Anthony Yarde is locked in for his fight before the fight.
The WBO light heavyweight mandatory challenger arrived at a chiseled 179.2 pounds for his scheduled ten-round bout with Stefani Koykov on a BT Sport/ESPN+ telecast Saturday evening from Telford International Centre in Telford, England. The visiting Koykov—a 30-year-old Bulgarian based out of Frankfurt, Germany—spread 176.7 pounds over his rock solid frame in hopes of upsetting his opponent’s future plans.
With a win, Yarde (22-2, 21KOs) is due to next challenge lineal/WBC/IBF/WBO light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev (18-0, 18KOs) on January 28 at OVO Arena Wembley in London. Present-day business takes priority, however, for the Ilford-bred former title challenger.
“I’m a professional boxer and I have a fighter in front of me on Saturday night,” Yarde told Queensberry Promotion’s Dev Sahni immediately after making weight for the evening’s chief support. “I’m gonna take his head off.”
Yarde previously suffered an eleventh-round stoppage to then-WBO light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev in August 2019. The 31-year-old contender has since won four of his last five starts, including a fourth-round knockout of unbeaten Lyndon Arthur last December to avenge an upset split decision defeat in December 2020.
Koykov (14-1, 12KOs) has won twelve in a row heading into his first career fight in the UK. He has fought almost exclusively in Germany, save for one other bout in his native Bulgaria. Saturday’s bout is a massive step up in competition for Koykov, who is coming off a four-round points win on September 24 in Gersthofen, Germany.
While all eyes are on Yarde, there is one fight higher up on the bill.
Liam Davies and Ionut Baluta were well under the 122-pound divisional limit for Saturday’s headliner.
Telford’s own Davies (12-0, 5KOs) was a trim and fit 120.7 pounds while Baluta (15-3, 12KOs)—a Romanian spoiler based out of Madrid—was 121.4 pounds. The main event participants celebrated their scale success with a nose-to-nose staredown complete with plenty of chatter before both were separated by on-stage security.
Davies is coming off a twelve-round, unanimous decision win over Lancashire’s Marc Leach on June 11 in this very venue. Saturday will mark the third overall appearance at this location for the 26-year-old local favorite, all within his past five starts.
Baluta has won seven of his last eight contests, as he fights in the UK for the fourth straight time. The 28-year-old spoiler is coming off a ten-round win over Brad Foster on May 20 at York Hall and has also posted upset wins over David Oliver Joyce and former 122-pound titlist TJ Doheny. The lone loss among his past eight fights was a majority decision defeat to Michael Conlan last April, also at York Hall.
Below are the weights for the rest of the undercard.
Eithan James (9-0, 0KOs), Northampton, Northamptonshire, 140 pounds vs. Keanen Wainwright (8-1, 5KOs), Sheffield, 134.9 pounds—10 rounds, junior welterweight
Jamie Stewart (3-2-2, 2KOs), Stokes-on-Trent, Straffordshire, 144 ½ pounds vs. Owen Cooper (6-0, 2KOs), Worcester, Worcestershire, 146 ½ pounds—6 rounds, welterweight
Macauley Owen (4-0, 1KO), Telford, 133.3 pounds vs. Eduardo Valverde (3-7-1, KOs) Gelsa, Spain via Nicaragua, 134.2 pounds—6 rounds, lightweight
Brad Strand (8-0, 3KOs), Liverpool, 125.1 pounds vs. Darwin Martinez (7-6-2, 6KOs), Gerona, Spain via Nicaragua, 128 pounds—6 rounds, junior lightweight
George Davey (5 0 1, 0KOs), York, Yorkshire, 152.6 pounds vs. Paul Cummings (3-68-1, 1KO), Derry, Northern Ireland, 153.9 pounds—6 rounds, welterweight
William Hayden (4-0, 1KO), Dublin, 135.8 pounds vs. Marian Marius Istrate (3-13, 0KOs), Zaragoza, Spain, 133.7 pounds—6 rounds, lightweight
Ezra Taylor (3-0, 2KOs), Nottingham, 179.6 pounds vs. Mohammed Cherif Benchandi (4-19-2, 0KOs, Roubaix, France, weight T/K—4 rounds, light heavyweight
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox