ON December 1, 1980, Frank Warren staged his first promotion under the auspices of the British Boxing Board of Control. In the top-of-the-bill fight, heavyweight contender Jerry “The Bull” Martin stopped Otis Gordon in seven rounds at the Bloomsbury Hotel.
“The place was half empty,” remembered Warren. “I lost £17,500.”
As anyone who’s followed boxing over the past four decades knows, Warren stuck at it and he marks 40 years as a promoter with a show at Church House in Westminster this Saturday (December 5).
To Warren’s obvious disappointment, Tyson Fury will not be defending his WBC heavyweight title on this BT Sport card, but the main event still has star quality, with charismatic Ilford puncher Anthony Yarde challenging the classy Lyndon Arthur (17-0) for the Commonwealth light-heavyweight title.
This is a fight, like so many others, that has been put back. Originally, it was scheduled for April and then July. The stakes are high this weekend. Arthur is in the top 10 with the WBO and IBF, while Yarde is similarly placed with the WBO and WBC. Warren believes the winner will become mandatory challenger for the WBO title vacated by Canelo Alvarez.
We’ve seen both men against Dec Spelman over the last few months. Arthur outboxed him over 12 in a title defence in July and six weeks later, Yarde stopped him in six rounds, the referee waving it off after the proud Scunthorpe man had been clubbed to his knees for a count of ‘six’. Yarde had been patient until late in the fifth. Spelman appeared to lose focus for a few seconds and Yarde saw that as a signal to go through the gears.
Spelman told Boxing News: “I can see Lyndon keeping him at distance and Yarde struggling to get near him. Lyndon didn’t really have any power – I walked through his shots all night – but he is up there with the best I have boxed.
“I didn’t feel out of my depth against Yarde. He could dig and was accurate, but he didn’t hit any harder than Joel McIntyre. I did feel it when he landed, but he was small [6ft] and he had short arms. Lyndon is tall [6ft 2ins] and rangy.
“The game plan [against Yarde] was to double up the jab and I thought he looked a bit lost when I did that. Lyndon has probably the best jab in British boxing for me and he should do what he did with me. He should get in his head that it’s going to be a 12-round fight and not hold his feet.
“Lyndon messaged me before I fought Yarde and said, ‘Keep the pressure on,’ so maybe that’s what he will do. For me, that would be a bad move.”
The likeliest scenario is, Arthur, who says he hurt his right hand early in the Spelman fight, will look to keep it long, while Yarde will try to walk him down.
Tunde Ajayi, Yarde’s ever-confident coach, says the fight is “about levels” and that Arthur “hasn’t been in with anyone like Anthony, who hits as hard as Anthony.” Ajayi believes Arthur was shaken up by Emmanuel Anim (14-2-1) when he won the vacant belt last October and that Yarde hits harder than the Ghanaian.
Yarde, 29, has 19 early wins on his 20-1 record – and he was only a punch or two from finishing Sergey Kovalev and taking away his WBO crown in Russia last August. But there’s a chance Arthur is better than the Yarde camp believe he is.
As an amateur, Arthur reached two Elite finals – losing to Joshua Buatsi and Thomas Whittaker-Hart in 2014 and 2016 respectively – and boxed internationally. The 29-year-old Mancunian had a lot of early wins – nine inside two rounds – before he had to make the championship limit. He has skills and in cousin Pat Barrett, he has a thinker with a wealth of knowledge in his corner.
Ajayi says that “everyone thinks Anthony is easy to hit – until they try to hit him,” but Kovalev was able to out-jab him and that lead hand is a real weapon for Arthur. Nevertheless, the power is with Yarde and we go for him to break Arthur down for a stoppage in the second half.
The Verdict Warren’s major milestone is marked by a fittingly fascinating matchup.