The Big Question: Kovalev vs Yarde - who wins?
Anthony Yarde travels to Russia to face Sergei Kovalev this weekend. The BM team are here with their predictions for the light-heavyweight showdown...
I hope Yarde pulls it off this weekend. In truth, I don't know how seriously he's taken the threat of Kovalev. I'm sure Tunde and his lion both respect the Russian, but Yarde was in Vegas at a pool party with his friends only six weeks ago - make of that what you will. I can see Kovalev winning before the tenth round, using his proven fundamentals and making the Londoner work on the back foot. Yarde hasn't had to show much urgency during his professional career, controlling fights at his own pace. If the tippy-tappy pads are transferable, he could surprise me. I hope he does. Kovalev TKO in the ninth. - Craig Scott
For British boxing I would love Yarde to win but his inexperience worries me. Credit to him for stepping up and travelling to Russia but Kovalev has been one of the best light heavyweights this century and of the last 20-25 years. Sadly I haven't seen anything from Yarde that says to me he can step up to this level which is a gigantic leap from who he has fought and nullify the strengths of the champion. I think Yarde may have a moment that gets us to the edge of our seats but I fear that may be his downfall too. Kovalev TKO 6. - Shaun Brown
I’m struggling to recall a prospect operating at the level Yarde has to date, suddenly leaping to the top of a division - especially against someone as accomplished as Kovalev. I love Yarde’s confidence, and he has the power to cause an upset, but Kovalev would need to have slipped significantly to lose to a prospect who is yet to be tested in the pros. I’ll take Kovalev to hand out a painful lesson, but for Yarde to impress in defeat. Kovalev by TKO in an exciting fight, somewhere close to the mid-point. - Andrew Harrison
This is very much a head over heart decision for me. I honestly would love nothing more than Yarde to get the win and bring the belt back to England. However, not only does Kovalev seem rejuvenated after linking up with Buddy McGirt but he also has the home advantage. Yarde will feel the difference between a D class fighter and an A class fighter very quickly. I think Yarde will do himself proud and go out on his shield, but Kovalev by TKO late in the fight. - James Lupton
Yarde is an exciting talent, but it's a huge jump he's making. Kovalev may not be quite the fighter he was but he's still a high level operator. In a situation like this, I fall back on what I know. I know Kovalev has been a pound for pound fighter for the last few years, whilst Yarde is unproven at anywhere near that level. I'm inclined to pick Kovalev by middle to late rounds stoppage. - James Oddy
I can't see how anyone is confidently siding with Yarde here. Kovalev isn't exactly washed, he arguably won the first Andre Ward fight and you don't comfortably beat Eleider Alvarez if you're 'past it'. We saw a more recognisable 'Krusher' in that rematch victory after taking training seriously again and, with a massive final payday against 'Canelo' looming after this bout, he'll surely be in the same motivated and driven mood. Yarde hasn't faced anyone even close to Kovalev's ability and I think his camp may be dangerously assuming the Russian is over the hill. For me, they're in for an eye opener once the fight starts and I fancy Kovalev to impose himself early and eventually stop the Briton later on. Kovalev by tenth-round TKO. - Lee Gormley
Kovalev wins for me. I can imagine Yarde will put up a good performance, but anyone who thinks Kovalev is on the slide didn’t see his last performance. I was ringside for it in Texas and Buddy McGirt has done a great job with him. I feel a lack of experience in the ring and in the corner with Yarde will play a major factor, and he’ll run out of ideas quickly and won’t no how to neutralize Kovalev’s power and timing. Kovalev in rounds seven to nine for me. - Chris Glover
The whole thing with Yarde, while not wishing to be too disrespectful, takes me back to the late 90s and early 00s when a queue of domestic fighters in the trail of the Naseem Hamed era would claim to be 'world class' and come out with the line of 'no one can take my power', while not actually having proved themselves at anything beyond domestic class, or fringe international level at best. The era of WBO Intercontinental titles or WBU belts (or just domestic hype) meaning they were supposedly the next big thing, but when exposed to true world class, said fighters quickly found themselves out of their depth... I think of Esham Pickering or Richie Wenton as good examples of being hammered by world-class fighters, quickly and precisely. However, perhaps the closest example of what Yarde is trying to do comes with Mark Prince, who ironically was WBO Inter champion, was knocking guys out, was 18-0, and thrown in against a dominant, longtime champion in Dariusz Michalczewski, and was finished just after the halfway mark. Yarde is WBO Inter champion, has been knocking guys out, is 18-0, and in against a three-time champion in Kovalev. And he should be finished-off just after the halfway mark. - Colin Harris
