by Cliff Rold
In a clash between an aging divisional stalwart coming off one of his best wins and an evident talent everyone knows is in need of seasoning, to pick the challenger is a guess.
Guesswork rarely works out in the highly skilled world that is championship boxing. Anthony Yarde made it look like a rare evening in the eighth round on Saturday. The young power puncher had Sergey Kovalev backing up, holding on, and looking to survive.
It was the farthest Yarde had ever been as a pro. It was as close as he would get to victory. After being threatened with an early trip to the showers by trainer Buddy McGirt, Kovalev came out and dominated the remainder of the fight before knocking the undefeated Yarde out.
Two fights after many wrote his career off as done, Kovalev has won two in a row, avenging a knockout loss and weathering a near disaster. Is he about to receive the reward of the biggest stage of his fistic life?
Let’s get into it.
The Future for Kovalev: Kovalev said before the fight he’d be interested in again unifying the light heavyweight division (he once held three of four major titles). The bigger discussion, before and after the win over Yarde, was a possible challenge for middleweight champion Saul Alvarez. It would be the biggest fight of Kovalev’s career in terms of attention and eyes. Can he still win it? There lies the intrigue. The smaller, quicker man who occasionally gets some are-you-kidding me scorecards in his favor would be the favorite. For Kovalev, Alvarez might be more than a bigger fight. Alvarez might be a smarter fight than chasing any of the fresher light heavyweight titlists out there. Kovalev still has one of the best jabs in the business, a sizable height advantage, and a right hand he could fire down with a little extra leverage. Not many reigning middleweight champions have jumped up to tackle a light heavyweight champion. Kovalev at 36 might not be what he was but if he’s got one more big time performance there’s every reason to think he is capable of sending Alvarez back down the scale empty handed. Barring some sort of abusive catchweight, Alvarez-Kovalev would be a welcome addition to the fall.
The Future for Yarde: Take a step back and think about what Yarde really did on Saturday. A young man with a dozen amateur bouts, and less than twenty pro fights, who reportedly didn’t do any sparring by design, went all the way to round eleven with one of the most experienced, dangerous light heavyweights in the world. Yarde is only 28 years old. His speed and pop are easy to see and, before fatigue started setting in, showed off decent defensive reflexes. This might only be the beginning of the Yarde story but it’s hard to imagine he can go as far as possible without a concentrated effort to build his lungs. His gas tank ran far too low far too quick, particularly after a big eighth round. Doing things different is great, but even those who can break rules usually have a foundation to deviate from. Yarde has some thinking to do about his future progress.
Rold Picks 2019: 52-12 (Including picks for Tanaka-Gonzalez, Casimero-Ramirez, Estrada-Beamon)
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]