England’s Anthony Yarde will be fighting in the “Lion’s Den” when he takes on WBO light-heavyweight champion, Sergey Kovalev at the Traktor Sport Palace in Russia this Saturday night. It will be Yarde’s first world title opportunity in his 18 fight professional career. 17 of those wins have come by knockout for the 28 year old.
Kovalev is widely seen as a champion who isn’t as good as he once was after defeats to Andre Ward and Eleider Alvarez. At 36 years of age time is also not really on his side at this point either, although he may have another year or two left in him should he keep hold of his belt on Saturday night. The original loss to Andre Ward was controversial, with some thinking that Kovalev deserved the nod on points. However there was no room for doubt when he suffered a second defeat to the same man seven months later by TKO in the 8th round, with a crushing overhand right being the prime punch that would lead to him being stopped moments after.
Three fights later Kovalev saw his third loss, a very unexpected one at the hands of Eleider Alvarez in the 7th round. After leading on all three score cards the challenger produced three spectacular knockdowns which ended the proceedings. But Kovalev put all doubts to rest in the rematch earlier this year in February when he won by a unanimous decision, outboxing the Colombian fighter.
Anthony Yarde was born in Ilford in England in 1991. He has had twelve amateur contests and eleven of them have been stopped early. After stating that he could not secure a meaningful amateur bout he turned professional and made his debut in 2015. He captured the Southern Area title in 2017 as well as the WBO European and WBO Intercontinental straps.
We all know what we are getting by now as far as Sergey Kovalev is concerned. He has huge punching power, underrated athleticism, fast hand speed and a good right hook. In addition, he has also been in the ring with the likes of Bernard Hopkins, Andre Ward and Jean Pascal. But Yarde is still an enigma, especially at the top level. He likes to use the shoulder roll as his form of defense although he clearly is not as adept at it as Floyd Mayweather is because he often finds himself having to take punches he should not really be taking. And that is by, what many might consider, below average competition. It is possible that Yarde has purposely not been using his defense as effectively as he could because he knows he didn’t really have to go up a gear. But it is disconcerting, nevertheless.
Other quality attributes that the Brit possesses are, like Kovalev, good hand speed and punching power. But he often leaves his hands low and likes to go on the hunt, rarely taking a step back. He does not have one punch concussive power and has shown that he has to use a volume of strikes to break down his opponents. Yarde has fought on foreign soil just once in his eighth contest, so another question will be if he can handle that when fighting for the world championship.
Opinions have been aired by fight fans and some professionals in the game that Sergey has seen his best days already. But if Anthony and his team have been banking on that then they may want to restructure their frame of mind because that is a gamble with too much risk to take.
Overall, I think Anthony Yarde is still a little too inexperienced and needs to learn a bit more in order to see world glory. It is why I am picking Sergey Kovalev to come through. Unless Anthony shows something that he has been keeping in storage all this time then Kovalev will have too much for him to handle.
I expect him to come up short in the 7th and then go home, regroup and try again for another day.