Friday, January 27, 2023

Can Yarde Pull Off The Next Light-Heavyweight Upset?


Perhaps the biggest story in Boxing in 2022 came in the month of May when undefeated WBA Light-Heavyweight world champion Dmitry Bivol scored a dominant twelve round unanimous decision over current Undisputed Super-Middleweight world champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez to retain his WBA crown. While Bivol was naturally bigger and stronger than Alvarez and has a difficult Boxing style that has proven difficult for opponents to combat, much less solve, most viewed his victory over Alvarez as “An Upset.” This view, which is not shared by this observer, is based largely on the fact that Alvarez is one of the sport’s biggest stars and the expectation of many was that he would defeat Bivol, a fighter not well-known to casual fans on what was his quest to begin the process of trying to fully unify a second division after what he had accomplished in fully unifying the 168lb. Super-Middleweight division. While Boxing is truly the theater of the unexpected, Bivol did go against the script that at least some had envisioned prior to that fight.


With victories over Alvarez and former Super-Middleweight world champion Gilberto Ramirez in 2022 behind him, Bivol could potentially be nearing either a rematch with Alvarez or a potential unification bout with the only remaining world champion in the 175lb. Light-Heavyweight division. Artur Beterbiev. Like Bivol, Beterbiev is an undefeated world champion, currently holding the IBF, WBC, and WBO crowns in the division, which would make a potential encounter with Bivol for the Undisputed Light-Heavyweight championship of the world. Before the Boxing world can begin wetting their collective appetites for that bout, Beterbiev has business to tend to as he will defend his unified portion of the World Light-Heavyweight championship against IBF number three rated contender Anthony Yarde on Saturday, January 28th at the  Wembley Arena in London, England.


The fight, which can be seen here in the United States on digital subscription sports streaming network ESPN+, has one central question that surrounds it. Can Yarde pull off what would be seen as a significant upset and derail any potential plans for an undisputed clash between Beterbiev and Bivol. This will be Yarde’s second opportunity at a world championship. In August 2019, a then undefeated Yarde put forth a spirited effort against former longtime WBO Light-Heavyweight world champion and division cornerstone Sergey Kovalev before being stopped in the eleventh round. Yarde did appear to have Kovalev in trouble throughout that fight and made a good account of himself in defeat. Since that loss, Yarde has split two fights with Light-Heavyweight contender Lyndon Arthur, losing a twelve round split decision in their first fight in December 2020 and avenging that loss via fourth round knockout in their rematch in December 2021.


The London-born Yarde will have significant support from the crowd in attendance at the legendary Wembley Arena, but he does face a difficult task in the champion Beterbiev. In some ways however, this is a similar situation as the one the challenger faced when he fought Kovalev in that like Kovalev, Beterbiev is a “Knockout Artist.”


Beterbiev has knocked out all eighteen of his previous opponents as a professional and has the ability to end a fight with either hand. What this will likely come down to is whether or not Yarde will be able to combat the pressure of Beterbiev and do so for all twelve rounds if needed. In his last title defense, Beterbiev destroyed WBO world champion Joe Smith in two rounds. The champion has also shown the ability to overcome adversity during a fight as he showed in his title defense against Marcus Browne in December 2021, where he suffered a deep gash on his forehead early in the fight as a result of an accidental clash of heads, before stopping Browne in the ninth round. In both instances neither Browne or Smith had a way to deal with Beterbiev‘s relentless pressure and could not avoid his punching power.


Yarde does have twenty-two knockouts in his twenty-three career wins so he is also capable of ending a fight early should an opportunity arise. Whether or not he will have a tactical approach or will attempt to fight fire with fire and go toe to toe with Beterbiev remains to be seen. Wisdom would suggest that he will need to find a way to dictate the fight from the outset and try to nullify Beterbiev’s pressure if he wants to pull off the upset in front of a hometown crowd, as the champion has only shown one approach in his career, seek and destroy.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


Beterbiev vs. Yarde takes place on Saturday, January 29th at the Wembley Arena in London, England. The card can be seen in the United States on digital subscription sports streaming network ESPN+ beginning at 2:30PM ET/11:30AM PT.


ESPN+ is available through the ESPN app on mobile, tablet, and connected streaming devices and smart TVs. For more information about ESPN+ including schedules, list of compatible streaming devices, platforms, Smart TVs, and to subscribe please visit:


*Card and start time subject to change.*


*Check your local listings internationally.*


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