The famous American industrialist and business magnate Henry Ford famously said that “obstacles are the scary things you see when you take your eyes off your goal”.
However, the auto pioneer’s words don’t hold true for Britain’s Anthony Yarde this weekend. There will be very little on his mind at the moment that is unrelated to his goal of becoming the world’s light heavyweight champion. However, he still sees an obstacle standing in front of him, which is Russia’s Artur Beterbiev. And it’s hard to imagine something scarier.
As an amateur, Beterbiev has won gold medals at both world and European levels, and his run for an Olympic medal in 2012 ended only when he clashed against a certain Oleskandr Usyk in the quarterfinals. in London. After that, the 28-year-old decided to join the paid ranks and moved to Canada to start his professional journey.
The progress and development of “King Artur” remains a blueprint to guide an elite amateur towards glory in the professional game. Promoter Yvon Michel expertly mentored Dagestani on both competitor standards and regulator ratings. In just twelve professional matches, Beterbiev became the world champion.
His reign as champion was, as is well documented, brutal. Even as the level of outcry grows, a boxer has not yet been found to bear the final bell with Beterbiev. He proved it capable of stopping world-class competition sooner or later – just ask Oleksandr Gvozdyk and Joe Smith Jr. corresponding.
Now holding three of the four world titles in the 175 lbs class, there’s no doubt who’s the leader in this division.
Anthony Yarde, the home boxer in London this weekend but undeniably the B-side, seems to be superior in every way.
The Hackney man didn’t have a flashy amateur career. In fact, he barely had an amateur career at all. Yarde was on track to become a professional soccer player with the Queens Park Rangers, until a foot injury pulled the rug out of that particular athletic track. At the age of 19, he entered the boxing gym for the first time.
After just twelve games, Yarde decided to turn professional at the age of 24, and quickly realized that what he lacked in school was making up for in his explosiveness. Yarde was stopping everyone placed before him, and it wasn’t long before he was snapped up by major UK promoter Queensberry.
Under the leadership of Frank Warren, Yarde has secured a solid place in the WBO rankings without having to face any truly remarkable opponents. When he was called the mandatory challenger against Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev in 2019, the most prestigious belt in his category was the southern region title. A respectable prize, but hardly adequate preparation for the likes of Kovalev.
Yarde would taste defeat again against domestic rival Lyndon Arthur, however, he avenged this loss just over a year later in destructive fashion. Then a couple of extra-time wins against lesser opponents, and he found himself tasked with toppling an even greater champion than Kovalev.
The bookies and the boxing public gave Yarde very few chances. He is an 8/1 underdog at the time of writing, and many in the sport have said a win would be one of the biggest defeats ever for an Englishman.
But where exactly will it rank? In 2015, Tyson Fury fooled heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko to a resounding victory, thereby turning the tide of the tournament. However, the cracks in Klitschko’s armor were exposed before that and unlike Yarde, Fury has won titles at British and European levels to prove he is on the same level as ‘Dr Steelhammer’ ‘.
Ricky Hatton’s win over Kostya Tszyu in 2004 also came out. Without a doubt, Tszyu was a pound boxer, but had tasted defeat before that and Hatton had been tested at the highest level and was considered one of the best 140 lb boxers in the world.
If Yarde dethrones Beterbiev this Saturday night at the OVO Arena, it will likely be the biggest disappointment bout a British boxer has caused since the turn of the millennium. He’ll have to hope that 38-year-old Beterbiev starts to feel his age overnight, and trusts in his own strength and speed enough to get into the firing line soon. It might prove he’s undoing, but Beterbiev was knocked out by fighters far worse than Yarde in the opening sequences of the bout.
Victory would change Yarde’s life and would shock the entire sport.