Convincing Yarde to travel to Kovalev’s backyard may be easier than twisting the arm of manager Tunde Ajayi.
The career of Anthony Yarde has filled column inches, blog posts, and Twitter-rants for the past couple of years. Waiting for the 27-year-old to make a step up in the light heavyweight division has carried a frustrating narrative of disappointment after disappointment, hearing announcement after announcement of underwhelming cannon-fodder for “The Beast” to bully his way through.
His latest outing at the Royal Albert Hall against American Travis Reeves was all over in the fifth round via TKO. Yarde has still not entered an eighth round and has contested a fight scheduled for 12 rounds on just one occasion.
It’s hard not to go over old ground when discussing life in the paid ranks for Anthony Yarde. His well-versed story of fighting light heavyweights well below the level he should be operating at, if anything, is a compliment to the fighter. Sure, Yarde has shown deficiencies in his 18 victories, but on a whole, the Hackney-born 175-pounder has shown enough to get fans, promoters and sponsors to pay an invested interest in his career; his next step is sure to be the most intriguing of them all.
The build-up to Yarde’s last victory at the iconic Royal Albert Hall was overshadowed by talk of a potential fight with WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev. Ranked at No. 1 with the WBO, Yarde’s fight against Reeves was expected to be nothing more than a tune-up in preparation for a jump into deep waters against the Krusher, with Yarde expressing his eagerness for a step up in his career.
“I think it can happen this year,” Yarde said. “I was offered the Kovalev fight in 2018 but my manager and promoter agreed it wasn’t the right time for me to be challenging for a world title then. I needed a few more tune-up fights, learning fights, and I’m fine with that.”
This is where Yarde’s extroverted manager Tunde Ajayi becomes increasingly relevant. It’s become painstakingly clear that Tunde makes the calls in the camp of Anthony Yarde, plotting a carefully constructed route with minimal hurdles to jump. Continually referring to himself and Yarde as “future world champions,” Tunde’s protection of Yarde thus far in this career is extended protection of himself as his manager; a risk for Yarde in the ring is being perceived as a bigger risk to Tunde.
Yarde comes across very well in interviews as a smart, down-to-earth guy, who — like 99% of fighters out there — is willing to fight anyone on any given day. Tunde’s perception of Team Yarde’s current standing in the light heavyweight division may ultimately stunt the growth of his fighter, limiting opportunities in the short and long term. Claiming that Yarde is the A-side fighter in a clash against WBO champion Sergey Kovalev was laughable, but an unsurprising admission of delusion from Tunde. The type of delusion that, you would assume, would put any rumours of this potential match-up to bed.
Reports from Boxing Social this week have suggested that Anthony Yarde has agreed to fight Sergey Kovalev in Russia this year, with an exact date of the fight to be agreed upon by the two teams. The WBO ordered a maximum of 30 days of negotiations before a purse bid is ordered on this defense.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum stated, “Right now the plans are to have the fight in Russia. Frank [Warren] and Yarde have already agreed to terms. We’re getting an appropriated date in June or July for the fight, but everything is a go.”
”An announcement will be made shortly,” Arum said. “This is my understanding, yes [that fight will take place in Russia]. I met with Kovalev’s manager Egis Klimas, and he told me Yarde had already agreed to terms. I don’t know Yarde from anybody, but Frank told me he’s a very confident fighter, very strong, and it’ll be a great fight with Kovalev. I’ve never seen him fight.”
Quite an admission from Arum, but the fact that he “doesn’t know Yarde from anybody” means he also doesn’t know Tunde. His claims that Frank Warren and Anthony Yarde have agreed on this fight holds very little weight until contracts are drawn up; once it’s written down in black-and-white, it’s hard to imagine Tunde Ajayi signing off on a fight in Russia having taken into consideration his previous comments.
There is always hope. Personally, it’s a fight I would like to see. Yarde is a fighter I always find myself tuning in to watch. His athleticism allows flurries to be thrown on the inside which is pleasing on the eye, with his high-intensity work rate impossible to ignore. His exchanges tend to end up with Yarde in the driving seat, however, his defensive flaws are apparent when he takes breathers in rounds, with his jab needing vast improvement.
Kovalev avenging his loss to Eleider Alvarez proved he still has plenty to offer in the light-heavyweight division. He has rebuilt twice after back-to-back losses to Andre Ward and dropping a seventh round TKO to Alvarez, and the 36-year-old is still chasing the big fight nights.
If this fight does hit our screens in the summer, it will surely prove to be a long-overdue full assessment of the level that Yarde can reach. It’s a huge leap, but one that could prove to reap the biggest rewards. Win, lose or draw, once Yarde has danced with the “Krusher,” the days of fighting Norbert Nemesapati and Tony Averlant are well and truly over.