I love Yarde’s youthful confidence, but he took up boxing at age 19, had a limited amateur career and has faced nobody to date as a professional who could possibly prepare him for Kovalev. The 'X Factor' to this match up is Kovalev’s history of bad habits outside the ring and lack of focus in the past. He’s had legal issues as of late and there are plenty of temptations around while training in his homeland. Which Kovalev will show up? If the former undisputed light heavyweight champion of the world is anywhere near top form he not only beats Yarde, he dominates. Kovalev to win. - Michael Montero
Whatever people think of Yarde’s opposition up until now, he must be respected for doing things his own way and then taking on Kovalev, who up until the loss to Andre Ward was considered one of the most fearsome champions in the whole of boxing, in his own backyard. Yarde is one of the new breed of athlete that have supreme confidence in their own ability, so much so that he can appear arrogant and cocksure. We’ll see what he’s made of on Saturday that’s for sure! ‘There are levels in boxing’ is a term we hear all the time and for Yarde to defeat Kovalev he will have to show he can perform at a level he’s been nowhere near so far in his relatively short professional career, but having spoken to Yarde before he flew out to Russia he is super confident of victory. For Yarde to pull off a major shock his best chance is to surprise Kovalev, who can be a slow starter, early and hope he can capitalise on that early success and that his chin can stand up to the Russian's hammer blows. However It’s difficult to see past a Kovalev win. He possess KO power, is proven at elite level and has somewhat underrated boxing skills. Picking Yarde to win could only be based on the assumption that 'Krusher' isn’t the force he once was and Yarde shows us that he has more to his game, much more, than he has needed to show so far in his career. I expect a good showing from Yarde, maybe to be even edging things in the early going, only to succumb to the champion's power and strength somewhere after the mid point. I hope I’m wrong! - Danny Winterbottom
Anyone who is picking Yarde is doing it simply on a hunch and whilst I think his power is pretty legit we simply haven't seen his chin checked, his stamina in the championship rounds and unfortunately his level of opposition went backwards after Nikola Sjekloca. Kovalev isn't without his question marks, with a potential carrot of a Canelo bout dangling in front of him along with some outside the ring issues once again. On the evidence in the ring I cannot make a case for Yarde though and my pick is for Kovalev to prevail in six or seven rounds. - Marcus Bellinger
Kovalev wins, I find it hard to say otherwise and that's frustrating because, set aside all the hype and rampant propaganda from his corner, and Yarde is a very nice man with talent and power in spades. It would be a mammoth upset should Yarde get the victory out in Russia and that's on the assumption that Kovalev has retained enough of his peak ability but there's always that voice in my head that wants to see Yarde vindicated. Logic dictates he won't and I shan't stick my head above the parapet - Kovalev to win but in labouring fashion. - Oliver McManus
How good is the winner of the Belgian Grand National? We don't know because he's never been tested. It's much the same with Anthony Yarde. He's a total wildcard, looked incredible breezing through part-time pros and smaller men, but no-one really knows if he's contender or pretender. On form and status, Sergey Kovalev is at least two rungs up the boxing ladder, coming off a shrewd boxing display against old nemesis Eleider Alvarez and bolstered here by homefield advantage. Rumours persist that Sergey has been hitting the vodka bottle harder than the heavybag and, for this reason, I give Yarde an 'alcohol-free' shot at the upset. But Kovalev surely has enough left to outfox the younger, greener man for a win on the cards. - Mark Butcher.
Final tally: Kovalev 13 Yarde 0