By Shaun Brown
BADOU Jack, Erik Skoglund and Avni Yildirim all serve as inspiration for Anthony Yigit (21-0-1, 7 KOs) as his campaign in the World Boxing Super Series Super Lightweight tournament gets underway on Saturday.
The 27-year-old Swede, who is of Turkish, Finnish and Russian descent, fights the unbeaten Ivan Baranchyk (18-0, 11 KOs) for the vacant IBF 140lb title, in New Orleans, and for a place in the semi-finals alongside WBA champion Kiryl Relikh who outpointed Eduard Troyanovsky earlier in the month to book his berth in the last four.
Jack, Skoglund and Yildirim have all had varying successes in their careers with the latter two having already participated in season one of a format that has added something a little bit different to boxing.
“I followed Erik Skoglund from Sweden and followed Avni Yildirim from Turkey, obviously I’m Turkish as well so that was quite interesting for me to follow and then you have all these great match-ups, like when [Chris] Eubank Jr was fighting [George] Groves, fights you were looking forward to,” said Yigit who followed the inaugural season quite closely.
“I was there when Chris Eubank fought Avni Yildirim and I was there when [Oleksandr] Usyk was fighting last time. Just being there, seeing it, you get the feeling this is something great, huge and massive. When people walk in they walk in with their own music, their own entourage and it can get a bit messy but when they stand at the podiums and they get raised up you get this clean entrance that the fans enjoy.”
The production values are certainly one of the highlights of each show with the event feeling even more gladiatorial than a traditional weekend fight night. And while Skoglund didn’t succeed in last season’s Super Middleweight event it certainly whetted the appetite for Yigit, the current 140lb European champion, and gives hope to boxing fans back in Sweden.
The exploits of Badou Jack give even greater strength to Yigit. The Light Heavyweight, who lost out narrowly on becoming a fully-fledged two-weight world champion against Adonis Stevenson this year, tangled with some of the best at Super Middleweight, winning the WBC title and defending it against the likes of George Groves and James DeGale.
“Hopefully I’ll be up there where Badou Jack is or even put up great fights like Erik Skoglund did against Callum Smith then we put Sweden on the boxing map.
“I don’t know Badou but I know his journey. He left everything in Sweden to go to America and he wasn’t really considered a contender or even a talent. He just went to America and now he’s a world champion and he defended his title many times. He gives us hope that if you really want something and strive for it you can get there. Badou is one of the guys that I not only look up to but also take motivation from. Sometimes I can have my down days but then I’m thinking about how he did it, he got knocked out, but he still became world champion, so everything is possible.”
But first he must tame ‘The Beast’ from Belarus. Ivan Baranchyk, who now resides in Miami, has lived up to his moniker so far and having sparred the likes of Avtandil Khurtsidze and Sergey Derevyanchenko will be a difficult obstacle to move out of the way.
“He’s a good fighter, he’s a tough fighter but I believe I’ve got more experience. I think that it will not be an easy win but I will win that one and it’s a good test for me to see if I’m at that level among the better fighters in the world,” he predicted.
A win against Baranchyk, with a shiny new world title around his waist, will take him on to a semi final against Josh Taylor or Ryan Martin who meet in Glasgow on November 3. Despite Regis Prograis being the number one seed in the tourney, Yigit believes that Scotland’s Taylor is the man to beat describing him as “the favourite” and “the toughest fighter” out of the eight entrants.
Yigit’s fight with Baranchyk represents his first of the year, a frustration for the Swede but one he calmly accepts and moves on with such is his laid-back demeanour.
“I wish I could have had at least one fight this year before stepping into the World Boxing Super Series, but it is what it is. I gotta make the best of it but I believe I’m ready to take that step. I need to do it sometime. I’ve been training very hard for it and that’s what I’m striving for. There’s only one way to know and that’s taking that step and seeing if I’ve got what it takes, and I believe I do. I want to fight the very best and I’m so honoured to be among those fighters so let’s see if I’ve got what it takes to be in this league.”