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WBO orders Sergey Kovalev vs. Anthony Yarde

Sergey Kovalev Anthony Yarde Kovalev vs. Yarde WBO

By Scott Gilfoid: Earlier on Wednesday, the WBO ordered World Boxing Organization light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev and mandatory challenger Anthony Yarde to begin negotiations for a fight with a deadline of April 12 before a purse bid takes place.


Yarde (18-0, 17 KOs) has been in position for a world title fight against Kovalev (33-3-1, 28 KOs) for ages now. Yarde finally wants to challenge for a world title, and it’s a good thing that he does, because he might lose his ranking if he doesn’t take the fight. The WBO can’t keep guys ranked #1 when they don’t want to fight for a world title.

To say that Yarde is totally unprepared to fight a fighter as talented as 35-year-old Kovalev is putting it lightly. Yarde’s experience as a pro has been woeful at best. With the type of opposition that Yarde has been feasting on, he arguably has no business being ranked at #1 by the WBO. A better ranking would be #15, and even that would be overly kind. The WBO is doing Yarde no favors in ranking him this highly at this still early stage in his career. It’s not that Yarde isn’t a good fighter. He’s shown some flashes talent, but the guy needs more experience before fighting for a world title, and unfortunately he’s not going to get that experience until AFTER he faces Kovalev.

This is a bad time for Yarde to be facing the talented Kovalev, as the Russian fighter has gone through major improvements in his game with new trainer Buddy McGirt. He’s changed Kovalev all the way around with his new emphasis on boxing instead of slugging. Kovalev recently recaptured his WBO 175 lb title last month in defeating previously unbeaten Eleider Alvarez (24-1, 12 KOs) by a 12 round unanimous decision on ESPN in Frisco, Texas. The performance by Kovalev was similar to how he fought against Bernard Hopkins five years ago when he defeated B-Hop by a one-sided 12 round decision in 2014. In Kovalev’s previous encounter with Eleider, he was stopped in the 7th round last year in August 2018.


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A lot of boxing fans were saying that Kovalev was done as a fighter, and should think about retiring. Instead, Kovalev switched out his trainer, and went with the well known McGirt, who had him take his fighting style back to the basics to how he used to fight when he was in the amateur ranks in Russia. Under McGirt’s guidance, Kovalev looked sensational in beating Alvarez by a one-sided 12 round decision to regain his WBO light heavyweight title. The win by Kovalev was so impressive that it put him back up the top of the 175 lb weight class in the eyes of a lot of boxing fans, back with champions Dmitry Bivol [WBA], Oleksander Gvozdyk [WBC], Artur Beterbiev [IBF] and Marcus Browne [interim WBC]. It still remains to be seen whether Kovalev can beat those talents, but at least he’s seen in same light as those fighters once again by the boxing public for the time being. Yarde isn’t likely going to knock Kovalev off his perch as the WBO title. That’s not likely to happen unless Yarde catches Kovalev with a big shot, and then empties his gas tank by flurrying on him like he did his last opponent journeyman Travis Reeves.

It’s unknown why on earth the WBO has given Yarde a #1 ranking. I mean, there are other fighters that are fringe level, and just starting out with unbeaten records, and the WBO isn’t ranking them at #1. Like Gilfoid said, the WBO is doing Yarde NO favors at all having him ranked number one at this premature stage of his career. Yarde is basically walking the plank now in taking on Kovalev right now. You can argue that Yarde’s promoter would help him greatly if he told the WBO on his behalf, ‘Thanks for the high ranking and ordering the fight, but we’ll have decline that offer for now. Yarde needs more experience, and A LOT of it.’ That obviously isn’t going to happen, so we’re about to find out what end result is when a fighter that isn’t ready to be fighting for a world title gets a title shot against ‘The Krusher’ Kovalev. The good news is Kovalev might choose to box Yarde’s head off rather than going after him to smash him up right away, but even when Kovalev is boxing, he’s still throwing major power shots that would take out most light heavyweights, especially ones with weak chins. Having seen the light hitting journeyman Tony Averlant (26-11-2, 5 KOs) stagger Yarde on several occasions last year in February, Yarde will be lucky if he makes it passed the third round against Kovalev.

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Yarde looked like nothing special in his recent fifth round knockout win over 38-year-old Travis Reeves (17-4-2, 7 KOs) on March 8 at the Royal Albert Hall. That fight was competitive until Yarde caught Reeves with a big shot in the fifth, and then took him out.

The problem that Yarde has is he cannot afford to pass up this title shot against Kovalev. The Russian fighter will likely lose to a younger fighter in the next year or two, so even if Yarde waits a couple of years to gain more experience before fighting for a world title, it won’t get any easier for him. He won’t likely have an old Kovalev to deal with. It’ll likely be someone like Marcus Browne, who would be a bad news for Yarde. That would be a nightmare him. With Yarde being matched up against quality opposition to pick up experience, he could languish for another five years, and still be no better off than he is now. You don’t improve when you’re being fed fodder opposition one after another. Yarde’s been facing elementary opposition since his first pro fight. His management should have weened him from the cannon fodder level fighters after his third fight, and stopped feeding him pablum opposition and given him on solids.

If Yarde doesn’t get injured or if his promoter doesn’t tell the WBO that they’re not interested, this is going to be a fight with a predictable ending once it happens. Hopefully, Yarde’s career isn’t wrecked from the loss to Kovalev. If Yarde learns from the loss, he might be able to improve, and eventually come back again. It’s really difficult to say until after it’s over, and we see what kind of match-making is done for Yarde. There are a lot of guys that Yarde should have been put in with for him to get ready for the Kovalev title shot.

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Yarde should have some of these guys to prepare for Kovalev:

– Jean Pascal

– Sullivan Barrera

– Callum Johnson

– Radivoje Kalajdzic

– Isaac Chilemba

– Joshua Buatsi

– Felix Valera

– Joe Smith Jr.

– Karo Murat

– Andrzj Fonfara

– Igor Mikhalkin

– Badou Jack

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