NOT content with fighting Sergey Kovalev in Russia, Anthony Yarde is now angling for an even more daunting – and yes, lucrative – fight against Mexican superstar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, the man who recently dethroned Kovalev, next May.
That’s according to Yarde’s coach, Tunde Ajayi, who has revealed to Boxing News that the WBO light-heavyweight title challenger could receive a second shot at the title having found himself on a shortlist of potential Alvarez opponents.
“You talk about the (Artur) Beterbievs and the (Dmitry) Bivols but Canelo is the fight,” Ajayi said. “That’s the fight our name has been mentioned for. Our name is in the hat. He’s 100% on the shortlist. I got a call about it only recently and I was like, ‘Whoa, are you mad?’
“The fact is this: we’ll have this fight in February and Canelo then makes his choice. He will probably fight in May or September and we’re being considered for those two fights.
“If what I’m hearing is correct, and we do what we’re supposed to do – boom! We ain’t ducking or dodging nobody. We’ve proven that now.”
In August, Yarde, 18-1 (17), took a fight many expected him to turn down and did better than many expected on the night. Before succumbing to the Russian’s greater experience and power in the eleventh round, he pushed Kovalev hard and seemed a punch or two away from stopping him in the eighth.
The gamble, though it ultimately handed Yarde his first career loss, came with the consolation of top-level experience – priceless for two men once accused of being green and risk averse.
“The journey continues and he’s going to be a world champion,” Ajayi said. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s just a case of when. You only gain the experience when you’re in the situation.
“No matter how many current fighters say, ‘We can beat Yarde,’ none of them have got the experience of being in there with an elite champion. Even guys like Billy Joe Saunders and Callum Smith haven’t been in there with elite fighters.
“That’s a big thing. That’s why we couldn’t turn down the opportunity. It’s experience you can’t buy.
“Everything is timing. It (the Kovalev fight) wasn’t really calculated. I think it’s the first time in Anthony’s career, in terms of the managerial respect, I haven’t been in control. You know, picking the opponents and stuff like that. But Anthony said, ‘Listen, this may never come again.’
“Obviously I then did my little tricks and said we would never go to Russia. That bumped up the fee a little bit. We took the fight. The reward for the risk was big and Anthony was rewarded very well. I’m happy for him. His career is just starting. There are big, big fights out there and he’s going to be ready for them.”
One of the main talking points following Yarde’s defeat against Kovalev concerned the credentials of Ajayi, a rebellious fresh voice on the UK boxing scene, and the wisdom of his corner instructions. Ajayi, though, believes his relationship with Yarde will soon bear fruit and is one built on foundations of trust, loyalty and a shared ambition.
“We’re not changing nothing,” Ajayi said. “We got here in meteoric fashion, doing it the way we’ve always done it. We took a lesson but, let’s get it right, it wasn’t a pushover fighter with a world title we faced. It was a proper elite guy. We’re not changing nothing. Because if we can do that at the beginning of our career there’s no need for change.
“Anthony (following the loss) is exactly how I knew he would be. You heard him after the fight. He said, ‘I’m cool. Let me deal with this and recuperate and assess what went wrong.’
“So, everybody gave him that space for him to let the wounds heal. He did that in perfect fashion. And now anyone who comes into the Peacock gym will see Anthony and think nothing happened. It’s business as usual. He’s firing, he’s laughing.
“As I’ve always said, we will be getting better with each fight. He has learnt from the experience. I have learnt from the experience. The whole team, which is a very young team, have learnt from the experience.
“I’m just happy that he’s back and the smile is back on his face. He’s in the gym every single day. That’s another thing people don’t realise: Anthony had never taken more than one week out of the gym since the day he turned professional. He deserved the rest.”
If it isn’t Canelo Alvarez next for Yarde – and, let’s face it, that does seem unlikely at this point – he will be flooded with other intriguing opportunities and fights, both at home and abroad.
“Anthony is still learning,” said Ajayi. “He only had 12 amateur fights. It’s no shame for us to now go down a peg. Nobody can really be upset if we do that. But it’s all about levels and we’re at this level.
“There are some good fights even below the world championship level. There are good fights for us in the UK. Callum Johnson is up there. Joshua Buatsi is on the rise. They’d be brilliant fights.
“But guess what? Let them fight each other first. They were ordered to fight each other and it never happened. Why? Let these guys fight their stablemates first. They’ve got Hosea Burton. They’ve got Craig Richards. Fight each other, then set up the mega fight that everyone wants to see for a world title.
“We have no obligation to fight any UK fighter who doesn’t have a world title. Why? Because prior to the Kovalev fight everybody said we were ducking and dodging and that we hadn’t fought no one and just wanted the easy fights. Well, guess what? The shoe is on the other foot now. Now it’s your turn to fight. We just fought Kovalev. What are you guys doing?”
Three months ago, Anthony Yarde was fighting Sergey Kovalev in Russia. And though he lost the fight, no shame in that, he will, alongside Tunde Ajayi, continue doing his own thing.