In the end, Anthony Yarde got his moral victory while Sergey Kovalev took home the actual one.
Ok, so what angle should we take here? There’s a lot to unpack so how should we approach this?
Anthony Yarde put forth a valiant effort but ultimately a lack of proper preparation saw him fall short against the more experienced Sergey Kovalev.
Nah, that’s no fun.
Is there some fucking factory in Shaftesbury or some shit that mass produces these paper tiger club fighters who excel on the local circuit and then get absolutely blown to bits the first time they approach anything resembling a world-class level?
Hmm, fun but a bit harsh maybe.
Anthony Yarde, a local bloke from nearby Essex, turned his bout with Sergey Kovalev into a real Donnybrook and came a scant two wallops from gobsmacking the world!
Nope. I’d rather eat Christy Martin’s nuva ring than ever type any of those words again.
So let’s thread the needle on all of the above and go the Wet Bandits route. Stay with me.
There’s a scene in “Home Alone” where Joe Pesci’s character, Harry, is showing off to his dumbshit partner Marv and forecasting precisely when the security lights of various homes on the block are going to turn on.
Staring at his watch while pointing to the home in question, Harry giddily shrieks “Riiiiiiiiight… NOW!” as the christmas lights on some WASPy ass house in a nondescript suburban Illinois shithole pop on.
Ignoring for the moment that these are professional thieves and vandals with zero compunction whatsoever about torturing an eight-year-old child in his own home, Harry is, in fact, not guessing here. He has put in the time, work and dedication to discovering and committing to memory the time that these lights come on.
There’s a certain satisfaction, in any line of work, in knowing that the fruits of your labor will be rewarded. If you don’t cut corners, your diligence will pay off. The exact opposite holds true as well. Skimp on the details and your negligence will be exposed. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.
Nowhere is this more true than a professional boxing ring.
Anthony Yarde (18-1, 17 KO) certainly looks the part. A hulking, muscular specimen with matinee idol looks, Yarde is tailor made for the spotlight. These features, coupled with an undefeated record and a sky high knockout ratio, were able to mask some glaring deficiencies to some.
To those who know what they’re looking at, Yarde was somewhat of a house of cards. A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it amateur career, a transparently thin resume and training methods which could charitably be described as “unhelpful” but more accurately as “completely fucking useless.”
The thing is, those things don’t automatically disqualify you from being a great fighter. You can have a thin amateur pedigree, unconventional training habits and an unproven resume and still be world class prizefighter. They’re not mutually exclusive. It’s entirely unlikely but also not impossible.
This is boxing though. And in a sport this fundamentally god damn unpredictable, likelihoods are all we have to go off of.
So who would the real Yarde turn out to be? The only way to find out would be to stick him in there with a 36 year old Russian psychopath with a body on his record and vodka on his breath and pray to any god who’s available on a Saturday for safe passage.
If that sounds to you like a recipe for ruin then you, like The Wet Bandits, have done your homework.
Kovalev (34-3-1, 29 KO) is a lot of things: a champion, a likely Hall of Famer, a defendant in a pending assault case and a certified wing nut. One thing he is not, however, is an easy out for anyone.
At 36 years old, though, and with what you might conservatively call some “personal issues,” Kovalev is a wildcard every time he steps into the ring. Would Yarde be able to exploit these perceived shortcomings? I guess that depends on your definition.
As the two fighters stepped into the ring on Saturday at the Traktor Sport Palace in Chelyabinsk, Russia on an ESPN+ televised card, the current structure of the light heavyweight division hung in the balance. New blood versus the old guard. New life or status quo. Which would it be?
From the outset it was clear that this fight was to hinge on Kovalev’s jab and more importantly, Yarde’s ability to circumvent it. Kovalev fired away from a distance but in the early rounds Yarde had a short, counter left hook waiting for him. Maybe not enough to win him rounds but enough to make him think he was, which is sometimes all you need.
Countless fighters throughout history have overcome deficits in experience with sheer, dumb hubris, however misguided it may be. A quarter of the way through the fight and Yarde’s confidence was allowing him to hang with Kovalev. The seeds of a moral victory had already been planted.
In these early rounds, Yarde was finding a home for his left hand to Kovalev’s body. There seems to be an open secret of some kind amongst boxing fans and observers that Kovalev “doesn’t like it to the body.” As someone who’s been punched in the stomach multiple times I can tell you that he’s not alone.
I love this idea that taking one to the gut and the discomfort that follows is somehow specific to Kovalev. If you know someone who, in fact, does enjoy getting their kidneys bashed in with a boat oar, please contact your local authorities at once. This is a civilization we’re trying to have here.
Midway through the fight, Yarde’s lack of conditioning was beginning to show. Lumbering around the ring, arms at his side and breathing through his mouth, Yarde looked like Chris Arreola on the last day of a McRib promotional cycle. This is where Kovalev’s superior training would come into play, right? The spot where professionalism outguns youthful arrogance?
Midway through the 8th round, one in which Kovalev was mostly winning, Yarde landed a huge left hand inside that sent Kovalev reeling like he was exiting a Moscow bar at sunrise. As Yarde pounced on his wounded foe, the collective tightening of millions of buttholes could be heard throughout the world, none louder than that of Kovalev’s trainer, Buddy McGirt.
Kovalev would survive the round as Yarde fell just a punch or two short of forcing the ref to jump in and save Kovalev from his assault. It’s a moment that will earn Yarde bragging rights in bars and gyms for decades to come but unfortunately there’s not a “came close” column on fighter’s records.
(It seems like every few months or so, the U.K. boxing community has to be reminded that “almost winning” isn’t the same as, you know, actually winning. It’s not a knock per se, and the thrill that Yarde gave them in that 8th round is kinda sorta the reason we watch this godforsaken sport, but there’s no second place in boxing.)
It was to be Yarde’s last stand as his and his camp’s decision not to traditionally spar in the lead up to this fight would be his downfall. Muscular arms and empty lungs are a terrible combination in the back half of a fight and like a woman leaving a party in Big Bear, Kovalev knew just when to strike.
In the 10th round Kovalev seasoned his steak and in the 11th he threw it on the grill. It was ultimately a jab that knocked Yarde down and then out but the end result came from an accumulation of punishment and the limitations of an untrained human body not adequately prepared to absorb it.
You could see the moment the life left Yarde’s body. Hell, if you knew what you were watching you could practically time it down to the second.
So Yarde goes back to England, bruised but not broken. He’s a fine fighter with solid fundamentals, a fighting heart and a good chin. As it stands, he could compete on a B-level for years to come and carve out a steady career. If he wants to move up, though, he’s going to have to restructure his team and the way he trains. It’ll tell us a lot more about who he is as a fighter after a full training camp with a competent team behind him.
For Kovalev, the top of the sport is once again in his sights. A proposed fight with boxing’s ATM machine, Canelo Alvarez, is somehow more than just a rumor now.
A fight with Canelo feels like the pugilistic version of Jurassic Park: So preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should. It makes little to no sense but if it goes down, count me in. I’m only here for the chaos and it doesn’t get much wackier than that.
In the end, there’s a comfort in predictability. It’s the reason you bring an umbrella when it’s cloudy and you pack your hemorrhoid donut on Taco Tuesday.
Knowing the destination doesn’t ruin the journey.