Frank Warren sniffs a whiff of desperation from Eddie Hearn’s latest matchmaking proposal.
The Queensberry Promotions head gave this thoughts on Hearn’s recent claim that he “made a very big offer” to light heavyweight contender and Warren client Anthony Yarde to face Hearn’s Joshua Buatsi in what would be an attractive all-British dust-up.
Warren acknowledged that an offer was made but explained that it was only for show, saying that it fell far short of what he would expect of a matchup of that caliber; 30-year-old Yarde (22-2, 21 KOs) of Essex and 28-year-old Buatsi (15-0, 13 KOs) of London are two of the top talents in the 175-pound class.
“He did make an offer, but what he calls massive and what I call massive are two different things,” Warren quipped to IFL TV. “But he made an offer. The bottom line of it is Anthony fought in an eliminator in the fourth of December [a rematch against Lyndon Arthur]…so it’s taken [Hearn] nearly six weeks to make that offer.”
More importantly, the main reason why Warren is not currently interested in Yarde-Buatsi is because he believes Yarde is knocking at the door to become the mandatory challenger for Joe Smith Jr., the hard-hitting WBO light heavyweight titleholder from Mastic, New York. The WBO has not produced an official verdict, and Smith's promoter Joe DeGuardia has made it clear they are looking for Smith to unify against the likes of Artur Beterbiev (WBC/IBF) and Dmitry Bivol (WBA), but that has not stopped Warren from acting as though the sanctioning body has already conferred the mandatory status to Yarde. In any case, Warren is not about to do anything to jeopardize Yarde’s high ranking when a title shot could be in the near offing.
“[Hearn] only made that offer, in my opinion, because Anthony Yarde is now the mandatory for Joe Smith,” Warren said. “We all said that before. Do we expect Anthony Yarde to give that position up, to bail him out with his fighter, with Buatsi? I haven’t got a problem with the fight.”
Instead, Warren feels that if Hearn is running out of eligible opponents for Buatsi, he can make an offer for Callum Johnson, another top-rated light heavyweight who fights under the Queensberry promotional umbrella. Johnson (20-1, 14 KOs) was originally supposed to face Smith last week at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York but pulled out once he contracted COVID-19. Steve Geffrard took Johnson’s place on eight days’ notice and wound up getting stopped by Smith (28-3, 22 KOs) in the ninth round.
“It’s a shame that Callum Johnson got injured because he would have been fighting Joe Smith, and who knows how that one would have gone,” Warren said. “And then the next one will be with Anthony. That’s where we are. He’s looking for someone to fight against Buatsi. Callum Johnson is there. Cracking fight. Haven’t got a problem with that. He can make a massive offer for that.”
If Johnson isn’t a palatable opponent for Hearn, Warren suggests his rival look into his own squad for inspiration. Callum Smith, the former titleholder at 168 pounds, is now making his way through the light heavyweight ranks. Smith (28-1, 20 KOs) made his debut at the weight class last September, knocking out durable Lenin Castillo in the second round. Why not make a Buatsi-Smith fight?
“What he should do – I mean he’s always telling us what matches we should make,” Warren said. “Maybe he should make Callum Smith who is number one against Buatsi and make that a final eliminator, like we did with our guys. Put the two guys together. Make him a massive offer.”
Yarde received a WBO light heavyweight title shot against Sergey Kovalev in 2019, losing by 11th-round stoppage. His career seemed to be on the ropes after he lost to countryman Lyndon Arthur by 12-round split decision in 2020, but Yarde turned his fortunes around last December with a resounding fourth-round stoppage of Arthur in their rematch.
Warren, in the end, has a specific plan for Yarde and is in no rush to veer from it.
“We’re on a path as well,” Warren said. “The path we’ve set out is for the winner of the Anthony Yarde-Lyndon Arthur fight, they would fight Joe Smith. We’re not deviating for the moment.
“If Anthony Yarde wins that title, that’d be a great fight to make. He’d make a defense against Buatsi. No problem at all. We’re focused on the direction we started off with.”