Doubts and questions linger as Sergey Kovalev and Anthony Yarde prepare for fight
By John J. Raspanti
Intangibles and doubts will enter the ring with Sergey Kovalev and Anthony Yarde when they meet August 24 at Tracktor Sport Palace in Chelyabinsk, Russia.
Kovalev, 36, has a big edge in experience and competition. The three-time light heavyweight champion has won 33 of 36 fights, scoring 28 knockouts.
Kovalev’s championship career was on the line when he fought Eleider Alvarez in a rematch six months ago.
Alvarez had shocked Kovalev and the boxing community by knocking out the defending WBO champion in round eight last August. Kovalev asked for and received a rematch. Some said he was finished and should retire. Instead, he stated he wasn’t in proper shape, and hired Hall of Fame trainer Buddy McGirt.
The changes paid dividends in the sequel. Kovalev boxed smartly, outworking Alvarez, who was knockout crazy in every round. Kovalev won the fight by unanimous decision.
The native of Russia stands 6’ and has a wingspan of almost 73 inches. Kovalev showed his boxing smarts in his victory over Alvarez, but the man nicknamed the “Krusher” has earned his moniker by scoring quick knockouts over the course of his career.
His power can’t be ignored. Four of Kovalev’s last six wins have ended before round seven. Kovalev’s conditioning has been questionable for several years. Even when winning, he’s looked gassed and vulnerable. Yarde would be smart to invest in some bodywork.
Yarde, 28, is undefeated in 18 fights, with 17 knockouts. His match with Kovalev will be his fifth in 18 months. He was last seen in the ring trouncing one Travis Reeves. Yarde has been talking about challenging one of the light heavyweight champions for awhile now. When he was offered a chance to fight Kovalev, he agreed immediately, though word leaked out that his team wanted him to wait another year. Yarde disagreed.
"I am more than happy to achieve my goal in Russia and I think it is only right that a great world champion such as Kovalev is given the opportunity to defend in his home country," Yarde said last month at a press conference.
Yarde’s most impressive wins were over Nikola Sjekloca and Walter Gabriel Sequerira. Yarde matches Kovalev in height and reach. He’s powerfully built and fires punches with bad intentions. His jab has looked sharp, and might prove to be a key against Kovalev. Andre Ward, who defeated Kovalev twice, used his left to keep Kovalev off balance. Yarde is reasonably athletic and quicker than Kovalev.
All the oddsmakers have made Kovalev the betting favorite. Kovalev might be favored, but this is where the intangibles come in. Kovalev is eight years older, has had legal problems outside of the ring, but will have the advantage of fighting at home. He’s very happy about that.
"I am thrilled to fight for the first time in my hometown of Chelyabinsk. It is a dream to defend my WBO title in front of all my friends and family back home," said Kovalev.
Yarde hasn’t fought anyone close to Kovalev’s experience and skill. Kovalev is not fond of shots to the body. Yarde is a good body puncher. Kovalev will test Yarde’s chin at some point. Yarde will make Kovalev work.
Kovalev will likely win, but this one has upset written all over it.