ANTHONY YARDE IS approaching what he calls ‘the biggest fight of his career’ on January 28 at the venue where it all began for him as a professional back in 2015.
On the 9th of May in 2015, Mitch Mitchell was in the opposite corner at what was formerly known as Wembley Arena. He lasted 15 seconds into the second round.
On January 28, live on BT Sport, at the newly titled OVO Arena, Wembley, Yarde goes up against the formidable unified world light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev for three belts.
Getting ready for his triple assault on world light heavyweight honours within the confines of the Box Up Crime gym in the heart of Ilford, Yarde cuts a contented figure. Sure of himself, knowing what he is coming up against and utterly convinced he will be going home with the bounty.
WHEN IS BETERBIEV VS. YARDE? DATE, START TIME
- Date: Saturday, January 28 2023
- Main card: 7 p.m. GMT / 2 p.m. ET
- Main event ringwalks (approx): 10 p.m. GMT / 5 p.m. ET
- The fight will be streamed live on ESPN+ in the U.S., while UK fans can watch the fight on BT Sport.
- The fight will take place at the OVO Arena Wembley in London
- The main card is set to get underway at 7 p.m. GMT / 2 p.m. ET with the main event ringwalks scheduled for 10 p.m. GMT / 5 p.m. ET.
“I’m relaxed, I’m good and it is the biggest fight of my career,” said the 31-year-old, who happily acknowledges the odds will not fall in his favour going into battle against an 18-0 champion with 18 KOs. “I am definitely happy that I have finally got to this stage and, in my mind, I have got to bring to reality where I am going afterwards as well.
“You know what, I watched boxing even before I started and I like to watch the big moments and how they all come around. My best performances have always been when I have been the underdog.
“I like being in that position at this stage of my career and I just feel like January 28 is going to be a very special night for me.”
Thinking back to that May evening back in 2015 when Yarde was one of the early birds on a long card that was only depleted by the withdrawal of Billy Joe Saunders from headline action. Bradley Skeete ultimately topped the bill that also included Frank Buglioni, a fighter who would later be heavily linked to fighting the explosive newcomer to the 175lbs scene.
“It does feel like it was a while ago, but that moment is very fresh in my mind. Those were the days of weighing in on the day and for me this is now destiny.
“I had my pro debut in that arena and now I am about to have my unification bout in that arena and leave as the unified champion of the world.”
While his own fight might still be fresh in his mind, he was actually unaware that Saunders was not the bill-topper on his debut night.
“That shows you how focused I am on myself! Boxing is a long road and I have always been focused on myself. I have always paid homage to the people who have made it to the heights I want to get to. I have surpassed some of those heights and I still have some to pass.
“If I wasn’t focused on myself I don’t think I would have got here. A lot of people thought I was being silly or lying when I said I didn’t know who was on the same card as me or I didn’t know some of the guys who were in my weight class. I just focused on myself.
“The Buglioni thing, when that was happening and people were talking about us fighting, I thought that fight was going to happen. It didn’t happen and that is why I don’t focus on anyone other than myself.
“You don’t know how someone else’s career is going to go and you don’t know their decisions. I was adamant that fight was going to happen because it was being spoken about so much and then he retired!
“It didn’t slow down my career in any way, shape or form, but it is why I have always been an advocate of focusing on yourself.”
YARDE NOT INTERESTED IN POINT SCORING
ANTHONY YARDE DISCOVERED in just his second amateur fight that playing for points and attempting to impress the judges is not for him.
Yarde, of course, is set for a second tilt at world title glory when he takes on the unbeaten unified champion Artur Beterbiev at the OVO Arena, Wembley on January 28, live on BT Sport, having overcome professional setbacks against Sergey Kovalev and Lyndon Arthur.
The self-styled ‘Beast from the East’ of the capital famously enjoyed limited amateur experience of just 12 fights before blasting onto the pro scene back in 2015. It meant he was not moulded into a textbook light heavyweight or took onboard too many amateur traits that required drilling out of him.
In fact, he flatly refused requests from his amateur coach Tony Cesay to adopt a more patient approach to his work, which resulted in him having only the dozen unpaid fights.
