Aftermath: Kovalev vs Yarde
Sergey Kovalev repelled the brave advance of Anthony Yarde on Saturday night. Callum Rudge, James Lupton, James Oddy, Lee Gormley, Mark Ortega, Oliver McManus, Michael Montero, Chris Glover, Shaun Brown, Paul Zanon, Andrew Harrison and Chris Williamson discuss the contest and its aftermath..James.
BM: Your assessment of the fight and Kovalev and Yarde’s performances?
CR: Kovalev dominated large portions of the fight but looked like he was tiring by the half way point, probably from landing so many punches. Yarde had his successes but other than a wild round eight, was mostly outclassed. Kovalev definitely has something left and Yarde has talent, but Yarde needed tougher fights before this.
JL: A good fight for the viewers, it was exactly as I thought it would pan out. Kovalev dominated the fight without really stepping out of second gear. Kovalev showed he still deserves to be at world level but also showed vulnerability and fatigue in the second half of the fight and because of that I feel the other 175lbs champions would iron him out. Yarde showed heart and a chin which was previously unknown, his stock has risen after holding his own against the once upon a time most feared man in boxing and almost stopping him.
JO: It was the fight i hoped for, but didn't expect. Lots of shots landed, both men showing heart and skill. Both fighters impressed me in different ways. Kovalev with his technique and his abillity to rally; Yarde with his chin and determination.
LG: The first half of the fight went exactly as expected and the difference in class and experience ultimately showed in the end. Other than the drama of the eighth Kovalev dominated, especially behind that ramrod jab. This will have taken a lot out of him for any future fights too, but his comeback from nearly being sparked was brilliant! Yarde showed he can dig deep and this will help him in his career for sure.
MO: Kovalev showed a lot of heart gutting out that performance after an eighth round where he was nearly stopped. He was boxing with his mouth open from round one, was completely gassed from round three on. It was his determination and experience that carried him to the finish line, and the lack of experience and cardio on Yarde's part that helped.
OM: A thoroughly entertaining fight, far more so than I anticipated, in part due to the fact Kovalev looked both beatable yet worked the jab exceptionally. Yarde, too, exposed the Russian's frailties well and forced Kovalev to dig deep but was ultimately undone by a lack of experience at that middle level between WBO European and genuine European level fighters. Regardless, a pulsating contest.
MM: An impressive performance from the Russian, surviving that brutal eighth round to stop his much younger, much faster, much stronger, formally undefeated opponent. It's a testament to Kovalev's training and (underrated) toughness that he made it through the eighth and dominated the ninth. Anyone who's actually boxed before knows it takes outstanding physical conditioning and strong mental desire to weather a storm like that. It was reminiscent of Wilder vs Ortiz, except Yarde is much younger and healthier than the Cuban. People keep saying that Yarde 'shot his wad' but it was the 100+ jabs that Kovalev landed (including 15 to the body) that truly wore the challenger down. Hell, it was the jab that ended the fight. Although CompuBox credited Yarde with landing more power punches, it was his face that looked more damaged after the bout.
CG: Kovalev was dominant, Yarde had his moments but he was second best to a quality operator in Kovalev even on a bad day.
SB: The first half of the fight was controlled by Kovalev. The second half was more dramatic. Kovalev's jab, as predicted, played a significant part in the fight but Yarde persisted with trying to get behind it and eventually found a way in. He had his moments but inexperience showed dramatically. Kovalev was world class at times.
PZ: Most people predicted Kova's jab and right hand would do the damage, and in general it did. He also impressed, at 36 years old, by throwing punches in bunches throughout the fight. Yarde was a very game challenger whose experience was lacking. If he wants to compete at this level, he needs to be throwing combinations and have answers to opposing offense, other than a looping hook. Those answers, along with stamina, could possibly come via sparring, which should be an essential part of his outlook now. Let's just take a moment to take our hats off to the Londoner though. He almost stopped Kova in the eighth round and lasted eleven rounds in total. Hell of an achievement against a future Hall of Famer.
AH: A good, entertaining fight. Even though Kovalev was winning every round, Yarde was still in the fight, and you always felt Kovalev’s stamina would come into question at some point. The eighth round was dramatic, but Yarde was a little too tired to get the job done. Kovalev showed heart to come back from the brink – enough to put the ‘bully’ tag to bed once and for all.
