NEW YORK – Anthony Yarde watched from ringside Saturday night as the dangerous knockout artist he figures to fight next tore through a light heavyweight champion who hadn’t been legitimately knocked out.
England’s Yarde was impressed by the way Beterbiev battered Joe Smith Jr. on his way to a second-round technical knockout at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater. Yarde reminded reporters at ringside, though, that he, too, is a powerful puncher.
“He’s a beast,” Yarde said. “He hits very hard. I’m a beast, too. That’s why I think it’s such an exciting matchup.”
Montreal’s Beterbiev (18-0, 18 KOs) could make a mandatory defense of his WBO light heavyweight against Yarde (22-2, 21 KOs) on October 29 at a site to be determined. Beterbiev would prefer a full unification fight against another unbeaten champion, Dmitry Bivol (20-0, 11 KOs), yet the IBF/WBC/WBO champion questioned whether the WBA champion truly wants to fight him next.
Yarde, the WBO’s number one contender for one of Beterbiev’s three titles, wasn’t especially surprised that Beterbiev beat Smith so quickly.
“I knew they were gonna come at each other, and it was literally whoever landed first,” Yarde said. “I think [Smith] had a chance, of course. They’ve both knockout punching power. And when two fighters like that come together, there’s due to be an exciting fight and quite possibly a knockout.”
Beterbiev dropped Smith (28-4, 22 KOs) three times before their light heavyweight title unification fight was stopped at 2:19 of the second round. Referee Harvey Dock halted the action after Beterbiev wobbled Smith with a left uppercut, a right uppercut and then a right hand that landed toward the back of Smith’s head.
The hard-hitting Beterbiev sent Smith to one knee with a right hand that landed late in the opening round. Another right hand by Beterbiev dropped Smith to one knee again 38 seconds into the second round.
Beterbiev’s third knockdown came when his left hand knocked Smith into the ropes, which held up the former WBO champ with 1:47 to go in the second round.
Yarde will take a different approach to battling Beterbiev, yet he didn’t fault Smith for how he went after the Russian-born, Montreal-based boxer.
“I just feel we’re different fighters,” Yarde said. “And I feel like Joe Smith Jr.’s best chance was to go out and done what he did. But again, he’s come up a bit short.”
The 30-year-old Yarde avenged his 12-round, split-decision defeat to Lyndon Arthur in his last bout by knocking out Arthur (19-1, 13 KOs) in the fourth round December 4 at Copper Box Arena in London. He is 4-1 since Sergey Kovalev stopped him in the 11th round of their fight for Kovalev’s WBO light heavyweight title in August 2019 in Chelyabinsk, Russia.
Yarde feels better prepared for his second shot at the WBO belt than he did this time three years ago, when he trained to challenge Russia’s Kovalev.
“I think I was younger then mentally and physically, and especially with experience,” Yarde said. “I feel like I’m a lot more experienced now and I’m a lot more prepared mentally. Even in training camps, making the weight, etcetera, I feel like I’m a lot better now.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.