“It was the timeframe as well, I started boxing late,” added Yarde, now 31. “I had my first amateur fight when I was 19, I got into boxing at 18 and I didn’t have no junior bouts, no schoolboys, just straight into adult boxing.
“I think Tunde (trainer/manager, Ajayi) would agree with this. When I met Tunde I had a style-base already, based on people I had watched, people I wanted to mimic or re-mix. I feel like Tunde helped me evolve my boxing skill as I was very powerful.
“As an amateur I trained with Tony Cesay up until around seven fights in and, even as a professional, he used to come and join some of our sessions as well. From when I started boxing Tony used to say to me ‘you are sitting on your shots too much, you’re being flat-footed, you need to be in and out. Yes, you are powerful, but you need to be in and out, in and out’.
“I replied to him saying ‘Tone, I want to be a great professional boxer, not a good amateur. I know what you are saying, but I’ve got a plan in my head. I’m going to knock out everybody’.
“He said I couldn’t do that because I wouldn’t get any fights. In my first fight I knocked the guy out – we are friends now – then I couldn’t get a fight for three months. Tony said, ‘You see, because of your physique, the way you look, and you knocked out somebody, no-one wants to fight you’.
“So, in the second fight I boxed the guy. I still won, it was clear I won, Ohara Davies was there shouting the place down and, when they announced the other guy as the winner, he had a bloody nose, a bruised eye… They gave him the decision on their show, an army show, and afterwards the guy came into my changing room and tried to give me his medal, saying ‘you won that’.
“I said to keep it because now I was upset. If I got no fights, I got no fights, and after that I knocked out everyone I fought in the amateurs. So, I always wanted to have that great professional boxing style.”
And therein lies the lesson. Playing the longer game is not for him.
Yarde admits that he listened to the doubters who questioned whether he could go the full 12 rounds ahead of his maiden world title challenge against the long-standing Russian champion.
Against his better judgement, he bided his time and did the same thing when he first came up against Lyndon Arthur.
The spectacular outcome of the rematch with Arthur demonstrated which method of boxing works for Yarde and it isn’t a cagey, calculated approach.
“Fact. That is what I’m trying to say. I don’t think it is to do with anyone but myself. I had a mindset when I started boxing and, the second I tried to change it or listen to people asking if I could go 12 rounds, I went away from what I knew.
“I know why the Kovalev fight didn’t go my way, I know why the fight didn’t go my way in the amateurs, I know why they gave the decision to Lyndon Arthur in the first fight.
“When all these things happened, it was when I went against my natural instinct and what I said I was going to do from the beginning.
“After that first fight with Lyndon Arthur I said ‘no more games, I know exactly what I’m going to do. And I’m going to do it’.
“It is like back to the future.”
Artur Beterbiev v Anthony Yarde for the WBC, WBO and IBF world light heavyweight titles takes place at the OVO Arena, Wembley on January 28, live on BT Sport. The bumper card also features the WBA world flyweight title fight between unbeaten fighters Artem Dalakian v David Jiminez.
Willy Hutchinson and Karol Itauma fight for the WBO Intercontinental and WBC International light heavyweight titles respectively, with the show also featuring top prospects Charles Frankham, Umar Khan, Sean Noakes, Joshua Frankham, Khalid Ali and Tommy Fletcher.
BETERBIEV VS. YARDE FIGHT CARD
- Artur Beterbiev vs. Anthony Yarde; For Beterbiev’s IBF, WBA and WBC light heavyweight titles
- Artem Dalakian vs. David Jimenez; For Dalakian’s WBA flyweight title
- Willy Hutchinson vs. Emil Markic; For the vacant WBO Inter-Continental light heavyweight title
- Karol Ituma vs. Ezequiel Osvaldo; For the vacant WBC international light heavyweight title
- Charles Frankham vs. Joshua Ocampo; Super featherweight
- Umar Khan vs. Sandeep Singh Bhatti; Featherweight
- Sean Noakes vs. Santiago Garces; Welterweight
- Tommy Fletcher vs. Darryl Sharp; Cruiserweight
- Joshua Frankham vs. Joe Hardy; Welterweight
- Khalid Ali vs. Ivica Gogosevic; Super welterweight
- Moses Itauma vs. TBA; Heavyweight