WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey ‘Krusher’ Kovalev 34-3-1 (29) delivered a gutsy performance to stop previously undefeated knockout artist Anthony Yarde 18-1 (17) in 11 rounds at the Traktor Sport Palace in Chelyabinsk, Russia on Saturday night.
Mandatory challenger Yarde started well and was competitive through the first four frames before Kovalev took control in rounds five and six.
Just when it looked like the champion had the fight in hand the 28-year-old Brit launched a vicious body attack in the eighth, prompting Kovalev’s trainer Buddy McGirt to threaten to stop the fight.
The 36-year-old Russian responded to his trainer’s urging, beating up a tiring Yarde in the ninth and continuing the punishment in the 10th.
Kovalev dropped the gassed challenger with a jab in the 11th round and referee Luis Pabon stepped in to stop the fight at the 2:04 mark.
Kovalev, who was fighting in his 16th straight world title bout, was leading 97-94, 98-92 and 96-93 when the fight was stopped.
After the fight Kovalev thanked the crowd and paid tribute to fallen fighter Maxim Dadashev.
“Guys thank you, for your support,” he said. “I would like to dedicate this fight to Maxim Dadashev.”
Dadashev died after suffering a stroke during his 11th round stoppage loss to Subriel Matias in Oxon Hill, Maryland last month.
Yarde reflected on how close he came to victory in the eighth round.
“I hurt him to the body, I thought I should go for it and my corner said so, so we went for it,” Yarde said.
“I am not ashamed or embarrassed, I am ambitious and trying to motivate people to go for what you want.
“I have done myself justice, even coming out here – 99% of people would not have dared to do what I did. Experience played a big part, he paced himself better.”
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