Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Beterbiev-Yarde Thoughts

 The fight between undefeated unified IBF/WBO/WBC Light-Heavyweight world champion Artur Beterbiev and top Light-Heavyweight contender Anthony Yards was one that brought two of the division’s power punchers together. What made this more intriguing was the fact that the champion Beterbiev had knocked out every previous opponent that he had faced as a professional. Although Yarde had previously fought for a world title and gave a determined effort against then WBO world champion Sergey Kovalev in 2018, he had suffered one setback and avenged it prior to this encounter.

Despite working his way back into world title contention and having scored knockouts in twenty a two of his twenty-three career wins, there were many that considered Yarde to be a significant underdog going into his second opportunity at a world championship. While this in part was likely due to the aura that Beterbiev had established as one of the Light-Heavyweight division’s feared “Knockout Artists,” as well as perhaps the outcome of Yarde’s previous attempt at a world championship against Kovalev, where after a good start where it appeared at times that he might have been on the verge of stopping him, he ultimately fell to fatigue as well as Kovalev’s pressure before being stopped in the eleventh round.

In previewing this world championship bout, this observer stated that it would likely come down to whether or not Anthony Yarde would be able to combat the pressure of Beterbiev and do so for all twelve rounds. When the two fighters met at the legendary Wembley Arena in London England on January 28th, the crowd support was in favor of Yarde as expected and for a time it appeared as though the challenger had a tactical strategy in which to approach Beterbiev. This included using faints as well as varying his attack between the body and the head.


For a brief time, it appeared to favor Anthony Yarde. As the fight progressed however, and Artur Beterbiev began to close the distance it turned into a fire fight between two of the Light-Heavyweight division’s feared punchers. While this was the fight that yours truly personally expected to happen at some point as the two fighters engaged, I was impressed by how Anthony Yarde was able to respond to the champion’s power punches and how he was also able to return power shots of his own.


One thing that Yarde got away from as the fight progressed was he did not go to Beterbiev’s body consistently and did not at any point try to administer a sustained attack to the body. The concept of a body attack in Boxing and other combat sports is a bit of a lost art as it can be one of the most effective components of a fighter’s offense when executed properly as it can not only take a fighter’s legs away and thus their ability to move and evade an attack, but it also can gradually fatigue a fighter with punching power such as Beterbiev. Thus, it is a lost art that is very underappreciated by many competing in the sport.


The challenger, perhaps inspired by the atmosphere of the event with a hometown crowd supporting him, instead neglected what appeared to be a tactical approach early in the fight and chose to fight Beterbiev essentially toe to toe. Although no one can take away from the courage Anthony Yarde showed in this fight, the decision to fight fire with fire proved to be costly as eventually after several heated exchanges that left both fighters hurt and bleeding throughout the fight, Beterbiev would drop Yarde with a flush right hand to the jaw that sent the challenger down on his knees in the eighth round. Yarde showed his mettle by getting up from the knockdown though clearly hurt and fatigued. It would only be moments before the challenger’s corner would step up on the ring apron and ask for the fight to be stopped.


The victory for Beterbiev was his nineteenth consecutive victory in his thus far undefeated career and also his nineteenth consecutive knockout. A victory for the champion that will obviously stir more interest in a potential unification bout between Beterbiev and undefeated WBA world champion Dmitry Bivol for the Undisputed Light-Heavyweight championship of the world. It appears unlikely that the potential fight between the two will happen in 2023 due to Bivol likely facing the man he beat last year Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in a rematch that if nothing else is a more lucrative opportunity for him at the present time, despite his dominating Alvarez when they met in May of last year.


As for Anthony Yarde, as was the case when he first fought for a world championship in losing via knockout to former longtime Light-Heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev in 2018, he was not disgraced in this fight and showed his mettle in defeat. While some may choose to say that Yarde will no longer be a factor in the Light-Heavyweight division, I don’t necessarily share that point of view. Yarde proved once again why he has been a top contender in the division for several years and I believe it may have been a case of him allowing the atmosphere and emotion of the event before a hometown crowd to get to him and thus he ended up forgoing what appeared to be a tactical strategy to try and combat Beterbiev and chose to go toe to toe. Although that certainly made the fight more entertaining for any fan that may have been watching it, it was the wrong approach to take. Perhaps after some time to reflect on this setback and maybe even make additions to his team, Yarde as he was able to do following his loss to Kovalev, can bounce back and be back in the mix of potential challengers for Beterbiev, Bivol, or whomever holds a world championship in the Light-Heavyweight division at that time.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


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