The new addition to Ilford’s own pride of Lions insists that Anthony Yarde has more than got what it takes to become a light heavyweight world champion.
James Cook MBE, the former British and European super middleweight champion, has recently been drafted into the camp to work with Yarde and his trainer Tunde Ajayi, to provide wise counsel and be an experienced eye on the team who work out of the Box Up Crime gym in the heart of Ilford.
Yarde, 29, who challenged for the WBO world title against Sergey Kovalev in 2019, is back in the ring on July 10 at the Royal Albert Hall. The self-styled ‘Beast from the East’ is looking to put his marker down in the division once again after suffering a narrow points loss to Manchester rival Lyndon Arthur in December.
“I am the older lion!” said the Hackney legend with a chuckle. “I am just here so if something goes wrong I will try and correct it and tell Tunde. People might think I am here shouting, but it is not that, the whole idea is to see what is going wrong and look at what we can do better. I will tell them what I think.
“What I like about these guys is they listen, they are a young team who are willing to learn from someone who has been there and done it. I am here to correct them and say ‘you know what, this is what you do in this situation’,” added the 62-year-old, who will bring both experience and calm to punching proceedings.
“Definitely, because when you get that close to a fighter you can get caught up in it and not see things. I am here to guard against that because I have been there and I can look for things that maybe they are not looking for.
“The truth is very important for a fighter and, as I have said to people, if they are not hearing the truth they are hearing nonsense. They are in there to survive and you have got to be honest.”
Cook insists his remit includes a full licence to speak his mind and say what he sees.
“When they spoke to me I said if I am not that then I won’t be here. Anthony is his own man and I am the older man, so if I don’t speak the truth this is never going to work. I am here to make sure the truth is spoken.
“Anthony has all the heart in the world and it is probably that calmness that he needs around him. When everyone is wrapped up in emotion they probably miss that.”
And from his short stint bringing order to the lion’s den, Cook is convinced Yarde will, before too long, be top cat of the division.
“Listen, he will definitely be a world champion. He fought for one before and it was part of a learning experience where he will know what to do next time. He is definitely ready for a world title fight.”