Now that he has emerged from his tune-up fight unscathed, Anthony Yarde can fully focus on his second shot at light heavyweight titles.
The confident contender from England will challenge an undefeated knockout artist for three 175-pound championships this time around. Artur Beterbiev is beyond dangerous, yet Yarde feels more properly prepared than he did before another Russian champion, Sergey Kovalev, knocked him out in the 11th round of their fight for Kovalev’s WBO light heavyweight title in August 2019 at Traktor Ice Arena in Chelyabinsk, Russia.
“I’m a lot calmer as a fighter,” Yarde told BT Sport in an interview that was posted to the network’s YouTube channel Saturday night. “I’m a lot more confident. I’m a lot more mentally and physically sound. I’ve been at this level for a while and I’m ready. Stylistically, me against Beterbiev is a blockbuster fight. Someone’s getting knocked out.”
Their histories suggest Beterbiev (18-0, 18 KOs) is the favorite to score that knockout when he defends his IBF, WBC and WBO light heavyweight title versus Yarde (23-2, 22 KOs) on January 28 at OVO Arena Wembley in London. Their 12-round, 175-pound championship match was officially announced Saturday night after Yarde stopped Stefani Koykov late in the third round of their scheduled 10-rounder at Telford International Centre in Telford, England.
Yarde dropped Germany’s Koykov (14-2, 8 KOs), who was a huge underdog, once before their fight was stopped. He will encounter a much more fearsome fighter in two months, but Yarde definitely doesn’t consider Beterbiev unbeatable.
Ilford’s Yarde remembers another hard-hitting Brit, Callum Johnson, knocking Beterbiev to the canvas in the second round of a bout Beterbiev bounced back to win by fourth-round knockout four years ago in Chicago. Beterbiev, while one of the most concussive punchers of this era, also will turn 38 a week before the Quebec-based champion puts his three belts on the line against Yarde.
“Why would I not be happy and confident to be in this position?,” Yarde asked. “Where two men, with two good knockout ratios, two men that can punch – he’s been dropped before. He’s been in deep waters before. He’s a human. The belt, the legacy, the history, that’s what I’m in the game for.”
The 31-year-old Yarde is the mandatory challenger for the WBO belt Beterbiev won when he defeated Long Island’s Joe Smith Jr. by second-round technical knockout in their 175-pound title unification fight June 18 at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York. An overpowering Beterbiev sent Smith (28-4, 22 KOs) to the canvas three times, once in the first round and twice in the second round, prior to the stoppage late in the second round.
Beterbiev and Yarde initially were supposed to square off October 29. Their championship bout was postponed for three months because Beterbiev underwent minor surgery on his right knee in the immediate aftermath of his victory over Smith and eventually realized he needed more time to recover.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.