Rumours have again been circulating this week regarding Anthony Yarde’s much mooted World Title challenge.
Mike Coppinger of Fox Sports reported that a deal for the 29th June in Russia is close for Yarde to meet the WBO Light Heavyweight Champion, Sergey Kovalev, in the Russian’s first defence of the Title that he regained in an impressive rematch win against Eleider Alvarez back in February. Push is now coming to shove for Londoner Yarde, who has been vocal about claiming World Titles for some time now, and he is now looking likely to face his acid test.
Yarde and his team, including his trainer, Tunde Ajayi, even previously suggested that the contest between him and Kovalev should take place in the UK, with him being the “A side” of the promotion. The question for Yarde now, is how much is he willing to sacrifice to reach the summit? Is he willing to travel to Russia to fulfil his dream, or will we see a pull out in the build up to the fight.
Yarde competes in an ultra-competitive division, with young, hungry fighters occupying the other three belts on offer. Oleksandr Gvozdyk is the WBC Champion, following an absorbing win against the long reigning Adonis Stevenson in December 2018. Artur Beterbiev has been destructive in his ascent to the IBF Title, but was floored against Britain’s Callum Johnson in their encounter in October 2018. The Russian easily defended his belt last weekend with a fifth-round stoppage of Radivoje Kaljdzic. Rounding off the belt holders is Dimitry Bivol, the WBA Champion. All three are unbeaten fighters, so they all represent difficult assignments for potential challengers.
Kovalev though, is not to be underestimated, and, although 36, he is still a major player in the weight class. He proved this in the Alvarez rematch. After a dismal seventh round stoppage defeat at the hands of the Columbian just six months earlier, Kovalev looked rejuvenated under new trainer Buddy McGirt in the rematch. He controlled Alvarez and comfortably diffused his heavy hands to win a clear decision. It was a different Kovalev than we are used to seeing, showing he can box and move as well as bang.
Make no mistake, Yarde faces a tough test in Kovalev, not only just in Kovalev’s back yard, but he will be facing a man with better credentials than all of Yarde’s eighteen opponents combined. Although Yarde has looked good in blasting out all but one of his foes thus far, he has not fought anyone nearly approaching fringe world level, let alone the elite class itself. At 27, Yarde is at his peak, but defeat in Eastern Europe would be a major setback for him.
Yarde has yet to come under serious fire in any of his bouts, and surely Kovalev will test him to the full if their meeting comes to fruition. It looks like we are about to find out if Yarde is the real deal, or another vocal prospect to come unstuck.