Just because something in sports goes the way everyone expected doesn’t mean we can’t get more than we bargained for.

Put two determined punchers in the ring and fun things happen.

Fun things happened at Wembley on Saturday as Artur Beterbiev retained the lineal light heavyweight crown with an eighth round stoppage of a game Anthony Yarde.

Fun from the outside of the ring anyways. 

Yarde had a good gameplan, using his edge in speed and his own sizable power to win rounds and give Beterbiev something to think about. Beterbiev did what he does, chipping away, cutting off the ring, but it wasn’t without pain. Beterbiev was visibly rocked multiple times, backing off and working the perimeter at times to reset and let the fire cool down.

Yarde, similarly, endured some massive shots before he was finally felled. Round five was a round of the year candidate and round seven might have been too. The fight felt like it fell just short of that extra elevation that boosts a brawl into all-time classic territory, but there won’t be a ton of fights that top this one in 2023. This was two men taking the measure of each other.

Beterbiev was expected to win and he did.

Yarde’s effort made the journey more important than the destination.

Futures: Yarde loses in his second attempt at a title but does so with elevated respect for his game. Yarde is a tremendous physical talent that appears to be just missing a little something. At 31, there is still time to find it. If he doesn’t, he’ll make some more good fights along the way. Yarde has been easy television. His next fight feels must-see.

Beterbiev weathered the storms and did what he does and it can’t be fun to be in there with him. A potential mandatory match with Callum Smith is interesting enough but it’s not the fight that matters at light heavyweight. Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol have reigned with various straps for five years and change without fighting each other. 

Light heavyweight has been a division far too often left with generational question marks in the last twenty years or so. We never saw Roy Jones-Dariusz Michalczewski nor Sergey Kovalev-Adonis Stevenson. Beterbiev-Bivol has lingered as long as either but feels fresh right now. 

Four-belt unifications are great but this is the crystal clear top two in the world. It doesn’t need four belts. It needs a ring. It would be a shame if this doesn’t happen this year.

Cliff’s Notes…

Alexis Rocha challenging Terence Crawford is about as interesting as eating a tuna sandwich left in the summer sun for two days if this is a serious idea. Errol Spence fighting Keith Thurman in a non-title fight is better but nothing spine tingling. 2022’s missed opportunity may already be in the realm of mythical matches…Serhii Bohachuk is getting closer to contention but a stoppage loss to Brandon Adams still leaves room to wonder how soon he’ll hit his ceiling again…Artem Dalakian got a just-barely win this weekend in his first fight since 2021. Flyweight remains sort of a mess but Jesse Rodriguez will add to it and Sunny Edwards looks like the goods so there are things to look forward to.     

Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at roldboxing@hotmail.com