IN between knocking people out on the streets of east London, Anthony Yarde found time to have football trials for QPR, play rugby and basketball at high levels, and be trained to throw the shotput by an Olympic champion. At the age of 19, he switched to boxing and now, at the age of 25, the unbeaten light-heavyweight prospect is celebrating after scoring his eighth consecutive victory at the AT&T Stadium in Texas on Saturday (September 17).
Is it fair to say a few skirmishes on the streets of east London got you into boxing?
I was living in Stratford until I was about 13, then I moved to Forest Gate, where I stayed for my teenage years. It was around those times that I made the decision to start boxing. It wasn’t people my age either, it was older men, and that was when I got the reputation of having a big punch.
I was knocking them out with one punch. I got into altercations with a few people, but it wasn’t a case of me starting trouble. I always walked away first, but I had a very bad temper on me, so if people were putting it on me, I would defend myself. I got angry quite quick, so I would say a few words, walk away, but if anyone pursued, I’d throw the first punch.
How old were you at this point?
I’d say it was from when I was 16 to about 18, 19. It was then I realised what might happen. You’d hear about people getting hit on the streets and dying, so I knew I had to stay out of those situations. I stopped being out late at night and things like that.
At what point did you realise that you were good at boxing?
When I had my first amateur fight. People can say you’re good and this and that, but you don’t know until you get in the ring. I was training like a beast, doing all the things in the gym, but I had to remember I hadn’t had a fight yet. When it came to the fight night, I was calm, I didn’t have any nerves. I knew I’d trained for it, so unless the person had trained harder than me, they weren’t going to beat me. I’ve still got that mentality now – if your opponent is working, you’ve got to be working as well. I train for the future, now.
How did your football career fit in with all of this?
I played for Bishop’s Stortford, Tunbridge Wells a few times, and every time I played I scored. From there I got the chance to try out for QPR. In the trial game I broke my toe, but before that happened, I scored two goals. The manager was happy and said he’d take me on. But they looked at my toe, and they needed a striker right then, and they were not going to take an injured player. It was devastating at the time but now, thank God it happened.
I was 17 or 18 at that point. That was when I had a bad year and all my troubles started happening. That was when I went back to sport, and to boxing. I always had a love for boxing, but I never pursued it.
Do you think the fights you were having on the street was a reaction to missing out on QPR?
Possibly, but there were also things going on at home. I was in a place where anything got me angry, I was flipping out everywhere. It was a bad time, one I’m not proud of, but it was a learning curve. I’ve learned from the experiences and become a better person. Every move you make in life can determine your future.
You also had time to pursue a career in athletics during this period.
I used to do the shotput and I was trained by [1984 Olympic javelin champion] Tessa Sanderson. I’ve been around the world with sport. I also had trials with rugby’s Harlequins when I was 15. In athletics I also did the 100 and 200 metres. I played basketball at a good level – for London. But I love nothing like I love boxing, because you depend on yourself so much. Your team, your trainer, play their part, but on fight night – that’s my job.
It’s quite a past you have. What does the future hold?
I believe my natural weight is light-heavy at the moment, and being at my natural weight is important to perform at my best. My aspiration is to become a multi-weight world champion. In the future I can go to cruiserweight and maybe even bigger, because I have big shoulders. Mike Tyson inspired me because he was so small, and knocking out these giants. It was a David versus Goliath thing.
I have no specific route in mind to the top, I trust in [promoter] Frank Warren and my trainer, Tunde [Ajayi]. For now, my job is to focus on the fights in front of me, and take all these experiences in.