ANTHONY YARDE CAPTURED the imagination of the fight public with a stirring challenge against the unified and unbeaten world light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev at the end of January.
Yarde traded blow for blow with the fearsome knockout artist and was very much on an equal footing until Beterbiev landed a telling blow in the eighth round and Yarde’s corner decided they had seen enough and their man had little more to give.
His stock, however, remained on the up and becoming a world champion is still a very real prospect.
Yarde has been heavily invested in the collection of belts business since winning the Southern Area strap in his 11th fight as a pro.
Just seven fights later and the charismatic light heavy was off to Russia to take on the formidable champion Sergey Kovalev. He was a matter of seconds away from stopping Kovalev in round eight before the timely intervention of the bell saved the home fighter.
Ultimately, Yarde ran out of steam and was stopped in the 11th, but gave a good account of himself and showed he would remain a force in the division.
Now 31, the self-styled Beast from the East – of London – started his collection in May of 2017 when, at the Copper Box, he systematically dismantled Chris Hobbs to win the Southern Area light heavyweight title.
Embedded in this brutal display of body punching was a message to his promoter Frank Warren that he wanted more of the same and the promoter obliged his man with the making of match for the WBO European title next time out in the July.
The Hungarian champion, Richard Baranyi, was unable to de-rail the Yarde express and referee Jeff Hinds spared him further punishment by stopping the contest nine seconds before the end of the first round, with Baranyi having been dispatched to the canvas.
Norbert Nemesapati fared a little better two months later when the WBO Intercontinental title was added to the prize list. Another Hungarian, Nemesapati, was floored twice in the second round before calling it a night at the end of the third.
Being too good for his own good has been a theme since Yarde’s entry into the sport of boxing. The fact that his amateur experience – just 12 fights – is so limited is down to the fact that matching him became problematic.
The seasoned and previously not stopped Nikola Sjekloca was drafted in with the idea of providing Yarde some valuable ring time in September of 2017, with both WBO title belts at stake.
Sjekloca, who had drawn with European champion Robert Stieglitz in his previous encounter, also had close run affairs with the likes of Tyron Zeuge and Sakio Bika on his ledger, but his durability diminished against the London light heavy.
Sjekloca was down in the second and again in the fourth before being stopped by referee Steve Gray with over a minute left in the fourth round.
The Frenchman Tony Averlant proved to be stubborn as Yarde opted to take his time at York Hall in February 2018. The 34-year-old lasted until the seventh round, despite hitting the canvas twice in the sixth.
Yarde added another string to his bow in June when he tackled a his first southpaw opposition in the shape of the Pole Dariusz Sek, who came into the contest with a creditable 27-3-3 ledger, having previously taken on the likes of Robin Krasniqi and never having been stopped.
That distinction was lost at the 02 Arena when, having been put to the canvas in round one, he found himself on the end of calculating attacks from Yarde before having his evening ended in the seventh round.
Yarde made a further defence of his WBO Intercontinental belt against Walter Gabriel Sequeira at the Brentwood Centre in October 2018, where the tough man from Buenos Aires was stopped in four, before, in March of the following year, confident American Travis Reeves was dismantled in the fifth round and the same title was comfortably retained.
After Kovalev, Yarde got straight back to winning ways with two stoppages over Diego Ramirez and Dec Spelman before Frank Warren matched his two top light heavyweights together in London during the Covid-19 lockdown period.
A tight and cagey collision was won by Lyndon Arthur via a split decision and Arthur took Yarde’s No.1 ranking and his WBO belt.
A first round stoppage of Alex Theran followed, before Yarde and Arthur entered into a much anticipated rematch at the Copper Box Arena in front of a sell-out crowd. This time Yarde was straight on the front foot and hunted Arthur down before stopping him in the fourth round to put himself right back in world title contention and reinforced his position as the best and most recognisable light heavyweight in Great Britain.