IN boxing we often talk about the big things while overlooking the little ones. Years ago, my dad dropped me off at the Moston and Collyhurst Lads Club to try to get me back into boxing. I warmed up, spent a bit of time on the bags and then out of the blue Brian Hughes MBE asked me if I wanted to do a bit of technique work with another lad.
Cue what seemed like an eternity working on the simple one-two. Hughes sat on a stool outside the ropes. He watched, refined technique and then watched some more. The funny thing is that he didn’t know me from Adam. I can only assume that he just loved teaching people, even one-time only strangers during a quiet evening session.
Years later, Hughes’s protégé Pat Barrett and Barrett’s Commonwealth light-heavyweight champion Lyndon Arthur, 18-0 (12), registered a split-decision win over Anthony Yarde that was exclusively based on use of the jab, the simplest building block in boxing yet one that not every fighter masters. Arthur injured his right hand during his warm-up — news of this was Tweeted by Carl Greaves just prior to the fight then confirmed when Arthur barely used it — yet still managed to off-set Yarde throughout by breaking his rhythm then giving him the odd hint of his right hand.
A lot of the talk post-fight was about what Yarde and his team, led by trainer Tunde Ajayi, got wrong. Barrett, though, told Boxing News people should have focused on what they got right. “The jab was the key,” he said.
“Brian used to show us years ago how you could win rounds just off the left jab. Lyndon has always had a world-class jab. He had it as an amateur and has used it even better as a pro as he can slow the pace with it. Yarde tries to do things at a hundred miles an hour and Lyndon needed to do something about that.”
Yarde has fought at world-level, he lost in in 11 to Sergey Kovalev for the WBO title last year, but Barrett told me that if he could have had things his way Arthur-Yarde would have taken place sooner and his man would have progressed to that level instead. His belief in “King” Arthur has been unwavering from the beginning.
“Brian believed in me so if he said I was fighting King Kong I’d just say, ‘Do you think I can beat him?’ and if he said, ‘Yes’, then I’d go out there and fight King Kong — my fighters have that level of faith,” he said.
“We asked Frank [Warren] for the Yarde fight the day Lyndon signed with him. Frank said ‘No’. It would have been a credible fight to mark signing with Frank. I knew it was one that would be great for Lyndon and not once did it go out of my mind that it would happen.”
There was a lot of mutual praise before the fight only for Yarde, Tunde and their team to dismiss the win, citing a bad decision and claiming that Arthur had boxed a boring fight, with the emphasis on ‘boxed’. Ajayi’s talk of “Lions in the camp” between rounds only served to underline the fact there was no leadership in the corner. There was also a complete lack of respect for Arthur post-fight.
“I hope you write what you just said and stick to it — there was no respect whatsoever,” blasted Barrett. “Yarde even talked over Lyndon in the interview and tried to appeal to people by saying he had won the fight. If it was close it wouldn’t have gone in our favour, so we obviously did something well enough to impress the judges. We want Lyndon to get the rightful respect he deserves as he has earned it in every possible way. This cannot be denied.
“We all know what they did. They had one plan and it was based on Yarde’s punching power, but what if the power punches don’t happen? That’s when you need a Plan B. All they talked about was knocking Lyndon out. I even heard that Tunde was on the phone the day before telling someone he was getting knocked spark out.
“Lyndon is a mirage, what you see isn’t always what you get. He is hard to fight against. Lyndon makes boxing look too easy. He took Yarde and made it into a repeat of the [Dec] Spelman win, but this time it wasn’t just defence and footwork it was the jab and having to think his way through it. If Lyndon puts all he’s learned together he’ll become one of the best light-heavyweights to have come out of England.”
The move up in class put a spotlight on both Arthur and his trainer. Barrett can come across as an intimidating figure. However, he insists that his “no-nonsense” approach and a near-obsession with the basics of boxing are essential to any success that comes his way.
“There are two sides to me. Yeah, in the gym I want people to fear me and listen to what I say so that we can rectify mistakes. You don’t get a chance to do that in a fight. If you make mistakes you can’t just resurrect yourself, you get punished for them. If you lose it is on your record, if you get dropped it gets recorded — you cannot change that once it happens. You cannot afford to make mistakes. You cannot afford to get things wrong because they stay with you.
“Now I want to get someone to that world-level. Brian put me through the levels by giving me the chance to work with fighters. I’ve learned my trade. I did a proper apprenticeship. I don’t need one fight and one game plan to define me. All of that is a load of b*****ks.”
As for the talk of a potential rematch, Barrett has a clear and loud message for Yarde and his team. “It will have to happen in Manchester,” he declared. “They gave us zero respect, so they have to come here, we’ve got the real lions as well as some killer bees.”