Artur Beterbiev is an unbeaten brute who owns three light heavyweight titles and the highest knockout percentage among active world champions in boxing.
Sergey Kovalev was younger than Beterbiev is today (38) when Anthony Yarde challenged him in August 2019. Kovalev already had three losses on his record, however, including technical-knockout defeats to Andre Ward and Eleider Alvarez.
This seems like a more daunting assignment, yet Yarde feels more prepared to pull off an upset Saturday night at OVO Arena Wembley in London than he did when he encountered Kovalev in the former WBO light heavyweight champion’s hometown of Chelyabinsk, Russia.
“The first one, again, I was very they say green,” Yarde said Thursday during their final press conference. “You know, I was 18 fights in, a big novice in the sport. I just had something. I had heart. And I went out to Russia, which no one else [would do]. I don’t care what no one says, everyone can talk and say they would. But I went out to Russia, Chelyabinsk, somewhere that’s not even known, it’s not even on the map. It wasn’t Moscow or nothing like that, a very different experience.
“And a lot of things happened leading up to the fight. But I said I just got that mentality, once you get in the ring, we’ll see. But again, all that don’t really matter. All it is is my preparation is gonna be different. I’ve learned since then as well, different kinda fighter, different life experiences and yeah, I’m ready for Saturday.”
The 31-year-old Yarde, who was undefeated when he challenged Kovalev, hurt Kovalev badly during the eighth round. He failed to finish off Kovalev, who needed to win to move forward with a lucrative fight against Canelo Alvarez 10 weeks later in Las Vegas.
Kovalev rallied, stopped a fatigued Yarde with a jab in the 11th round and eventually lost his WBO belt to Alvarez, who knocked out Kovalev (35-4-1, 29 KOs) in the 11th round of a very competitive bout.
The Russian-born Beterbiev (18-0, 18 KOs), who owns the IBF, WBC and WBO 175-pound crowns, was listed Thursday by Caesars Sportsbook as a 9-1 favorite versus Yarde (23-2, 22 KOs).
“Being a underdog, overdog, middle dog, it don’t matter to me,” Yarde said. “I’m a dog. When I get in that ring, and I start throwing my hands about, everyone knows what I could do then. So, all that underdog stuff don’t really matter to me. If you wanna say if it does anything to me, it gives me that little push, that little urge. But again, that’s expected. I don’t lie or I don’t bullsh*t nobody. He’s got 18 fights, 18 wins, 18-knockout ratio, Olympian. He’s done a lot in the sport.
“And that’s why he should be respected. That’s why I respect him thus far. But as I said before, when we get in the ring, surely he will be saying the same thing, there’s no respect. You’re trying to take the respect away from your opponent. So, I understand why the bookies have got it like that, understandably. And again, that’s what edges me on.”
Unlike when he faced Kovalev, Yarde will enjoy a home-ring advantage against Beterbiev in a fight that’ll headline a BT Sport 1 broadcast in the United Kingdom and Ireland (7 p.m. GMT) and an ESPN+ stream in the United States (3:30 p.m. ET; 12:30 p.m. PT). Yarde resides in Ilford, England, just outside of London.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.
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