British light-heavyweight Anthony Yarde returned home from Russia with nothing more numerous pats on the back for his commendable -yet ultimately futile- attempt to wrestle the WBO strap away from holder Sergey Kovalev. A spirited display finally ended in round 11 as Kovalev knocked his exhausted challenger out with a left jab.
Yarde showed grit and determination in his maiden world title tilt, and can certainly come again. At what level remains to be seen. A drop down to European or fringe contender level would provide him with the chance to hone his skills against varied opponents while gaining valuable experience.
Despite Kovalev’s advanced years he was able to get his punches off time and again – all structured behind a solid left jab. Yarde’s punching power, and vicious body attack, nearly came through in the eighth round when he had Kovalev badly shaken up. Trainer Buddy McGirt read his man the riot act in between rounds, urging the Russian to up his game or McGirt was stopping the contest. Kovalev showed his guile and experience in the ninth by roaring back to win it. Soon after, it became apparent that Yarde had let his big opportunity slip by. The Londoner was badly tired by the 10th as Kovalev started picking him apart.
What Yarde was missing from his arsenal was a sound left jab of his own. Opting to use the tools that had got him to this point, Yarde dipped the left shoulder and sought to catch Kovalev coming inside – particularly with a whipping left hook to head and body.
If promoter Frank Warren held the ultimate faith in his charge then their is no doubt the veteran fight figure would have built him up at home; looking to snatch a world title and defend it. It is to the credit of Yarde and his training team that he refused more step aside money (to allow Kovalev to box Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez) and instead opted to go and fight away from home. Warren’s connections with Bob Arum and ESPN will surely work in Yarde’s favour as he seeks another shot.
Hopefully, taking a beating towards the end of the fight will not dent Yarde’s confidence too greatly, and he retains the killer instinct that got him to this point. Self belief is also a big part of their preparation (along with a mysterious training regime known as “System 9”). Some observers have called for Anthony to drop confident coach Tunde Ajayi if he is to progress, but he is unlikely to do so.