Anthony Yarde’s trainer embraces underdog role but acknowledges Beterbiev danger
“It’s not about him, it’s about us,” said Tunde Ajayi.
The coach was talking about the task his fighter, Anthony Yarde, will face when he steps into the ring with unified light heavyweight titleholder Artur Beterbiev in Wembley Arena on Saturday night.
“That’s the focus, and I’m sure Anthony will answer the same. There’s nothing negative or bad you can say about somebody who’s been perfect, because that’s what [Beterbiev’s] been to this point. So the preparation has been for someone of that level, of the elite level, so we’re going to be ready. It’s as simple as that. He’s a good fighter. He’s 37 or 38 but he doesn’t seem to be slowing down; he’s a good fighter and one that you can never overlook, so we’re prepared.”
Beterbiev doesn’t have many chinks in his armor, and he and Dmitry Bivol are seen as the two best at 175 pounds in the world. It’s Beterbiev’s ferocity that causes him to catch the eye, but Ajayi does not see the champion as one-dimensional or the monster he’s often portrayed as. He sees a skilled prizefighter with a deep amateur pedigree.
“I’ve heard people speaking about his power, but his power is overrated and his boxing ability is underrated, and [former Beterbiev stoppage victim Oleksandr] Gvozdyk said it,” Ajayi continued. “And I heard that; that’s the way I look at it. People talk about his power, but he’s a great boxer. He’s a fantastic boxer. Power for me has always been who’s standing in front of you, so I don’t get caught up on this power business. What’s powerful to one man is not powerful to another man. Let’s not forget, Anthony had an almost identical record going into the Kovalev fight [in 2019], but nobody was talking about Anthony’s power. Yet he had an identical record. He was 18-0 at the time with 17 KOs. Fast forward, he’s 23 wins and 22 KOs, so Anthony can hit a bit as well.”
Regardless of Yarde’s power and the fact that he’s boxing at home, he’s the underdog. And although he experienced that before in Russia against Kovalev, the low expectations have Ajayi buzzing once more. Once he’s gone beyond any kind of negativity and has chosen to ignore the many critics he faces, he will take it and use it as fuel. The pressure is often off in the underdog role.
“I love it,” he insisted. “People at this level, unless you’re new to it – which we were in Russia – I don’t pay much focus to it. It’s odds. It’s bookmakers. It’s people that gamble and sometimes it’s the general public, but I don’t pay too much attention to that, because you’ve just got to prepare the way champions prepare. So we’re not paying attention to that [negativity]. That said, it’s a driving motivation.”
Next: Beterbiev will neutralize Yarde, says Scully