Broadly speaking, British boxing has earned generally deserved praise in recent years. Despite several of our global stars suffering losses over the Summer, the ‘Renaissance’ is still happily alive and well, with fighters like Lee Selby, Carl Frampton, James DeGale and a host of other title holders proudly flying the flag for Great Britain. More pleasingly, there are other fighters across all levels waiting in the wings, hungry to take up the mantle and keep the momentum going.
‘Prospect’ level is packed with fighters who look full of potential, but Anthony Yarde must surely be among those at the head of the pack. A gifted boxer who has promptly forged an impressive career so far in the pro ranks, compiling a perfect 8-0 record in the process and most recently appearing against Rayford Johnson on the Saul Alvarez – Liam Smith undercard in America last month. (fight video below)
It could be seen as slightly strange that he has managed to gain such momentum so quickly; he only amassed a total of 12 amateur fights before turning professional with Frank Warren, and aside from his recent State-side appearance, has faced opposition typical of a young pro learning the trade. Yet there has been considerable hype around Anthony’s fledgling career, and there are several reasons why fans and pundits alike can’t help but predict a bright future for the 25 year old, despite being in the very early stages of a very long journey.
For a start, he possesses phenomenal power. Speaking literally, he is pretty much knocking everyone out. Only two opponents, either amateur or pro, have lasted the distance (bar a robbery in his second amateur fight); no one else has heard the end of the third round. But it’s not just his power that catches the attention; it’s the way he applies it, coldly stalking his opponent down before landing the finishing blow.
He has also, however, managed to achieve the holy grail of combining punch power with speed. The left hook with which he dispatched Rayford Johnson came out of nowhere, a blistering shot that left the American sagging on the ropes, completely disorientated. Being the night’s opening bout, hardly anyone was there to witness it, but those who did were hugely impressed. “Johnson was TAGGED with that left hook by Anthony Yarde! He was out on his feet!” exclaimed Golden Boy commentator Beto Duran. “[I] could draw comparisons to Nigel Benn, but he doesn’t go balls to the wall the way Benn did. He’s a technical boxer [too], and he showed that.”
Duran is right; he’s certainly naturally talented. It is easy to eulogize about a prospect that has everyone talking, but it’s hard to identify a flaw in the man’s skill set. His balance, footwork, shot selection and economy of movement are very mature, and moreover, he knows it. “I’m an exciting fighter,” he said to BoxingScene.com last year. “I love going for the knockout and bringing excitement. I’m fast, I’ve got speed, great movement and power, it’s all there… I can reach the top”.
Anthony Yarde vs Rayford Johnson | On Canelo Smith – Undercard
Now for some due context: ‘the top’ is a little while away yet. While he loves going for the quick finish, it would be worth remembering there is no need to rush these early stages of his career. Heavyweight sensation Anthony Joshua, a world champion, is yet to finish his boxing education thanks to his ruthless punching. Those who have taken him beyond the 5th round (Dillian Whyte and Dominic Breazeale) have presented Joshua with issues he will surely encounter again when he finally faces the elite names, and Yarde could find himself in a similar predicament should he continue dismissing opponents with such ease.
Added to that, the British cruiserweight scene has a growing list of excellent fighters, topped by recently crowned WBC champion Tony Bellew. The likes of Ovill McKenzie, Matty Askin, Tommy McCarthy, Steven Simmons and Craig Kennedy are in hot pursuit of the Liverpudlian, and are beginning to clash with one another in a bid to follow Bellew onto the world stage. All of the above bring with them problems that Yarde will unlikely solve with power alone, therefore needing boxing skills that have looked fantastic against limited opposition but have yet to be tested against higher calibre opponents.
Having said that, he’s on the right track. What he needs to do is capitalize on his momentum gained thus far. Fans are starting to pay attention, and it won’t be long before they demand higher profile fights for the Londoner, who now needs a step up in class. The beginning of 2017 looks a good time to make that step, and by the end of next year he may well have the top contenders firmly in his sights. Cruiserweight is becoming exciting, and when guys like Anthony Yarde are ready to enter the fray alongside the division’s big names, it will get even better.