I’m sure Anthony Yarde won’t mind me answering a couple of questions for him.
Yes, he is happy to be back in the ring against Dec Spelman this weekend.
No, he isn’t concerned about bettering future rival Lyndon Arthur’s result against Spelman.
No, he isn’t looking ahead to the fight with Arthur. His full focus is on this weekend.
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You would need to go through every interview Yarde (19-1, 18 KO’s) has ever done with a forensic eye to find even a second of him saying anything of substance about his light heavyweight peers or potential match-ups.
Yarde never talks his rivals up or down and you won’t hear him calling another fighter out. It is a practice he adopted when he was gearing up to fight Mitch Mitchell on his professional debut almost five years ago and it continued right through the build up to last year’s ultimately unsuccessful world title fight with Sergei Kovalev. That doesn’t stop people asking though.
“It can be jarring and make you act out of character. Especially when you’re in those last few days and you’re trying to make weight,” Yarde told 32Red. “It isn’t the interviewer’s fault. They all have to get content for their own channels and get their pieces. You just have to be professional. I just think you have to be yourself. To be honest I think being yourself provides the best type of entertainment anyway.”
It is just over a month since Arthur impressively played matador to the bullish Spelman and made the already intriguing proposed clash with Yarde even more interesting. Yarde had a camera trained on him as he watched the fight and although he may have been cajoled into giving a little soundbite about being bored by the action, he didn’t come close to revealing his true feelings on the matter. Yarde would rather spend his time and energy focusing on mastering his own skills rather than worrying about what his future opponents might do.
“Kovalev was somebody who I looked up to and somebody who I considered to be ‘it.’ If I’m not talking up somebody with his accolades – all those world titles and The Ring Magazine title belt – then I’m not going to do it to anybody else,” he said. “It could even be Canelo. When they’re stood opposite I just see another man.
“I can’t afford to look ahead. I study the greats and I think it’s the mediocre fighters who always have different things on their minds. They’re always looking in three or four different directions or focusing on what’s next. Look at Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather, Julio Cesar Chavez. They were focused on what was right in front of them at the time. You wouldn’t hear them talking about what other people were doing or what was in front. If you look too far in front you’ll miss the pothole and trip over it. You’re too busy looking off into the distance instead of whats under your feet.”
Having a short term goal to focus on has probably never been as important for Yarde.
The entire world has been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic but for the fortunate majority, adapting to a ‘new normal’ has meant incorporating relatively minor inconveniences and frustrations into daily life. These problems can suddenly be made to feel embarrassingly small. At the height of the pandemic, Yarde lost both his father and grandmother to the virus within a week.
Inevitably, the world will soon begin to fall back into old routines and – for most – the virus will be quickly forgotten once the shackles are fully removed. Yarde’s new normal is for life.
“We tend to go into a natural survival mode but I think your character is shown by how you respond to these struggles. People can scream and shout and say that they’re a gorilla or a lion or a shark or whatever but when these kind of situations happen, you either shrink or stay strong. I came to realise that when I shout ‘Lions in the camp’ all the time I’ve sort of manifested a strong mentality,” he said.
“I look at people from different countries who come from places with terrible poverty or war. Look at places like Iraq or some places in Africa that struggle with famine. I look at the people who live in these places. They go through this kind of situation every single day of their lives. That helps me. I also know that so many other people have lost people and have had to go through similar situations due to this COVID. That has helped me and I know lots of people who have lost close ones to cancer or other issues.
“As human beings we’re designed to cope with loss. I think everybody sort of hopes that their parents will die of old age, peacefully. That’s the fairytale but even that hurts when it eventually happens. When you lose somebody unexpectedly who is in their prime, the hurt is different.
“It’s something that almost every single person has to go through in their lives. You don’t know how it’ll affect you or how you’ll react until it actually happens. I’ve gotta push on and keep moving forwards creating a legacy.”
In part two of 32Red’s exclusive interview with Yarde, coming soon, he takes us back to Russia and reveals how he dealt with the magnitude of the occasion and what he learned about himself.