By: William Holmes
Sergey Kovalev (33-3-1) defended his WBO Light Heavyweight Title against Anthony Yarde (18-0) in his hometown of Chelyabinsk, Russia on ESPN+.
Top Rank Promotions has teamed up with Main Event Promotions to televise this card on ESPN+. The undercard featured a thrilling majority decision win by Illunga Makabu over the very game Aleksei Papin.
Fight fans were expecting a knockout in this fight, as a young challenger that had stopped every opponent but one and was facing a champion already known for his devastating power. This event was sold out with an announced attendance of 7,500.
Yarde entered the ring first to a muted pop, while Kovalev entered second and was warmly greeted by the crowd. Kovalev had Buddy McGirt in his corner.
The openin round was a little slow, but both boxers appeared to be in good shape and were gauging their distance with jabs and check left hooks. Yarde had some success with his counter left hooks, but neither had any notable offense.
Kovalev began to land his jabs at a higher rate in the second and third rounds, but didn’t have Yarde hurt at any point. Kovalev had a strong fourth round and was landing some power punches and began to wake up the crowd.
Kovalev’s jabs were snapping the head of Yarde in the fifth round, and had outlanded him 42 to 14 jabs by this point. Kovalev continued to walk down Yarde in the sixth round, who at one point spit out his mouthpiece as he was visibly tiring.
Yarde was able to land a few good shots in the sixth and seventh rounds, but he opened himself up to Kovalev’s more accurate counter punches whenever he opened up and took a risk. Yarde’s body work did appear to hurt Kovalev in the seventh round.
Yarde pressed forward in the eighth round and was landing to the body and head of Kovalev. Kovalev was warned by the referee to stop pushing with his elbow, and both boxers landed good punches during some fierce exchanges. However, Yarde appeared to be comfortable with handling the power of Kovalev and had him hurt bad with a hard right hand. Kovalev was back peddling for the remainder of the round and struggled to stay up, but was able to survive the round.
Kovalev was badly hurt in the eighth, but came back strong in the ninth round with accurate combinations in the middle of the ring that swung momentum back in his favor.
Kovalev pummeled Yarde from ring post to ring post in the tenth round and had Yarde covering up most of the time. Yarde likely needed a stoppage in the final two rounds to win the fight, and he went after Kovalev to try to get that win. But a vicious straight left jab from Kovalev sent Yarde crashing to the mat and unable to get up to his feet.
Sergey Kovalev wins by TKO at 2:04 of the eleventh round.