By Keith Idec
Anthony Yarde doesn’t put much stock in faceoffs.
That didn’t prevent the unbeaten Brit from engaging in a lengthy stare-down with Sergey Kovalev on Friday. A smiling Kovalev finally ended it after they made weight for their 12-round, 175-pound championship match in Chelyabinsk, Russia, Kovalev’s hometown.
The 36-year-old Kovalev officially weighed 174½ pounds when he stepped on the Russia Boxing Federation’s scale. England’s Yarde, 28, was slightly lighter, at 173¾ pounds.
Kovalev (33-3-1, 28 KOs) will make a mandatory defense of his WBO light heavyweight title against Yarde (18-0, 17 KOs) in the main event of an 11-bout card at a sold-out Traktor Sports Palace. The former unified 175-pound champion won back the WBO belt in his last fight, in which he out-boxed Colombia’s Eleider Alvarez to win a 12-round unanimous decision February 2 in Frisco, Texas.
Alvarez (24-1, 12 KOs) upset Kovalev to win that title a year ago in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He knocked down Kovalev three times and won that bout by seventh-round knockout last August 4.
There’s a lot more at stake for Kovalev on Saturday night than just his WBO title. He could secure an eight-figure payday to meet middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez later this year if he fends off Yarde.
The confident, younger Yarde wants to prove himself at the elite level after building his unblemished record against a much lower level of opposition.
Most Internet sports books list Kovalev as a slight favorite.
ESPN+ will stream Kovalev-Yarde as the main event of a two-bout show in the United States (12:30 p.m. EDT/9:30 a.m. PDT). That stream will begin with a 12-round cruiserweight battle that’ll match Russia’s Aleksei Papin (11-0, 10 KOs) against South Africa’s Ilunga Makabu (25-2, 24 KOs).
Most of the Kovalev-Yarde card will be broadcast by BT Sport in the United Kingdom (5 p.m. BST).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.