By Tim Royner: Anthony Yarde says he’s going to dethrone WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev this Saturday night at the Traktor Sport Palace, in Chelyabinsk, Russia. Mandatory challenger Yarde (18-0, 17 KOs) says the 36-year-old Kovalev (33-3-1, 28 KOs) has had his time at the top of the 175 pound division, and now he’s ready to send him packing.

Yarde, who fights like a young Mike Tyson, has a real test on his hands against Kovalev. The Russian fighter is fighting at home, and he’s retooled his game with new trainer Buddy McGirt. Kovalev is fighting the way did in the amateurs, and he looks much improved.

More importantly, Yarde wants to insert himself into the mix for a big fight against Mexico superstar Saul Canelo Alvarez. Kovalev is expected to face Canelo Alvarez later this year in a mega-fight, but Yarde is blocking his way for the time being. If Yarde beats Kovalev, then he can use the spotlight to call out Canelo to try and get that big fight.

Canelo won’t have much to gain in fighting Yarde, because he’s not a big name. But that hasn’t stopped Canelo in the past from facing little known guys like , Matthew Hatton and Ryan Rhodes.

Yarde: 50% of the world think it’s impossible task for me to beat Kovalev

“On paper it’s a big ask going up to Russia,” said Yarde to BT Sport about his fight with Kovalev. “What they’re asking me to do is dethrone a future Hall of Famer, a guy that’s been there and done that and fought the best in the division. He’s been a world champion for a very long time. He was a world champion when I first started . Kovalev has had his time. He’s done fantastic, but I’m very confident of myself. More than 50 percent of the world thinks this is an impossible task.

Coming to someone’s backyard, going to Russia especially is going to be serious. It’s going to be tough. You’re going to have a lot to deal with. Then you’re going to have Kovalev standing in front of you on the night. So far, everything has been exactly the way I want it. This time it’s a different kettle of fish. I want to embrace it. I’ve gone to another level in life. There’s only excitement. And, there’s no butterfly feelings. There’s no nerves,” said Yarde.

Yarde, 28, has an opportunity to prove half the world wrong by beating Kovalev, and getting the last laugh. With only 12 fights an amateur and 18 as a pro, Yarde’s experience is lacking going into this fight. Although Yarde has beaten a small handful of capable journeyman, he still hasn’t cut his teeth against his first true contender.

Yarde’s resume is lacking

Yarde never fought any of the tough contenders like Marcus Browne, , Eleider Alvarez or Jean Pascal. Ideally, those are the type of fighters that Yarde should have fought to prepare him for what he’s going to be dealing with against Kovalev. You can’t fault Yarde for his resume as a pro. That’s on his promoters at Queensbury.

They could have matched Yarde against three or four contenders from the bottom of the division, but they didn’t. It wouldn’t have been fair to match Yarde against the likes of Pascal, Browne, Jack and Eleider Alvarez, given his inadequate amateur career. But at least they could have set Yarde up with some of the bottom feeders in the division like these guys:

  • Ahmed Elbiali
  • Joshua Buatsi
  • Felix Valera
  • Callum Johnson
  • Fanlong Meng
  • Jesse Hart
  • Sullivan Barrera
  • Igor Mikhalkin
  • Joe Smith Jr.

Yarde says he’s in the mix for Canelo fight

“It was meant to happen. Canelo is a Mexican superstar in full stop,” said Yarde. “The fact that Kovalev was starting to get associated with Canelo Alvarez, and I was the name blocking it. So my name is in the mix. The way I see it, within a few years people will start saying, ‘remember when you beat Kovalev for your first world title.’ People say, ‘I hate how arrogant he is. I understand he’s going to be in a hard fight.’ That’s for them to think. I don’t think that. I’m here, and I’m going to enjoy it. I like fighting anyway. You get in the ring, and you start trading leather. It’s a lot of fun. I’m doing something that a lot of people could never do,” Yarde said.

There’s a good chance that Yarde will get the Canelo fight if he beats Kovalev because the Golden Boy star wants to win a title at 175. Fighting the Kovalev-Yarde winner gives Canelo his best shot at capturing a title at light heavyweight. Canelo would have major problems trying to beat the other champions at 175 in Artur Beterbiev, or Oleksandr Gvozdyk. Canelo would need to bulk up for him to compete against a guy the size and strength of Yarde. The way that Yarde attacks his opponents in a Mike Tyson-esque manner, he would land something with his flurries. Yarde might miss 90% of his shots against Canelo, but something would leak through his guard and do damage.

Kovalev will be dethroned in his own backyard says Yarde

“I’ve had 12 amateur fights, and 18 professional fights,” said Yarde. “When you’re as ambitious as me, there will be a lot of pressure on your shoulders. The beauty of it is for me to challenge myself by going to Russia in the trenches. I’m fighting the best light heavyweight that’s been in recent years, and I’m going to dethrone him in his own backyard,” said Yarde.

To me, that’s tremendous to become world champion, and not a paper champion. It won’t be by default. He’s been world champion for a long time. In his last fight, he looked good [against Eleider Alvarez]. His first fight with was controversial. In the second fight, he got stopped. In his first fight with [Eleider] Alvarez, he got stopped. He came back and beat him. It’s still going to be a fantastic moment for me, because I know Kovalev was at one point the monster in the division,” said Yarde.

This would be embarrassing for Kovalev to lose in front of his own Russian fans on Saturday night. The embarrassment is one thing for Kovalev, but the loss of the Canelo fight would be much bigger. There’s a lot of money on the table for Kovalev if he gets past Yarde in this fight, and he cannot afford to lose. There’s nowhere for Kovalev to go if he gets beaten by Yarde, because he’s not going to beat any of the other light heavyweight champions.


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