Anthony Yarde had a defining 2019, which has set him on the path for an even bigger 2020.
The “Beast From The East” was only out twice last year, however he rightfully took a much needed break following a gutsy, yet ultimately unsuccessful title tilt, at former WBO ruler Sergey Kovalev.
Whilst, Andre Ward and Eleider Alvarez exposed the once, Light heavyweight kingpin, Yarde laid further foundations for Canelo Alvarez, who has perhaps drawn the curtain on an illustrious career following a brutal 11th round KO in November.
Yarde, who travelled to the “Krusher’s” hometown of Chelyabinsk in August in an audacious bid to rip away the WBO crown, was largely outboxed in his maiden world title bid, yet had Kovalev in deep waters in a memorable round eight in which he rocked the home favourite with some devastating combinations.
Kovalev, in his 16th world title bout held on and drew on all of his experience to make it through the round and charge back to stop the Brit, who was out on his feet after 11 gruelling rounds.
However, despite the defeat, Yarde’s stock has risen tremendously and he could find himself straight back into world title contention this year. Here are his possible options:
The experienced Russian is the most likely option straight away, with Yarde’s promoter Frank Warren revealing that the fight is close to completion for the first quarter of 2020.
Vlasov (45-3 26 KOs) has switched between the Cruiserweight and Light Heavyweight divisions in recent years and despite not competing for a world title, he has fought some respectable operators, falling short against former world Cruiserweight champion Krzysztof Glowacki.
However, he has three victories since, notably against the seasoned Isaac Chilemba, who took Kovalev, Dmitry Bivol and Tony Bellew the distance in defeat.
Vlasov is ranked at #4 by the WBO and with the belt vacant following Canelo’s decision to relinquish the strap after stopping Kovalev, this could represent Yarde’s fastest route of achieving a second shot at the belt.
At 33-years-old he is approaching the tail-end of his career, although his recent wins suggest his stamina won’t be an issue, should the fight reach the latter rounds.
Yarde would most likely face the Russian in a homecoming fight in the UK, providing him an opportunity to strengthen his fanbase ahead of some potentially more lucrative fights in the offing.
American Marcus Browne is another viable option for 2020 and is at a similar stage in his professional career to Yarde.
Browne (23-1 16 KOs) just a year older than the Brit has also only one defeat, against elite opposition in the form of two-time world 200lbs champion Jean Pascal.
The southpaw had his bout with Pascal waved off in August after an accidental head clash meant the bout was declared a technical decision in the eighth, with Pascal comfortably winning having knocked down Browne three times.
The former WBC silver holder has high rankings with the WBC and WBA where Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol (super) reign supreme respectively, whilst Pascal holds the ‘regular’ belt following his success over Badou Jack in late December.
Browne has already revealed his desire to challenge Yarde and seems willing to head to the UK, although the Brit could be tempted to face him in his hometown of New York, in a debut at either Madison Square Garden or Barclays Center, potentially in the summer.
Tony Bellew declared to Sky Sports Boxing that he believed Yarde fell short against Kovalev primarily because he didn’t have championship experience, name dropping the likes of Frank Buglioni among others, but Callum Johnson would also fall into that category and perhaps could be someone he faces in the near future.
Johnson holds the same record as his domestic rival (18-1) and bounced back from his sole defeat to Beterbiev, where he was stopped in four rounds in a bid for the fearsome Russian’s IBF strap.
“The One”, who saw off Buglioni to claim the Lonsdale belt prior to challenging Beterbiev, is a solid domestic operator and a clash with Yarde would build up into a popular, domestic bout and perhaps a rivalry to follow.
The 34-year-old will be chasing the money-spinning bouts at this stage and the Joe-Gallagher trained fighter will first contest the vacant European title against Igor Mikhalkin, possibly in early March.
It’s a domestic showdown that simply has to happen. But perhaps not just yet.
Buatsi (12-0) is another standout British talent destined for a world title shot sooner rather than later.
The 26-year-old saw a fruitful 2019, in which he claimed the British title curtailed through illness, forcing him to pull out of his fight with Australian Blake Caparello in November.
However, the unbeaten Londoner could receive a shot at the IBF title after mandatory challenger Fanlong Meng won the purse bid to stage the bout with champion Beterbiev in China, although the title holder seems unwilling to travel for religious reasons and will reportedly vacate the title.
Buatsi is the highest IBF contender after Meng and would likely receive a shot at the Chinese 2012 Olympian should Beterbiev relinquish his title.
Yarde has spoken in the past of his ambition to face his rival, but insists he would like the bout when it becomes bigger and with a world title potentially on the line, however a fight between the pair could make sense earlier than expected.
Buatsi has been flawless so far as a professional, but unlike his rival he has not campaigned at world level as of yet, making the fight a mouthwatering and highly lucrative prospect.
What must be avoided, however is a clash happening too late in the day, perhaps comparable to the Kell Brook vs Amir Khan saga which continues to rumble on or more worryingly to a domestic dust-up which failed to materialise between Ricky Hatton and Junior Witter.
The only stumbling block, as with the Johnson fight is the promotional aspect with Yarde under Frank Warren’s Queensbury Promotions, whilst the other two are under Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom banner, making negotiations potentially difficult.
However, with enough public demand we will surely see this fight with both men in their prime.