“There are some defeats more triumphant than victories” – Michel de Montaigne
By Darren Paradise – No one captures the heart of the British public more than a gallant loser. A gallant loser is exactly what Briton Anthony Yarde was this past Saturday night when he boldly travelled to Chelyabinsk, Russia in an audacious attempt to relieve current champion and hometown hero Sergey Kovalev of his WBO light heavyweight championship of the world.
Had the boy from London’s monumental display of courage and bravery occurred in the eighties or nineties when big-time Boxing was broadcast to millions live on terrestrial television, Yarde’s performance would have made him a household name and earned him celebrity status as it had the likes of Frank Bruno, Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank. Unfortunately due to the ‘cold war’ consisting of promoter rivalries, television companies and streaming services, it was a performance that probably went largely unnoticed to those outside of the Boxing community. A real travesty.
It was an intriguing match-up as soon as it was announced, a well established champion in the twilight of his career against an undefeated, super-confident challenger who was somewhat of an unknown quantity due to the relatively poor opposition he had faced thus far in his career. Questions were a plenty for both champion and challenger. Neither were afraid to answer.
The opening round may have been a cagey one but it set the tone of the fight with the “Krusher” establishing his jab from the start. The Brit was clearly in for a tough night and you would be hard pushed to award him a single round of the first six. Tactically he just was not at the races, but he never looked for the easy way out. Fellow Britons Amir Khan, Kell Brook and Anthony Joshua have all recently come under scrutiny when it become apparent they were out of their depth. Anthony Yarde will face no such criticism, in fact he earned his purse ten times over, even after taking a tremendous amount of punishment he never lost his shape and never stopped believing, he came back to take the seventh round and then threw caution to the wind in the eighth with an all out assault that had Kovalev reeling and rocking all over the ring and was perhaps just one or two punches away from stopping him. Just how close Yarde was to halting Kovalev in that torrid eighth round must not be understated. Kovalev’s trainer Buddy Mcgirt was just one month removed from the death of his fighter Maxim Dadashev in a fight that many felt he should have pulled out a round or two earlier than he did. For this fight McGirt was always going to err on the side of caution with his fighters safety paramount. For Yarde that eighth round assault was a last hurrah. The one minute rest was enough for Kovalev to regroup and then come back to take the ninth, dominate the tenth and then finally knockout a severely fatigued Yarde in the eleventh.
In the aftermath of the contest, social media and those in the trade have not been kind to Yarde’s trainer and mentor Tunde Ajayi, ridiculing him for his no sparring ethos in camp and his lack of tactical instruction in the corner. There is no doubt that some tactical adjustments need to be made but I feel the backlash towards Ajayi is a tad unfair, the pre-fight self belief he installed in his fighter was far from the facade that many thought it was and Yarde was without a doubt more than prepared for battle. Andre Ward had already showed the world how to beat Kovalev, the body was always the key, but getting past that jab to get inside and land was no easy task. Anthony Yarde is not quite Andre Ward and he is likely to need the addition of a strategist in the gym to make him a force to be reckoned with on the world scene.
Sergey Kovalev will now go onto defend his title against “pound for pound” superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. He will be another year older and facing a murderous body puncher in “Canelo”. Two facts that do not bode well for the Russian. That being said it is a career defining fight for him, and the multi-million dollar purse will ensure the most comfortable of retirements.
As for Anthony Yarde, he dared to be great and in doing so he done his country proud, his team proud and most of all he done himself proud. When all is said and done, he left it all in the ring and can have no regrets with what transpired. Regardless of what happens from now on in he can look back on this night with utmost pride having gained the respect of his peers and undoubtedly proving he has the heart of a warrior. It does of course remain to be seen if tactically he can adjust to compete at the top tier and more importantly if he can recover from what was both a physical and psychological beating that not many can come back the same from.
One thing is for sure, and that is that I personally, have gone from being an Anthony Yarde naysayer to an Anthony Yarde super fan. “LIONS IN THE CAMP”
Contact Darren Paradise on twitter @DarrenParadise