There are only a couple of days left before boxing fans get to see the eagerly anticipated light heavyweight world title clash between the brutal champion, Artur Beterbiev, and the explosive challenger Anthony Yarde.
This will be Beterbiev’s 19th professional fight and he has yet to be taken the distance, let alone beaten. The Canadian-based Russian will be expecting this Saturday night to be business as usual. Yarde enters the fight as an underdog. A live one, but an underdog nonetheless. Both fighters have the ability to end a fight in the blink of an eye and the fight seems certain to be a highly charged affair for as long as it lasts.
There is something for everybody. Favourite backers have an out-and-out front runner to get behind and there are some attractive options for for those who like their odds a little longer.
THE FAVOURITE – BETERBIEV BY STOPPAGE
If the following makes Artur Beterbiev sound like a monster, good. He is.
The Canadian-based Russian has stopped every professional opponent he has faced and badly hurt most of them. Beterbiev carries thudding, bone-breaking power. Every shot is designed to damage; but the 38-year-old doesn’t need to load up and dig his feet into the canvas to generate power. He is much more than a crude brawler. Beterbiev’s boxing ability allows him to position himself for the right punch at the right time.
Beterbiev isn’t one for social media but – every now and then – clips of his strength and conditioning programme leak out. The feats he performs aren’t normal. He is blessed with phenomenal natural strength and heavy hands.
Beterbiev has dealt with tough journeymen, respected gatekeepers and championship level fighters in the same no-nonsense fashion.
He blitzed Joe Smith Jnr in a light heavyweight unification fight and carried his power into the late rounds to stop quality fighters like Oleksandr Gvozdyk and Marcus Browne. There is no way to prepare for a fighter like Beterbiev. At some point, he is going to begin landing heavy shots and every fighter will quickly find out whether they have what it takes to stand up to him. So far, nobody has been able to.
Yarde performed bravely in his previous world title attempt before fading and being stopped in the eleventh round by the outstanding Sergey Kovalev. He will have learned plenty about pacing himself from that experience but hasn’t been involved in a high-paced, give-and-take battle since. If Yarde does stand up to the early shock of Beterbiev’s attack, it seems unlikely that he will be able to stand up to round after round of thudding, relentless power if the fight becomes a long, drawn-out affair.
THE OUTSIDE BET – YARDE BY STOPPAGE
Yarde knows that this is the opportunity of a lifetime. He will fight with determination and ambition and will be trying to win as long as the fight lasts.
Deep down he will know that although he was a punch or two away from stopping Kovalev at times, the fight probably came a little early for him. In the three-and-a-half years since, he has grown. He had no choice but to mature as a man after a string of family tragedies during the Coronavirus pandemic and faced a career crisis when Lyndon Arthur outboxed him two years ago. Yarde regathered himself and stopped Arthur in a rematch last December.
Yarde has power, tremendous reflexes and enough natural ability to mask a lack of amateur experience. He has stopped 22 of his 23 opponents and was good enough to badly hurt Kovalev in the eighth round of their fight. With a little more seasoning, he might have been able to find the right punches to cause a monumental upset.
The knowledge that he hurt a world class fighter must give Yarde confidence. Beterbiev has been dropped twice in fights, both in the early rounds. The Londoner won’t steam out of the blocks throwing wild haymakers. But he certainly won’t be shy about letting his hands go and looking to capitalise on every gap Beterbiev leaves, whether that is within the first minute or last. Yarde is a good short puncher and can generate plenty of power with fast right hands or lead left hooks. He will know just how dangerous Beterbiev can be and must be fully aware that if he does manage to land cleanly on the Russian champion, he must capitalise on the opportunity as quickly as possible. He will be the faster fighter and is capable of hurting Beterbiev. Will he be able to finish him?
THE VALUE BET – BETERBIEV IN ROUND 7 OR 8
Beterbiev has been floored twice in his career. Jeff Page put him over with a right hand in the first round back in 2014 and Britain’s Callum Johnson dropped him with a short left hook in the second in 2018. They were both legitimate knockdowns, scored during exchanges. Johnson and Page were both fractionally quicker than Beterbiev and were rewarded for it. They both then paid a very heavy price for their success. Page was stopped in the second, Johnson in the fourth.
Yarde has stopped 22 of the 23 men he has beaten. There have been frustrating nights where he has allowed inferior opponents to provide him with target practice before choosing when and how to close the show. Maybe his most impressive performance was the way he dominated the talented Lyndon Arthur in their rematch, never allowing Arthur to get into his rhythm and fighting with real intensity.
The fight could easily become a firefight. Beterbiev may respect Yarde’s fast hands and snapping power, but not enough to sacrifice his own advantages and attributes. He will be aggressive from the get-go. Yarde, too, will be on high alert from the opening bell. He will be all too aware of Beterbiev’s ability to hurt him but is a confident fighter in his own right and will want to make his own mark as quickly as possible. He will be the faster man and may find it hard to resist gambling on his own speed during exchanges.
It isn’t beyond the realms of fantasy to imagine Beterbiev walking on to a short right hand whilst Yarde is full of adrenaline and fire before picking himself up and walking Yarde down. Although it may well be boxing suicide for Yarde to hang around the ropes against a fighter with Beterbiev’s style, he has also shown the ability to land hurtful combinations from that position. If Beterbiev is able to slow Yarde down and pound away, the Londoner will still be dangerous with short, sharp bursts.
Beterbiev is deservedly a massive favourite and should have enough boxing ability, experience and power to eventually see off Yarde inside the distance but don’t be surprised if he has to endure a scare or two along the way.
The value points to Beterbiev prevailing somewhere around the midway point.
It might also be worth backing both fighters to be knocked down – that bet is available in our Match Events section at 3/1.