By: Darren Paradise
In what could be the most intriguing match-up of 2019, Saturday night will see Sergey Kovalev defend his WBO light heavyweight title against Briton Anthony Yarde in his home town of Chelyabinsk, Russia. With the champion in the twilight of his career and the challenger being somewhat of an unknown quantity, opinions are divided on the outcome of this one.
It is the general consensus that Kovalev is now a champion on the slide. He is certainly the most established of the light heavyweight champions but Kovalev is no longer regarded as the most formidable, he is perhaps the weakest link of the current crop, even being handpicked as a potential future opponent for boxings premier attraction Saul “Canelo” Alvarez who is well known for feasting on an abundance of declining, lighter or overmatched opposition. With all this said, one should not forget that the light heavyweight division is stacked with talent and Kovalev did not earn his nickname of “Krusher” without good reason.
Photo Credit: Main Events Promotions
But what of the challenger?
Taking on a world champion in his home country has never been the easiest of tasks for any challenger but taking on a champion in deepest darkest Russia could be on a whole new level. Anthony Yarde appears unfazed. At 28-years old with 17 knockouts in a perfect 18-0 record it is unsurprising that Yarde feels that he has all the tools required to topple the Russian. With his model good looks, sculpted physique and undeniable charisma a dominant victory for Yarde may well see the arrival of boxings newest poster boy. Not too dissimilar to that of countryman Anthony Joshua, Yarde brings the type of crossover appeal required to transcend the sport and achieve superstar status. He will certainly be bringing youth and power into the ring with him and if the rumoured step aside money offered to him from team Alvarez is true it suggests that he also brings supreme confidence. It is a deeper look in to where that confidence arises from that begs the question as to whether or not he is up to the task. Firstly we have the coveted undefeated record and more than impressive knockout ratio. Of course he looks sublime in dismantling below par opposition, but in truth, the mettle of the man has never been tested. How will he react under pressure? Can he remain calm? Can he handle Kovalev’s power? Can he find an answer to the “Krusher’s” jab? Then we have the highly unorthodox methods of his trainer and mentor Tunde Ajayi where training involves an abundance of positivity but no sparring. How can one prepare for the biggest fight of his life without sparring? It is not only essential for the tactics and strategy of a fight, but also prepares the body for the traumas of battle. If the body is not prepared for battle, positivity is likely to disintegrate at an alarming rate. But who am I? If Yarde were to pull this one off Ajayi could forever be known as the pioneer of new age boxing training and psychology.
Victory for Anthony Yarde will certainly change the landscape of the 175lb division. Should Yarde defeat Kovalev in devastating fashion, any foray into light heavyweight for “Canelo” will certainly be put on the back burner but Yarde will not be in short supply of unification and domestic blockbusters down the road.
Sergey himself I am sure is extremely confident of an easy nights work, disregarding Yarde as a potential banana skin for a megabucks showdown with “Canelo” Alvarez but at 36 years of age and plenty of hard nights behind him is he overestimating how much is left in the tank?
This fight poses many a question but I have the feeling all will be both asked and answered within the first three minutes of the opening bell.