Light heavyweight star Joshua Buatsi needs to prove himself before he deserves a fight with Anthony Yarde.
That’s the verdict of Yarde’s outspoken trainer Tunde Ajayi, who believes his man’s challenge of Sergey Kovalev in Russia last year has earned him more currency and respect than anything Buatsi has done.
Ajayi is preparing Yarde for a September 12 fight with tough Dec Spelman but talk about Yarde’s future often progresses rapidly to championship fights.
He jumped up multiple levels to take on Kovalev and he had the Russian in dire straits before emptying the tank and running out of steam before ultimately being stopped in the 11th.
Yarde then walked through Diego Jair Ramirez in Spain in February in two rounds and then was waiting for bigger things before coronavirus hit. Yarde lost his father and grandmother to the virus.
While promoter Frank Warren has listed a fight with Buatsi as one he’d like to see, Ajayi doesn’t envisage it happening soon.
“There’s a long time for that to happen because I don’t see it…,” Ajayi began. “I spoke to Harvey [part of Buatsi’s management team] and we were going back and forth bantering each other and I was saying, ‘You need to promote your guy a bit better because it looks like you’re just using Anthony’s name to build Buatsi.’ I just feel that every time he’s had a fight, like the mandated fight with Callum Johnson, there’s always another excuse.
“We’ve earned our position so what would the fight be for? That’s what I’m trying to work out as a manager. A 10-rounder? A 12-round fight? It’s not going to be for the British because that’s owned by Shakan Pitters. It’s not going to be for the Commonwealth – well, it might be because after we do a number on [Lyndon] Arthur it could be – but fights like that are big fights. Those are big pay-per-view fights down the line, so there needs to be more promotion from Buatsi on his side and it’s got to make sense. That’s a real fight that will get the attention and the imagination of the British public. That’s box office. It can’t be anything else.
"We came up short just slightly in Russia for a world title. He hasn’t even attempted to fight for a world title yet. What is it, you’re going to use us to build? Don’t use us, you do something, you have some fights. You take the risks. We took a risk going to Russia. You fight Callum Johnson. You fight Hosea Burton, because it’s so funny how everyone wants to fight Anthony Yarde but hold on, you’ve got Hosea Burton, you’ve got Callum, you’ve got these guys, so why can’t they fight each other?”
While Ajayi wants Buatsi to do more, the current situation with no crowds is also a stumbling for the all-UK superfight between his man and Buatsi.
“It’s the biggest fight in the UK [at 175lbs] because of the profiles and because Buatsi is an Olympic bronze medallist, a great advert for boxing, he’s a humble guy and he can fight, but let’s get it right, he won the British title from a guy [Liam Conroy] who got a draw with Mitch Mitchell [then 5-35-1], someone Anthony fought in his first fight and knocked out,” Ajayi continued.
“So who has he really fought? I just think he needs to do more work to warrant a fight with Anthony Yarde right now, as it stands today. The way boxing is at the moment, in the short-term we may have to accept that boxing is going to be behind closed doors. I can’t see crowds coming back to boxing before football [soccer] but I think you are going to need an audience [for Yarde-Buatsi]. That’s what’s going to make it. Unless everyone gets used to just watching sporting events on YouTube or just on Box Office, BT or Sky Sports, it’s not going to have the same feel. It’s not going to have the same atmosphere. And I think a fight like that you need to atmosphere, walking out at the O2 with 20,000 people screaming. Fights of that magnitude, you need that.”
He also is more than confident that Yarde will impress in his next fight, against Spelman.
The Scunthorpe man is coming off a lopsided loss to Lyndon Arthur and the plan is for Yarde-Arthur to take place later this year. That means a win over Spelman is not the lone goal, it’s to surpass what Arthur and others have done against Spelman, who has 16 wins against four losses.
Must he do a better job than Lyndon and Shakan Pitters did, who both outscored Spelman in his last two fights?
“Listen, those are two fighters we need to study but Anthony Yarde is Anthony Yarde,” said Ajayi. “He’s pre-programmed for the knockout. He always wants to go for the knockout so in the Spelman fight you’ve got someone who always comes forward, he never stops trying, but he will be running into heavy artillery so he might change his way of fighting. The main thing is we aren’t out to outdo anyone but we are there to knock him out because that’s what we try to do. We try to knock people out.”