By Keith Idec

Anthony Yarde doesn’t put much stock in faceoffs.

That didn’t prevent the unbeaten Brit from engaging in a lengthy stare-down with Sergey Kovalev on Friday. A smiling Kovalev finally ended it after they made weight for their 12-round, 175-pound championship match in Chelyabinsk, Russia, Kovalev’s hometown.

The 36-year-old Kovalev officially weighed 174½ pounds when he stepped on the Russia Boxing Federation’s scale. England’s Yarde, 28, was slightly lighter, at 173¾ pounds.

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Kovalev (33-3-1, 28 KOs) will make a mandatory defense of his WBO light heavyweight title against Yarde (18-0, 17 KOs) in the main event of an 11-bout card at a sold-out Traktor Sports Palace. The former unified 175-pound champion won back the WBO belt in his last fight, in which he out-boxed Colombia’s Eleider Alvarez to win a 12-round unanimous decision February 2 in Frisco, Texas.

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Alvarez (24-1, 12 KOs) upset Kovalev to win that title a year ago in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He knocked down Kovalev three times and won that bout by seventh-round knockout last August 4.

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There’s a lot more at stake for Kovalev on Saturday night than just his WBO title. He could secure an eight-figure payday to meet middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez later this year if he fends off Yarde.

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The confident, younger Yarde wants to prove himself at the elite level after building his unblemished record against a much lower level of opposition.

Most Internet sports books list Kovalev as a slight favorite.

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ESPN+ will stream Kovalev-Yarde as the main event of a two-bout show in the United States (12:30 p.m. EDT/9:30 a.m. PDT). That stream will begin with a 12-round cruiserweight battle that’ll match Russia’s Aleksei Papin (11-0, 10 KOs) against South Africa’s Ilunga Makabu (25-2, 24 KOs).

Most of the Kovalev-Yarde card will be broadcast by BT Sport in the United Kingdom (5 p.m. BST). 

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Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.