Anthony Yarde is not the sort of guy to walk away from a fight, so when he was given a firm date for his shot at Artur Beterbiev, he was not about to call off his scheduled fight with Stefani Koykov, even though he admits he has very little of idea of what he is like.
Yarde - who faces Koykov on Saturday in Telford on the undercard of Liam Davies’s European super-bantamweight title fight against Ionut Baluta - is due to challenge Beterbiev for the WBC, WBO and IBF light-heavyweight titles on January 28. It’s a fight that should have already happened, but the champion suffered a knee injury and forced Yarde to wait.
That did not work too well for the Londoner, though, who has not boxed since his rematch win over Lyndon Arthur at the end of 2021. He needed the Koykov fight to shake off some ring rust.
On paper, Koykov’s 14-1 record looks respectable, but Yarde is a 100-1 on shot at the bookmakers for a reason. The Germany-based Bulgarian is so obscure, Yarde says he has not even watched a tape of him.
“I don’t overlook anybody, but this guy – there’s no footage of him online, this could be someone else that I fight,” Yarde said. “He could be anybody, but do I care? No, because I have got Beterbiev next. I’m ready for anybody.”
Yarde plans to make the most of his second world title shot, having frustrated himself and those around him when being overly tentative early on when he faced Sergey Kovalev for the WBO title in 2019 in Russia.
He had the same problem when he lost his first fight with Arthur in 2020, although he insists that he has learnt that lesson.
“After that first fight [with Arthur], circumstances brought out the best in me,” Yarde said. “I fought in Birmingham and got a first-round knockout, I fought Lyndon Arthur and knocked him out in the fourth round. I’m on that mission, I’m pissed off, I’m going to stay pissed off.
“It’s not a negative emotion, I just know what I need to do now. That first fight happened for a reason.
“I feel like when I was an amateur and I was robbed and it was blatant and everyone was booing. I am in that headspace again.
“When there’s an element of the unexpected, that’s when I get the best out of me, or when I’m pissed off.”
Yarde says he will not be looking to get rounds against Koykov – he is going out to be spectacular.
“I don’t take no one lightly,” Yarde said. “I’m looking straight at him. I’m looking straight through him.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.