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Arise King Arthur

Lyndon Arthur
Lyndon Arthur battles through injury to upset Anthony Yarde, writes Matt Christie

LYNDON ARTHUR showed any inexperienced fighters the importance of the jab as he used it, almost exclusively, to deservedly outpoint Anthony Yarde over 12 rounds.

Almost as soon as that lesson was over, Arthur provided another: How to act in the aftermath of a fight. When standing alongside a bitterly disappointed Yarde, and asked directly by BT Sport’s Steve Bunce why he’d barely thrown his right hand, the surly Mancunian refused to admit there was a problem but was gracious enough to concede the contest had been close.

The truth was Arthur had been nursing an injury to his right arm for weeks and he’d hurt his right hand in the warm-up, minutes before he walked to the ring. That was not the only factor to overcome. Besides knowing he’d have to fight one-armed against one of the most highly regarded fighters in the country, the Commonwealth light-heavyweight champion also had to keep his head when his entrance music was lost amid rows over who would walk to the ring first.

In short, Arthur conducted himself impeccably in the face of significant adversity and when the dust settles it is Yarde who should look to his conqueror – one of life’s perennial underdogs – to find the inspiration to come back stronger.

The 29-year-old, with his divisive coach Tunde Ajayi in the background, complained it was he who deserved the victory, even going as far as proclaiming the bout wasn’t even close. Yet there were few who believed him besides Ajayi and judge Ian John Lewis, who inexplicably notched a shambolic 117-111 scorecard in Yarde’s favour.

Michael Alexander and Marcus McDonnell thankfully restored order in Westminster’s Church House as their cards, 115-114 for Arthur, told the right story. Boxing News also scored for Arthur 115-114 (six rounds to five and one even). It should also be noted that BN, anticipating yet another scoring controversy, put an asterisk by five rounds which could feasibly have been scored a different way (three in which we favoured Yarde, one for Arthur and the even round). Whichever way we did the sums, though, that 117-111 for Yarde was way off.

Arthur started the bout as confidently as a one-armed fighter can as he pinged his left jab into Yarde. That lead hand was the only punch of note for the opening six minutes as Arthur significantly out-landed his opponent. Yarde hustled and bustled, he probed and waited, but his own herky-jerky movement was too often punctuated by that simple Arthur lead hand coming back.

Yarde and Ajayi have long been preaching their own unique training methods, those of little sparring and a focus on positive mental attitude. Before this fight they promised the fight would be about levels and insisted Arthur was some way below. But after five rounds, BN had Arthur 5-0 up.

Lyndon Arthur
Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

In that time, alongside his supreme jab, Arthur threw just two right hands. The first came in the second round, it was off target and seemingly launched to stop his rival from realising there was a problem with it. The second came after the third ended when Arthur thrust his right glove into his left glove to see if it still hurt. It did.

Meanwhile, Yarde’s right hand was active by comparison. His argument afterwards that he’d been the only fighter responsible for the eye-catching blows was fair; his overarm right hand in the fourth was the first serious whack of the contest. But the truth remained that Arthur’s lead hand was far and away the most accurate, and prolific.

Yarde upped the pressure from the sixth. Another right hand landed flush on Arthur who acknowledged the blow with a smile. The Ilford man was the busier through to the eighth when, at the bell, Ajayi informed Yarde that Arthur’s hand was surely injured.

As the fight briefly threatened to slip away, Arthur pluckily hurled his right in the ninth. This time it landed and though it carried little power, it deterred Yarde from upping the pressure again. Still Arthur’s jab, and his understanding of how to use it, kept him in front. In the 11th, he threw that right hand for the final time via a solid uppercut that surely hurt him more than his opponent.

Yarde poured on the pressure in the 12th. If he felt he was a long way ahead at this point he was fighting with a desperation that suggested otherwise. But it’s what he needed to do. The Londoner rocked Arthur twice. It was a dramatic and exciting finale.

Arthur – a sterling amateur – comfortably survived and proved, like Joe Joyce proved against Daniel Dubois last week, that experience and education are nearly always a match for unproven promise.

Afterwards, some suggested the contest was a disappointment and it’s true this won’t go down as one of the fights of the year. But for many purists, it was truly engrossing to watch it unfold. Arthur, alongside coach Pat Barrett, goes into 2021 with his reputation flying high.

Yarde, meanwhile, is left with lessons aplenty.

The late-career rejuvenation of Preston-based South African, Michael Ramabeletsa, was thwarted when prospect Chris Bourke stopped him in two rounds.

Bourke, a southpaw, started sharply against the 39-year-old and the moment he injected power into his left, the fight was as good as over.

The veteran’s right eye looked to be marked as early as the first and he wouldn’t see the end of the second. Dropped twice from lefts and under fire, the overmatched Ramabeletsa was rescued by referee Mr John Lewis at 2-43. Streatham’s Bourke is one to watch.

Also in the super-bantamweight division was an eight-rounder between the promising Dennis McCann and Portugal’s Pedro Matos. McCann won 80-73 on referee McDonnell’s card but was not quite as convincing as he would have liked.

The Maidstone 19-year-old throws shots from audacious angles, he darts from left to right and pivots effortlessly from front foot to back. When those movements lead to him landing blows, he looks truly formidable. But when they also leave him wide open to counters – Matos scored with enough to stay competitive – they prove there’s still work to be done. And that’s exactly what fights like this are for, after all.

Bury’s Muhammad Ali, who competed at the 2016 Olympics before being banned after failing a doping test, went to 2-0 via a lopsided 60-55 (McDonnell) victory over reliable journeyman, Jamie Quinn. It was Quinn’s fourth outing in the coronavirus era but fellow ‘opponent’ Lewis van Poetsch had been finding work harder to come by. The charismatic Lydney stalwart was delighted to end his nine-month layoff but could do little to prevent Slovakia-born southpaw Karol Itauma – who won a Youth Olympic gold for Great Britain in 2018 – entering the professional ranks with a win. Referee McDonnell scored for the Cheatham-based light-heavyweight, 40-36.

The Verdict For the second week in a row, promoter Frank Warren places a genuine 50/50 fight atop the bill that in the long run should benefit both winner and loser.

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