Anthony Yarde reflects on war with Beterbiev, British light heavyweight scene
A year on from impressing in defeat against Artur Beterbiev, Anthony Yarde – who on Saturday at London’s Copper Box Arena on the undercard of Hamzah Sheeraz-Liam Williams fights Serbia’s Marko Nikolic – discusses the British and world light heavyweight pictures, with Declan Warrington
Artur Beterbiev last month stopped Callum Smith, and none of his opponents has truly recovered from losing to him. One year and two fights on, is that night out of your system?
I didn’t take anymore punishment than he did in that fight, other than the shot he caught me with to finish the fight. He looked fantastic against Smith – walked through him. I fought in September, and I got that guy [Jorge Silva] out of there relatively easy. It’s about being active. That’s been to my detriment in the past – sometimes you get caught up in the hype of trying to please fans and you can’t please fans and be as active as I want to be. If I could I’d fight five times in a year, and hopefully at the end of that year have a world-title fight, I’d feel more prepared. I get so much criticism about trying to get experience, and then when the big fights come I take them – it’s like I’m caught in between.
I can see why that would happen to a lot of people, because [Beterbiev] takes away their soul – he beats them up for however many rounds they last. But I don’t think that was the case with me and him – we was going toe-to-toe, so if anything that gave me a lot of confidence. I didn’t have any effects or anything like that after the fight – I didn’t feel messed up. I went on a little holiday and got straight [back] into training.
Other than the shot that he put me on the canvas with, he didn’t really land any hard shots. He landed an uppercut as well. He got me in the corner and he threw a flurry and a hard uppercut – other than them two shots, it was like a normal fight, because we was trading, and when your adrenaline is going and you’re both getting the better of each other at different points… he seemed human, until the end. The difference between me and him was he showed his experience in some of the fight; he knew when to step off; when to take a little breather; all things like that. That’s all things I’m learning.
How do you reflect on Beterbiev-Smith?
Depending how Smith approached the fight, I thought he might have been dangerous for maybe three rounds. He’s got a good left hook – Beterbiev has been hit with left hooks before, [including] by Callum Johnson, and wobbled a couple of times by me with left hooks. I thought that was Smith’s best chance. But early on in that fight, I think it was the body shot – Beterbiev hit Smith with a lead right hand to the body, off of Smith throwing a combination, and when they both stepped back, Beterbiev – he throws a surprise right to the body – he’s landed it and the fight was never the same, and that happened the first round. After that Smith [laughs] – it’s not even funny – got hit with a body shot and said, ‘Fuck that’, and started being very cautious of what Beterbiev was doing, and that’s why the fight panned out the way it did.
People expected me to get blown away in that fight. In the build-up to the fight it was, ‘Yarde is no match’, based on my experience; the people I’ve beaten. [In 2019, Sergey] Kovalev was the only other world champion I’d fought, and he won that fight, so people just gave me a puncher’s chance – maybe I’d catch him like Callum Johnson did and finish the fight. But the performance I gave surprised a lot of people. Smith being an ex-world champion and fighting bigger names – he fought “Canelo” [Saul Alvarez] – how Beterbiev walked through him and made it look easy, left the fight without a mark on his face, not one mark on his body… people gave me a lot of props.
What about Joshua Buatsi-Dan Azeez?
On paper [that was Buatsi’s best performance]. Azeez has been getting better and better. Styles make fights, and they sparred each other for so long – I think they’ve always known that Buatsi’s got his number, especially in the styles. How Buatsi fought Azeez, we hadn’t really seen him fight like that yet. That’s where there was so much calmness. He was boxing with his left hand a bit lower; over the course of sparring him for so long, he maybe realised his weak points. That’s why it went that way.
That victory made Buatsi the mandatory challenger to the WBA title held by Dmitry Bivol…
There’s been so many conversations [with my promoter Frank Warren about me fighting Buatsi next]. There’s even conversations regarding Chris Billam-Smith; Callum Smith. There’s so many options – Buatsi’s not the only option for me. It’s an option I want and have wanted for quite a while. There’s certain fights that make sense and certain fights that don’t, and the Buatsi fight makes sense.
I don’t take any offence. I’d fight Buatsi for a world title over Bivol as well. I’d fight Buatsi over Beterbiev again. I’d fight Beterbiev again tomorrow. I tried to get the rematch with Beterbiev straight away – I always feel like I do better in certain fights [as against Lyndon Arthur] because I’m learning on the job. Beterbiev respectfully declined – obviously he’s on to bigger and better things. But I don’t take any offence to Buatsi saying that. It makes sense, but the difference between me and Buatsi, on paper, is I go for the world titles. It’s not about who’s the easier fight or who I think’s the easier fight. I wanna be a world champion and I want the hardest challenges out there, and that shows a bit of my mentality.
Beterbiev-Dmitry Bivol. Who wins, and why?
I’m not being biased – I just can’t see how Bivol is going to beat Beterbiev after 12 rounds. That being said, they’ve both been hurt before – that’s why this fight is so interesting. They’re both Russian-schooled fighters – both technically very good. Bivol has a little bit more of a boxing style, but is defensively effective, and he’s tough. It’s a fantastic collision.