Yarde faces Beterbiev for title with lessons learned from loss in 1st shot
Challenger has hometown advantage in London on Saturday
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British light heavyweight contender Anthony Yarde has been here before as the WBO mandatory challenger set to fight for a world title against a hard-punching and ferocious Russian banger. He is hoping for a better result this time.
Yarde was in a similar position in August 2019 when he traveled to Chelyabinsk, Russia, the hometown of then-WBO titleholder Sergey Kovalev.
Although Yarde acquitted himself well and was competitive, ultimately he didn’t have the stamina or the chin to stand up to the big shots from Kovalev, who was past his prime but still had enough in the tank to knock Yarde out in the 11th round and retain his 175-pound title.
Yarde is 5-1 since, including splitting a pair of fights with countryman Lyndon Arthur, and once again the WBO’s mandatory challenger. But this time he is faced with a more daunting assignment than the one against Kovalev.
Yarde will get his second title opportunity against Artur Beterbiev, the three-belt unified and lineal champion viewed as one of the most devastating punchers in the business. They will meet on Saturday in the main event of a Top Rank Boxing on ESPN+ card (ESPN+ in the U.S., BT Sport in the U.K., 2:30 p.m. ET) at London’s OVO Arena Wembley, the same venue where Yarde turned pro in 2015.
Beterbiev (18-0, 18 KOs) is the only active world titleholder with a perfect knockout record and coming off one of his most impressive performances, a second-round demolition of Joe Smith in June on Smith’s turf in New York to take the WBO belt and unify it with the WBC and IBF straps.
Yarde was ringside that night and knew he was next for the winner. A big puncher in his own right, Yarde is nothing if not confident going into the fight.
“I am excited. It is a good feeling, it is part of my journey and I am happy to be here,” Yarde said this week. “Everyone knows what kind of character I am. I am very calm and I jump at opportunities. For my first world title fight I was very green. I was 18 fights in and a big novice in the sport. I just had something and it was heart. I went out to Russia, it was a very different experience and a lot of things happened leading up to the fight, but I’ve got the mentality of once you get in the ring, you will see.
“It doesn’t matter now. My preparation is different now and I have learned since then as well. I am a different type of fighter with different life experiences. I am ready for Saturday.”
Queensberry Promotions’ Frank Warren put Yarde in the best position possible for success by negotiating to have the fight in Yarde’s hometown and believes he has matured as a fighter since the loss to Kovalev.
“He’s worked very hard to get where he has considering the experience he had,” Warren said. “He doesn’t shy away from anything. Any fights we’ve wanted to make, he doesn’t care who it is. He didn’t shy away when we made the first world title fight for him against Kovalev in Russia and it was a fight he should have truly won. It tells you a lot about him that he was prepared to go there to the other guy’s backyard. He went out there and it was brilliant how he performed. He was so close to winning that title.
“I think he learned a lot from that. I think the whole team learned a lot from that fight and I genuinely believe he has the tools to create what the bookmakers will say will be an upset. He’s got the composure, he can box, he’s got fast movement and, more importantly, he can punch. I think he can match Artur in the punching department.”
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Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, Beterbiev’s promoter, isn’t so sure Yarde being at home is the advantage many make it out to be.
“It is no problem coming here. I have been around this game a long time and the big test for me was when Artur fought Smith because we did that fight in New York where Smith has a tremendous following,” Arum said. “They cheered and they yelled and they screamed and what did that do? It incentivized Smith to take the fight to Artur. That was a big mistake because he knocked out Smith in two rounds. Hopefully, Yarde will be excited by his fans, will go after Beterbiev and the fight will be over in a few rounds rather than more.”
The fight was initially slated to take place on Oct. 29 but delayed until Saturday because the Montreal-based two-time Russian Olympian Beterbiev, 38, had minor knee surgery following the victory over Smith.
All along Beterbiev was fine defending his title for the seventh time in Yarde’s hometown.
“I never back down from a challenge, and Anthony Yarde is a top contender who asked for this fight,” Beterbiev said. “I look forward to fighting in London for the first time since the (2012) Olympics. Yarde called me ‘slow’ after my fight with Joe Smith Jr., but slow and steady wins the race and on (Saturday) I will win.”
Yarde (23-2, 22 KOs), 31, who didn’t begin boxing until he was 19, is a significant underdog but said that what people may think about his chances before the fight is of no concern to him. Winning is what concerns him.
“Being an underdog, over-dog middle dog — it don’t matter to me. I’m a dog,” Yarde said. “When I get in the ring and I start throwing my hands about, everyone knows what I can do. I don't lie or bullshit anybody. He's got 18 fights, 18 wins, (perfect) knockout ratio, Olympian. He's done a lot in the sport, and that’s why he should be respected. I’ve respected him this far.
“As I said before, when we get in the ring, surely he will be saying the same thing. There’s no respect in the ring when you try and take the respect away from your opponent.”
Having had one chance to win a world title and coming up short has been part of Yarde’s motivation heading into the fight with Beterbiev, a champion few call out.
“Three belts, legacy and history. I’m happy it’s Beterbiev, this scary person,” Yarde said. “I’m happy that it’s three belts. It just makes it all that much better. It’s gonna feel like it’s earned. It’s not no easy way out. There’s a lot of fighters that get a mandatory world title fight, or they get someone that they’re meant to beat, they’re the A-side, etc. I like this route.
“This route gives me the goose bumps, the good feeling. It’s the journey. The journey is what makes me happy.”
Photos: Queensberry Promotions
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Good fight. I had Yarde up 67 - 66 heading into rd 8. Beterbiev had the momentum and looked like he was starting to take over before the TKO.
BTW Yarde cut was under his right eye.
Go get him Anthony!!
Beterbiev KO5 🤷♂️