While the brave Anthony Yarde won some battles, it was Artur Beterbiev who eventually won the war in eight rounds at the Wembley Arena in England on Saturday. Beterbiev, retains his three belts (WBC, WBO and IBF) at light heavyweight and now the focus turns to just who he will face next.
But before we delve into all that, the fight this weekend will be one that will be remembered fondly. Coming into this contest, there was actually a bit of a buzz for Yarde to pull the upset in his backyard.
Yeah, he was the decided underdog versus one of the most ferocious offensive fighters in the sport, but Yarde came into this contest with advantages in athleticism, reflexes and youth. To his credit, he certainly had his moments as he beat Beterbiev to the punch with his superior hand speed at certain points in the bout.
Yarde, has certainly grown since his 2019 loss at the hands of Sergey Kovalev, while some will always harp on his unconventional training methods, he has actually evolved as a professional prizefighter. He buzzed Beterbiev a few times, and the damage from his fists could be seen on the defending champions face.
But alas, even at 38 (and with some signs of physical slippage) it will still take a special fighter on a really good night to be overcome the two-fisted attack of Beterbiev. Whatever he hits, he hurts. And over time he just simply caves in your foundation, chips away at the exterior and eventually you collapse in a heap. Which is precisely what happened to Yarde in the 8th round.
He is the human wrecking ball.
But credit must be given to Yarde, in an era where boxers are now routinely bypassing mandatory title shots, and skirting all danger, this guy has always stepped up when his number was called. Despite the defeat, he comes out of this bout more well regarded than he came into it. Unlike his UK counterpart, Joshua Buatsi, he refuses to be babysat.
“Everyone can punch hard at this level. And Anthony did too. But he’s young. I turned into a professional when I was 28. He has time. I hope he does well in the future," said an admiring Beterbiev, who improves to 19-0 (19 KOs).
As for the defending champion, there will now be a clamoring for a full unification showdown against WBA belt-holder, Dmitry Bivol. For boxing purists, this alongside the 122-pound clash between WBC/WBO champion, Stephen Fulton, and undisputed bantamweight king, Naoya Inoue, are the two best match-ups the sport has to offer. Bivol and Beterbiev, who are both undefeated, are rated as the two top 175-pounders in the world by Ring Magazine.
Of course, this won't be easy to make, given that the usual political divides exist in the sport. Beterbiev, is a staple on ESPN with his relationship with Top Rank, while Bivol is represented by Matchroom Sports, meaning he is in DAZN. Bob Arum has made comments that this particular bout has to be on their platform.
To which Vadim Kornilov, who manages Bivol, told SNAC.com: "I believe we should have an open and more structured conversation about all the material points on this fight. Bivol has been with DAZN for a long time and Beterbiev has been with ESPN for some time. We are open to do the fight, anytime, any place. Period."
Fair enough, it will take some compromise to make this a reality.
But there are other issues, Callum Smith, is rated number one at 175 in the WBC, and is knocking on the door for a mandatory shot against Beterbiev. While Bivol is still awaiting his next assignment to kick off his '23 campaign. There is always the specter of a rematch with 'Canelo' Alvarez (which would still represent the most lucrative option for him) and there's even talk of a May/June bout versus Jaime Munguia (yeah, barf).
It's clear what Beterbiev wants.
“I think this job would be more present than another one. I want Bivol," said the man of few words.“Right now, it’s everything. In that fight, we’ll have four belts. It’s really good fight I think.”
Golden Boy Promotions certainly had a busy Saturday. They had the inaugural boxing card at the YouTube Theater in Inglewood, California, that night, but what really got everyone's attention was the picture that circulated over social media that saw WBO welterweight champion, Terence Crawford, visiting the Golden Boy offices, alongside their founder, Oscar De La Hoya, and partner, Bernard Hopkins.
GBP president, Eric Gomez (who joked, ''I didn't get photo credit'') says that the pow-wow went well.
"There's some good things we talked about," he said on Saturday night during the undercard at the YouTube Theater. "We'll see, but it was a good meeting. There's some things that he wants, that he expects. So we'll see."
It's not clear if they are setting the stage for a showdown with the highly regarded, Vergil Ortiz, who has business to take care off against Eimantas Stanionis in late April, or perhaps a multi-fight deal of some sort, which could include Alexis Rocha, who scored a highlight reel KO in the main event.
"(Crawford) wants big fights," explained Gomez. "He's going to be watching tonight. 'Lex' is someone that he says he would consider fighting. But obviously he wants big fights. It was a great meeting, and we'll be working on it in the next few days."
Gomez mentioned that Crawford, "even talked about moving up in weight to do fights at 154. We'll see."
As for Rocha, he ended things in dramatic fashion against George Ashie.
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