beterbiev is a true master of his craft,” Arum said after witnessing the Yarde KO. “I favor him over anyone in the division.”
Photos: Mark Robinson/Top Rank
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The knockout was the second best part of the broadcast. Top honors go to Tim Bradley for his on-air anecdote about the pressure associated with holding in a fart.