Anthony Yarde took a leap of faith on Saturday night when travelling to Russia in a bid to dethrone one of the best light-heavyweight champions of recent years.
‘The Beast’ gave up a huge $1,000,000 step aside fee in order to face Sergey Kovalev before the ‘Krusher’ is pitted against Canelo Alvarez this November.
Alongside controversial trainer Tunde Ajayi, Yarde made the journey to Kovalev’s backyard. On Saturday night he almost did the unthinkable.
After a good first round and a subsequent five taking too much of Kovalev’s exceptional jab, Yarde came to life in the seventh. It was clear Kovalev was tiring.
Going to the body, Yarde was sapping Kovalev’s energy, apparently softening the ex-unified ruler up for an eighth round onslaught. And so it proved to be the case.
Yarde couldn’t miss in that eighth session as Kovalev was completely spent. Blow after blow reigned down on Kovalev as referee Luis Pabon watched on closely.
In the end, Pabon gave Kovalev the benefit of the doubt despite looking completely out of it. The bell sounded to save Kovalev a certain loss.
Coach James ‘Buddy’ McGirt then went to work motivating his man.
McGirt, who had sadly gone through the heartbreak of Maxim Dadashev’s death earlier this summer despite pulling the 28 year-old out of the contest, was not going to standby as Kovalev took headshot after headshot.
A stern warning came from the former world champion.
“You’ve got to show me something this round or I’m stopping the fight,” said McGirt to Kovalev as an astonished crowd contemplated what they had just witnessed.
WHAT A FIGHT! 👏
Anthony Yarde came to Russia to win the world title and nearly realised his dream during a crazy eighth round…
— Boxing on BT Sport 🥊 (@BTSportBoxing) August 24, 2019
Kovalev came out for the ninth and did exactly what any top fighter would do. He kept his opponent at arm’s length.
Yarde had seemingly punched himself out and had no way of even attempting to capiltalize on his good work.
The tables had clearly turned, and by the tenth, it was Kovalev head-hunting Yarde. Landing on the target with ease, it was eventually Kovalev’s supreme jab which put Yarde down.
With absolutely nothing left to give, Yarde was correctly waved off by Pabon.
It was a gallant effort from Yarde, but one which posed plenty of questions from fans and those involved in the sport.
In a slant at Ajayi’s lack of talking in the corner for the first few rounds and his eventual advice in the tenth, one fan said: “The difference between Buddy McGirt in Kovalev’s corner after the 8th vs. Tunde Ajayi in Yarde’s corner after the 10th pretty much sums it all up.”
Another stated: “Tunde Ajayi, hang your head in shame. Yarde has shown he has a heart but it’s clear the training, the conditioning, the advice in-between rounds were absolutely pants!
“All that tough talk and you were silent as a mouse in the ring. Clown.”
Former boxer Paul Smith Jnr gave Ajayi both barrels in the aftermath.
He said: “Honest opinion? His trainer is a fraud. He’s more interested in himself, his ego and his social media presence. He’s done nothing in boxing. Dangerous.
“Yarde is a nice kid. Needs a good, experienced team around him to realise his potential.”
Ex-world title challenger Kevin Mitchell had his own view. The Londoner seemed to want to give Ajayi the benefit of the doubt.
“Success and failure is a very fine line mate trust me I know from experience and Yarde was so close.”
On Sunday, and upon reflection, Ajayi gave his own thoughts when defending the stoppage.
“Give no one in all the world the power to deflect you from your goal. Your aim in life, which is to express your hidden talents to the world.
“Last night the whole world saw what Anthony, myself and our whole team were made of. Came from nothing and made it happen.”
Raising his stock in the fight, Yarde can certainly come again. For Ajayi, the uncertainty remains.
Phil Jay is Editor of World Boxing News and an Auxiliary member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow on Twitter @PhilDJay