Yarde sets up career defining fight with fearsome Beterbiev

North-East London light-heavyweight, Anthony Yarde, lived up to expectations and demolished Bulgarian, Stefani Kolykov in three rounds last night. Frankfurt based Kolykov came into the contest with a 14-1 record, albeit against opponents of questionable quality. Nonetheless, he started brightly.

That changed within the first minute. As soon as Yarde got on the front foot, Kolykov backpedaled. In the end, the Bulgarian fulfilled his ultimate purpose as an unknown, foreign opponent for a big-name, highly-promoted fighter. He provided another segment for Yarde’s highlight reel.

The Londoner launched a vicious barrage from the mid-point of the third, which resulted in an uppercut so powerful it lifted Kolykov off his feet. The Bulgarian got up just after the referee’s count of nine, but clearly had no intention of continuing. His brief spell in the limelight is over.

The real story of the night came after that predictable prelude, however. In the inauspicious surroundings of the Telford International Centre, it was confirmed that Yarde’s next contest will be to challenge the spine-chilling, 3-belt world champion, Artur Beterbiev from Russia for his titles.

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In what will be a blockbuster evening for British boxing, Yarde’s date with destiny has been set for Wembley’s Ovo Arena on January 28th 2023. Initial reports suggest the contest will broadcast live on BT Sport, on the regular subscription channels and not Pay-per-View. Should this be officially confirmed it will be a significant event in itself. The first time in a long while that much fleeced British fight fans have had the opportunity to watch elite level boxing without one-off expense.

Speaking afterwards, Yarde oozed confidence. “Tonight, was all about not making any silly mistakes” he said. “Because I knew what was at stake. It’s all about Beterbiev. That’s the one I want, Beterbiev’s been hurt. He’s been down. He’s a human.”

While fighters talking up their own chances is a given in boxing, and fans would not expect anything else, Yarde, along with his controversial trainer Tunde Ajayi, have to know that few share this optimism. The Russian champion may be human, although that it not always obvious. He is 18-0 with all eighteen wins coming inside the distance and exudes a kind of malevolent intensity.

Yarde can look exciting going forward himself but has never been the hardest boxer to hit. When Beterbiev gets into a groove and puts his punches together, the expectation of most within the boxing world is that the Londoner will wilt. If anything, Yarde deserves kudos for being brave enough to take the fight.

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Beterbiev is 37 and may at some point begin to fade. That has not happened as yet, but perhaps the main hope from Yarde and his camp is that this will be the fight in which the champion’s candle starts to flicker, and his ferocity dwindles. It’s an old boxing saying, but one that carries truth – sometimes, fighters get old in the ring.

Yet in his last outing in true world class, Yarde was stopped in the eleventh round by an already shopworn Sergey Kovalev, in 2019. Beterbiev clearly represents a further step-up from that.

Anthony Yarde will need to put in the most inspired performance of his life, just to have a chance. It’s a night which could define him, put his name up against the biggest in the sport. It is also one which could end his career outright.

As always, time will tell.      

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