CW: Kovalev is much more vulnerable than during his first reign as champion and though the defeats have dampened his killer instinct a little, he remains an exciting fighter who is lovely to watch. I really enjoyed seeing him outbox the green challenger from the U.K. last night and although Yarde’s technical limitations were revealed, so too were plenty of physical and mental strengths so there is plenty for the Brit to work with.
BM: Kovalev vs Canelo - any interest in that?
CR: I quite enjoy it when elite fighters like Canelo hoover up belts in different weight classes. The Mexican is arguably the best fighter in the sport now and a leap up 15lbs will only add to his already very strong record. Something Golovkin won’t consider.
JL: I would happily watch this fight. It would be very fun for the first five to six rounds but there seems to be no doubt that Canelo wipes him out.The Mexican is probably the best in the business and a win over Kovalev would cement his place in boxing folklore forever.
JO: I do, actually. I'd make Canelo the favourite but Kovalev is no mug. He isn't the fighter of three or four years ago but i think he'd give Canelo some problems.
LG: Canelo-Kovalev has an odd intrigue surrounding it and it’s one many will be backing the Mexican in (including myself probably). One last massive payday against a much smaller guy rather than unifications with the beasts at 175lbs is probably the right move for Kovalev before retiring. I’m all for seeing it!
MO: I think Kovalev gets waxed by Canelo. Canelo will dig to the body early and often. It will be interesting to see if Kovalev's jab can trouble Canelo, but really I see it being a competitive fight for two or three rounds before Canelo takes over on the way to a mid-to-late rounds stoppage.
OM: Yes but mainly to see Canelo open yet another chapter in his bejewelled career - it will be interesting to see how he fares at light heavyweight but I wouldn't want him in the division long term; there are far too many attractive fights at 160 / 168lbs.
MM: I know I'm in the minority, but I don't have much interest in Canelo vs Kovalev. I am not a fan of opportunistic weight-jumping from superstars to avoid the best opposition in their own division. However, it will be a big event that draws mainstream attention and a nice retirement check for Kovalev, who has certainly earned it. I like the Mexican to score a mid-late rounds stoppage. This won't be Spence vs Garcia.
CG: Canelo vs Kovalev is a hard one to pick. I’d go for Kovalev based on size and mass being too much for Canelo and he would likely train properly for this fight, something he may have not done for Yarde due to public issues outside of the ring.
SB: Yes. It's two marquee names. Canelo has spotted weaknesses. Kovalev still hits like a 175 train. One is jumping another weight division chasing greatness and the other could make himself a 21st century legend in beating Canelo despite the Russian having the size advantage.
PZ: Of course there's interest. Canelo, with his recent form, will be the favourite, but it won't be a walk over.
AH: I’m not a fan of catchweight fights, but if Alvarez is making a move to light heavyweight, then it’s an exciting contest. It’s certainly not the cakewalk some are predicting, where Alvarez taps the body a few times and then waves to the crowd. Kovalev will give Alvarez problems with the jab alone.
CW: Absolutely! The middleweight champ targeting a light-heavy belt is a challenge steeped in history and I’d love to see Canelo step up to challenge Kovalev. The excellent body puncher Canelo would start a heavy favourite after the world saw the light-heavy champ once again hurt to the midsection against Yarde.
BM: Where next for Yarde and how far can he go?
CR: He’ll probably have a couple more WBO international title fights and go back for the vacant title should Canelo win it and vacate like most expect him too.
JL: Everyone felt Yarde was too inexperienced before the fight and after the fight that seemed to be the excuse from the ‘lions’. Let him go the traditional route now. Would going to British title level be a step too far backward? I don’t think so, give him a proper belt and get him back to winning ways against the winner of Chelli vs Davies should Buatsi vacate and Richards go a different route, which I’m expecting from both guys, then look at EBU titles. In terms of how far can he go you just have to look at the other world champions in the division and say Yarde would not beat any of them. I feel he could be the Herol Graham of his era, the best to never win a world title.
JO: The next steps are crucial. There's a world level fighter in there but he needs to be developed. Yarde has the intangibles - natural athleticism, chin, heart, a powerful shot - it's the 'dull' stuff he needs to tease out. The fundamentals. Can he do that? Will he be allowed.to do that?
LG: Yarde showed for the first time he can dig deep and he was perhaps seconds or a few more big shots away from actually winning in the eighth. A few tweaks in camp and he can still be a champion at some point. Callum Johnson? Joshua Buatsi? These types of fights would be interesting.
