One of Anthony Yarde’s greatest regrets is that he didn’t seize the moment when he had Sergey Kovalev hurt during the eighth round of their light heavyweight title fight three years ago.
Yarde’s career would’ve evolved in quite different fashion had he knocked Kovalev out and won the WBO 175-pound championship in August 2019 at Traktor Ice Arena in Chelyabinsk, Russia, Kovalev’s hometown. Kovalev recovered from the punishment Yarde dished out in the final minute of the eighth round, eventually stopped Yarde with a jab in the 11th round and made an eight-figure purse for his following fight, an 11th-round knockout loss to Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez.
Unlike Kovalev, Artur Beterbiev will enter the ring undefeated when he defends his IBF, WBC and WBO light heavyweight crowns versus Yarde on Saturday night at OVO Arena Wembley in London. This Russian has knocked out every professional opponent he has encountered (18-0, 18 KOs), yet Yarde considers his 38-year-old opponent’s obvious self-belief a potential pitfall.
“They’re different fighters, I believe,” Yarde told BT Sport’s Jo Ankier during an interview that aired on the British cable channel and on YouTube. “Kovalev was a lot more cautious. I don’t feel like Beterbiev, he’s as cautious. I feel like he’s very confident in his wrecking ability. And I feel like that’s why he’s been tagged a few times and been hurt. But I don’t think he has been hurt by me yet. So, when I do hurt him, I’m the kinda person who’s gonna finish the job.”
Another English contender, Callum Johnson, couldn’t finish the job when it looked like he might beat Beterbiev four years ago.
The heavy-handed Johnson (20-1, 14 KOs) dropped the Quebec-based Beterbiev in the second round of their title fight in October 2018 at Wintrust Arena in Chicago. Beterbiev recovered from that flash knockdown, sent Johnson to the canvas in the fourth round and beat Johnson by fourth-round knockout.
Despite his losses to Kovalev and Lyndon Arthur, the 31-year-old Yarde believes Beterbiev fully understands that he can cause comparable damage to the unbeaten champion in their fight.
“There has been respect between me and Beterbiev, because I feel like we both know what each other’s capable of,” Yarde said. “That’s what makes this fight so exciting, the explosion.”
Yarde (23-2, 22 KOs) avenged his 12-round, split-decision defeat to Arthur (21-1, 15 KOs) in December 2020 by knocking out his British rival in the fourth round of their rematch, which took place almost a year to the day later. That impressive victory enabled Yarde to become the WBO’s mandatory challenger for a belt Beterbiev won by surprisingly stopping Joe Smith Jr. (28-4, 22 KOs) in just the second round of their title unification fight June 18 at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York.
Most sportsbooks have established Beterbiev as at least a 9-1 favorite to defeat Yarde, of Ilford, England.
BT Sport will televise Beterbiev-Yarde in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Beterbiev-Yarde and part of the undercard will be streamed by ESPN+ in the United States.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.