There comes a time in many boxers’ careers where the lure of cold, hard cash outweighs the significance of leaving a legacy of wins and titles in the sport.
For Anthony Yarde, a young fighter very much on the up, the emphasis is on cementing a career at light-heavyweight and winning a belt or two – starting with Sergey Kovalev’s WBO gold in their showdown on August 24.
It’s a fight that might not have even happened had Yarde betrayed his own ambition and took the money….
It has been revealed that Saul Alvarez, the world-class Mexican, had offered the British fighter his entire fight fee to step aside and let ‘Canelo’ tackle Kovalev instead.
That was something of a shock in itself, with Alvarez showing no previous desire to become a three-weight world champion. But Yarde stuck to his guns, identifying the bout with Kovalev as the perfect opportunity to rip the belt from the waist of the Russian in his hometown of Chelyabinsk.
Hard work don’t lie… pic.twitter.com/khLIKbtUUk
— Anthony Yarde (@thebeastyarde) August 7, 2019
“I got offered step aside money,” Yarde has confirmed to the Daily Mail in the UK. “They offered me the same amount that I’m getting for the fight and I laughed it [sic].”
“I said to them, you better be doubling or tripling it to get me to step aside because this is a world title fight.”
The 27-year-old, with 17 knockouts in his perfect 18-0-0 record, has every right to be confident, but he is taking a big step up in class against the man known as ‘Krusher’, who returns home to Russian soil after a few questionable performances Stateside.
Nobody can say to Yarde that he has made the right or wrong decision in turning down Canelo’s money – this is his career and his legacy, but he does have his work cut out in wrestling Kovalev’s belt from his waist. The sportsbooks make the home fighter a warm favorite in their Kovalev vs Yarde odds, and you would assume the Brit needs a knockout or a comprehensive points win that cannot be disputed by the judges.
Can Yarde head to Kovalev’s yard and achieve the not impossible but certainly unlikely?
Yarde has earned the nickname the ‘Beast from the East’ thanks to his upbringing in Hackney, an enclave in the east of London.
On August 24 he will meet a man with every right to that moniker too. In a seven-year reign of terror in the light-heavyweight division, Kovalev bashed his way past the likes of Jean Pascal (twice), Bernard Hopkins and Nathan Cleverly to confirm his status as the premier 178lb merchant on the planet.
But then the great Andre Ward, surely one of best pound-for-pound fighters of the modern era, decided he wanted a slice of the light-heavy pie. He dished out two convincing defeats to Kovalev, the second of which was a brutal eighth round stoppage.
It’s hard for some fighters to ever recover from a significant knockout or stoppage defeat, and Kovalev’s performances since his demise at the hands of Ward have not been convincing – even if he claimed the losses were a blessing in disguise. Perhaps a return to Russia will enable him to rediscover his mojo.
Because if he doesn’t, Yarde – blessed with plenty of punch power – will become a very dangerous underdog indeed. Whether he has the nous and technical ability to mix it with the home fighter in anything other than a slugfest remains to be seen, but don’t discount the British man here.