OM: I'd want to see him take a step away from these WBO ranking builder contests, he's proved himself as a legitimate challenger but he needs those testing fights to turn him from challenger to champion. Too many times Yarde is left admiring and not doing much when he could really apply some pressure and make something happen.
MM: Yarde showed that he has potential to compete at the world level if he is willing to make significant adjustments to his training regime; he'll definitely learn from this experience. He's got plenty of heart and talent to build on. While he may not enjoy sparring, it will be necessary if he wants to become a complete fighter. He's been very privileged and had it all his way so far; now the real work begins.
CG: As I said, Yarde had his moments but moments aren’t good enough to beat top quality world champions. Also he faded late which shows an obvious issue with his conditioning.
SB: A long rest. That fight has added miles but it's also added questions and answers. Yarde must continue to fight guys in the top 15. Sullivan Barrera, who he was rumoured to fight, would be an ideal contest to come back to early next year.
PZ: Yarde needs to make the adjustments mentioned in my first answer. I'd like to see him fight Callum Johnson... or perhaps Joshua Buatsi. Fight the best in Britain... then Europe... then back to the world platform. That's the sensible approach, with that all important experience along the way.
AH: I’m always cautious about the prospects of young fighters who show immense promise in a major test but take a shellacking in the process. Fernando Vargas and David Reid weren’t the same fighters after their heroic stands against Felix Trinidad. John Mugabi never again reached the heights he did against Marvin Hagler. Shannon Briggs showed ability and heart going down in flames against Lennox Lewis, but never did a thing again. One fighter who did come back from a real beating was Nigel Benn (also knocked out by a jab/exhaustion, against Michael Watson). Benn had to lose again, change his set-up, and move to a new division, though, to resurrect his career. Yarde needs a long rest and then competitive rounds at a lower level. There are a host of good domestic fights there for him, against the likes of Hosea Burton and Callum Johnson.
CW: Yarde is 28 so far from a baby and should learn his trade properly at domestic and European level before returning to world level. I don’t expect Yarde to reach true world championship status, but he might one day pick up a conveniently packaged, modern-era vacant WBO or WBA regular strap.
BM: Tunde Ajayi - should Yarde stick with him?
CR: No, Yarde needs more than a cheerleader. Someone like Adam Booth or Shane McGuigan would be great for him.
JL: Yes, for now. Why leave him after one loss to a fighter who is levels above any previous opponent? Tunde clearly installs confidence in his man and confidence can play a huge part in a boxer. It’s how Tunde brings Yarde back from this loss which will help us find out how good a coach he really is.
JO: I think it's easy to mock Ajayi. His corner work was poor, his advice was poor and it was poor to send his man out for the 11th. But i don't know what goes on behind closed doors. I think the 'no sparring' mantra is untrue and he likes to indulge in smoke and mirrors. He does deserve credit for motivating his man. Not many fighters in Yarde's position would have accepted this fight.
LG: He’s been with him from the start so he wouldn’t be where he is now without him. That being said, a change to someone more experienced could make the key difference. But relationships are crucial between fighter and trainer so I’d expect him to stay put.
OM: Not for now but Tunde needs to drop the novelty antics. Shouting "lions in the camp" throughout a contest is just irritating when he should be offering cogent words of advice and his own inexperience showed in sending Yarde out for the 11th. Arguably Tunde has more to learn than Yarde but their relationship works, seemingly, and that's what matters.
MM: 500-punch combo mitt routines look cool on Instagram, but they don't prepare you for fights. Yarde should dump Ajayi and get with an actual boxing coach and learn the fundamentals. As much as Kovalev outclassed Yarde in the ring, Buddy McGirt completely outclassed Tunde Ajayi in the corner.
CG: Tunde has no experience at this level, and showed he had no idea what he was doing when his fighter ran out of gas and ideas against a fighter who kept him at bay for the most part with a jab.
SB: Yes, but only if certain things are addressed. They have a strong relationship and an even stronger bond but inexperience from both fighter and trainer cost them. It was a reality check. They know what went wrong and if they don't sort it out then Yarde will never become a world champion.
PZ: Yes, I think Tunde is man enough to admit that changes need to be made. If not... let's see.
AH: Yarde should stick with Tunde, but they need to be open to working with others. Yarde needs technical help. The Mayweather guard doesn’t work (Floyd used that at specific times during a fight) and he needs a better jab. His footwork needs work, too. They need to make some tough decisions before they come again.
CW: No. Yarde needs a rethink and should bring in professionals who will focus on hard work, sound technique and learning rather than social media focussed pad-work and banal phrase shouting.