In part one of his exclusive interview with 32Red, Anthony Yarde talked about the recent family tragedies he has had to endure and revealed why he chooses not to talk about his rivals.
After coming up short in his WBO light heavyweight title with Sergei Kovalev last August, Anthony Yarde suddenly had to cope with the unfamiliar feeling of defeat. It wasn’t a feeling he enjoyed and the Londoner found no consolation in the plaudits he received for a game effort out in Russia. For all the latest fight odds as Anthony fights Dec Spelman this weekend, visit our sportsbook.
He returned in the New Year reinvigorated. A quick victory in Spain reminded him of that fight night feeling and – unable to compete for a WBO belt immediately after a defeat – the win put him right back in the title mix, Yarde was ready to go again. Then tragedy stuck. Yarde lost both his father and grandmother to the Coronavirus and boxing became a secondary thought.
Yarde took his time and returned to the gym when he was ready and not a moment before.
“Losing to Kovalev dampened my morale, then just as I was getting over it and getting myself back together the family tragedies dampened it even more,” he told 32Red. “It felt like one thing after another. 2020 started out in a horrific way even before that though. It seemed like every day I’d check social media and people I knew had died or another famous celebrity had passed away. I was wondering what was happening.
“When you listen to outside perceptions and take into account what other people want you just add pressure to yourself trying to live up to what they want rather than concentrating on what’s best for yourself. Believe me, I saw it first hand where I grew up. When you try and impress other people or fit in with other people you can get away from what you should be doing and get yourself in trouble.”
Yarde’s world title bid provoked thousands of words and countless hours of debate.
Although many felt that the Londoner was way too inexperienced to compete at the highest level, he attracted a sizeable amount of support from those who felt his youth, power and enthusiasm would enable him to thrive in world class. Yarde struggled to gain a foothold in the fight but maintained his belief and although he eventually ran out of gas and was stopped in the eleventh round, he came within a punch or two of producing a miraculous turnaround when a spectacular, accurate assault had Kovalev out on his feet during a thrilling eighth.
The debate continues. The same pre-fight critics say his lack of experience was exposed. Others say he showed his quality. Who does Yarde think is right?
“Both. Like I said, I don’t worry what other people think. What I did do was prove to myself that I can fight in world class. Did I have the capability of beating Kovalev? Absolutely. Yes,” he said.
“I went through a mixture of emotions. I’ve never been in a situation like that at all and the reality of it all hit me when I was in Russia. Before I set off out there I was convinced I was going to go over there and win and knock him out. I’m a strong believer that if you believe something enough you can make it happen. Even when I saw Kovalev I was still confident that I was going to beat him.
“It was actually during the National anthems [it hit me]. I looked around and saw people like Roy Jones and realised that these were the moments I’d been dreaming about. This is it. Wow. That’s when the jitters started. it didn’t overwhelm me though. I think I put in a good performance. It wasn’t good enough though.”
Kovalev is one of the most accomplished fighters of the past decade and makes few mistakes. For all Yarde’s dominance at lower levels, he had to work hard to force any kind of mistake or opening. A world class fighter must have qualities that are buried deep within and can’t be neatly cut into a glossy highlight package. The fighter themselves can’t be certain they possess them until they are dragged to the surface.
Rather than meekly accepting defeat and deciding to to make it to the final bell safely, Yarde kept trying to win. It sounds like a basic requirement but it is far easier said than done when you are thousands of miles from home and losing rounds to a modern great.
Yarde possesses the raw ability to compete to world level. Now he knows what it takes to succeed.
“I absolutely believed that the only way I was going to beat him was by knockout. I wholeheartedly believe that. He or other people might be offended by that but that’s what I believed and when I set my focus on something I get determined to achieve it.
“In the sixth, you saw my tempo change. I stepped it up and when I landed I went for it. If I was in that situation again but the odds were slightly more in my favour, I might have gone about it in a different way and not rushed in the moment I had him hurt.
“Look at Canelo against Amir Khan. He was losing the rounds but didn’t rush and took his time. Even against Floyd Mayweather when he was losing the fight, he didn’t become reckless. He knew what he had to learn. I exerted myself too much and that’s not smart.
“When I think about it, I’m happier with that outcome because I know I gave my all and I don’t wonder if I could have done more. I prefer that than going the distance and them just letting them announce him the winner on points.”