“Lions in the camp”- shouts the young cub, Anthony Yarde, as he faced the “Krusher” in the Lions den in Russia on the 24th of August 2019
Sergey Kovalev has held multiple light heavyweight world championships, including the WBA (Super) and IBF titles from 2014 to 2016, and the WBO title three times between 2013 and 2019. Owing to his long amateur boxing prowess with Russia, Kovalev has dominated the light heavyweight class in the pro ranks, sticking to technical boxing and energy-conserving efficiency. As of November 2019, Kovalev is ranked as the world’s second-best active light heavyweight by The Ring magazine. Nicknamed the “Krusher”, Kovalev is particularly known for his exceptional punching power and lethal jab.
Anthony Yarde in many ways is Kovalev’s opposite. Criticised for his diminishing energy reserves past the opening rounds and miniscule amateur experience, it was deemed that Yarde would be less of a challenge than some of the very methodical boxers he had faced in his previous 37 bouts. Yarde, who amassed 17 knockouts out of 18 fights had done so against distinctly average opponents and never passed the 7th round. What he did have in abundance was confidence and youth.
Simmering with excitement, the muscular physic of Yarde entered the ring confidently, he could care less that Infront of him stood a seasoned veteran.
Early in the fight, Kovalev’s jab nullified the offense of his lesser experienced challenger. Yarde was attempting to employ his Philly Shell style. In the first round, he had some success with a sweeping left hook which was followed closely by an off-centre right hand. The jab was present by Kovalev but Yarde turned up the heat early to dissuade the Russian.
Over the course of the action in round two and three, Yarde and Kovalev engaged in cautious but potent work, a sort of broiling action. Kovalev set up his punches on Yarde’s poor footwork by boxing him into a right hand on several occasions, whilst Yarde continued to land his check hook to the head. He also persisted with mercurial body work on the older man who is known for his soft body.
Round four Yarde began to slow down, and his punch output drops. The angle grinding jab of Kovalev began to drop the security of Yarde’s defence. Penetrating through the centre and sneaking shots to the stomach, the amateur pedigree of Kovalev was clear. But Yarde had landed some important body shots, banking in the pain for later.
Five and six were keenly contested, but it is Yarde’s defence which fails him the most as the right hand of Kovalev finds its home. As Yarde moves to his right, Kovalev steps to his left, cutting him off. The shell defence is no match for the accuracy of the Krusher as he slides in shots off the feint. Kovalev pours on shots to the now drained Yarde. The bout looks as though its inevitable end will come in the later rounds when Yarde’s deficient footwork walks him on to a big shot. In the closing minute of the sixth round, Kovalev knits together a wall of combinations which start to overwhelm the Brit, forcing him to trudge backwards.
In the seventh round, the young lion summons enough energy to give the old lion something to think of. The beginning of the round sees more of Kovalev’s shrilling jab landing at will, but a minute in, Yarde switches up his defensive stance into a high guard and marches Kovalev down. As the bigger man, he is able to swipe Kovalev’s jab away to shunt hurtful body punches and hooks to the head. For the first real-time for either fighter, Kovalev looks hurt. The hearts of the Russian spectators began to beat nervously.
The eighth begins by displaying a thrilling exchange between the pair, swapping hard hurtful punches. An explosive burst of clubbing hooks caught the senior boxer off guard halfway through round eight as the true brawling nature of Yarde comes into play. In a somewhat ugly manner, Yarde firmly crosses the threshold into his second wind. He has now completely abandoned his shelf defence and is peeking through a conventional boxing stance, picking off the more experienced fighters straight punches. Opening Kovalev’s guard with a thundering right hook, which completely wrecks him, Yarde then pounces on the Russian, chasing him around the ring to knock the tottering man down. The frivolity removed from his face in the ring walk and supplanted by a menacing scowl, Yarde struck at the body with determination. Kovalev eats several nasty power punches before he is able to hold and survive. Whilst Kovalev hung on for dear life in an outstanding display of desperation, Yarde was gassing himself. By the end of the round, Yarde was utterly drained.
Between rounds Kovalev’s trainer, Buddy McGirt told him that he would be stopping the fight if he were to experience any more big shots like the ones he had just taken. McGirt was the trainer in the corner of Maxim Dadashev when he passed away shortly after his fight with Subriel Mattias just the previous month.
In the tenth round, Kovalev took advantage of a drastically slowed and spent Yarde. The jab returned and he began to beat Yarde up with combinations. The uppercut now featured which split the guard of Yarde effortlessly.
In the 11th, Kovalev landed with even more regularity before dropping him with a jab. Yarde, utterly outboxed could not rise to his feet, mostly due to the utter exhaustion of having to push the pace against the more efficient old lion.