BIT by bit, things are getting better for Anthony Yarde, even if it wasn’t all that long ago he thought they couldn’t get much worse.
By now a story well documented, the London light-heavyweight tragically lost four relatives in 2020 due to Covid-19, then lost a fight against Lyndon Arthur he felt he should have won, and finally lost all sense of momentum, ambition and purpose. He could, back then, have said “why me?” and given up all sense of hope as well. But Yarde, to his credit, did no such thing.
His 2021, as a result, showed signs of improvement. That was the year he got back to winning ways with a first-round knockout of Alex Theran and then, better still, righted the wrong against Lyndon Arthur in December, stopping his rival inside four rounds to this time leave no doubt.
Now, in 2022, Yarde has every reason to believe his fortunes have changed. Moreover, owing to his recent experiences both in and out of the ring, he can now look at the future far more philosophically and with far greater maturity than ever before. A blessing, of sorts.
“I’m just hoping for a happier year, even happier than 2021, and I want the world to become a better place,” Yarde, 30, told Boxing News. “I know it sounds crazy, but with all these lockdowns and threats of lockdowns and no holidays, it’s depressing. Sometimes, as a boxer, that’s all you want to do after you fight. You want to go away, take your family away, relax, and feel normal. That’s the main thing I want this year, some peace of mind, some good mental health.
“Secondly, for my career, I just want to continue to progress, whichever way that is. Hopefully that means fighting for a world title this year – or winning a world title, I should say – and potentially getting a unification bout at the end of 2022. That’s also possible for me this year. Why not? But as long as there’s progression in my career, I’ll be sensationally happy.”
Until only a few days ago, Yarde had every intention of sitting down to watch Joe Smith Jnr and Callum Johnson battle it out for the WBO light-heavyweight title – a belt very much on Yarde’s radar – this weekend. That fight, however, was scrapped on account of Johnson testing positive for Covid-19, with Smith now fighting the unheralded Steve Geffrard on January 15 instead.
If annoying for Johnson, it’s almost as annoying for Yarde, his countryman, who had wanted Johnson to bring the WBO light-heavyweight title back to the UK in order to set up an all-British clash between the pair later this year. “The more of us doing well on the world stage, the better,” Yarde said. “But when I’m on form, I feel like any light-heavyweight in this country I will destroy them. That’s just how I feel.”
Looking beyond the domestic scene for a moment, Yarde, 22-1 (20), says he holds no fear whatsoever of the men currently ruling the 175-pound division. He has, having ventured to Russia to challenge former WBO champion Sergey Kovalev in 2019, already had a taste for high stakes fights against elite opposition and believes, should he get the chance again, the outcome will be different second time around.
“Although you’ve got dangerous guys like (Artur) Beterbiev and (Dmitry) Bivol, no one knows these guys,” Yarde said. “I see them as potential opponents, but also, and I know it sounds big-headed, I look at myself as the biggest draw. It’s all about manifestation. That’s just how I see things. I respect these guys, but I don’t fear them. I don’t watch them, because then you start focusing too much on what they do well and focus less on what you do well. All I can do is keep working hard in the gym and make sure I’m ready for these opportunities when they finally come.”
They say defeat in a boxing ring can either diminish a man or strengthen them depending on the man’s disposition and willingness to grow. Yet here, in the case of Anthony Yarde, one suspects loss – that is, total loss – has had a far greater impact on his mindset and fortitude than anything he may have experienced, or indeed is going to experience, in any boxing ring, a place where, by comparison, he has never felt so in control.