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Yarde takes leap into the unknown against Kovalev

Britain's Anthony Yarde has yet to fight a single world-class opponent en route to a world title shot against Sergey Kovalev this Saturday (August 31)
Anthony Yarde
Action Images

TO date Anthony Yarde’s pro career has been aided by stabilisers beneath his feet and caring hands on his shoulders, just to make sure. One hand belongs to his promoter, Frank Warren, the other to his trainer, Tunde Ajayi, and together they have guided him, these hands, as Yarde begs to be released and wonders how it feels to go fast. There to protect, they have ensured Yarde has yet to go beyond the end of the street. They have supported his growth. Some will say stunted it, too.

On Saturday, they come off – these stabilisers, these hands – and we find out. On Saturday, at the Traktor Sport Palace in Chelyabinsk, Russia, Yarde, rather than ease into things, will instead be shoved into the road, a road unfamiliar, and expected to navigate his way around Sergey Kovalev, the WBO light-heavyweight champion, with not even a test run to his name. It’s then, with Yarde in danger, we will discover whether he’s world-class or roadkill.

At 28, Yarde is clearly mature enough, in life terms, to make the step up. Moreover, with 18 fights to his name, he is experienced enough, in pro boxing terms, to make the step up. But what confuses and concerns some is the idea of Yarde going from fighting overmatched opponents in Britain to now fighting Kovalev in Russia. From reticent to reckless, Yarde has pulled a career about-turn so dramatic few believed the fight was going to happen even when it was confirmed and just a week away.