ANTHONY YARDE DISCOVERED in just his second amateur fight that playing for points and attempting to impress the judges is not for him.
Yarde, of course, is set for a second tilt at world title glory when he takes on the unbeaten unified champion Artur Beterbiev at the OVO Arena, Wembley on January 28, live on BT Sport, having overcome professional setbacks against Sergey Kovalev and Lyndon Arthur.
The self-styled ‘Beast from the East’ of the capital famously enjoyed limited amateur experience of just 12 fights before blasting onto the pro scene back in 2015. It meant he was not moulded into a textbook light heavyweight or took onboard too many amateur traits that required drilling out of him.
In fact, he flatly refused requests from his amateur coach Tony Cesay to adopt a more patient approach to his work, which resulted in him having only the dozen unpaid fights.
“It was the timeframe as well, I started boxing late,” added Yarde, now 31. “I had my first amateur fight when I was 19, I got into boxing at 18 and I didn’t have no junior bouts, no schoolboys, just straight into adult boxing.
“I think Tunde (trainer/manager, Ajayi) would agree with this. When I met Tunde I had a style-base already, based on people I had watched, people I wanted to mimic or re-mix. I feel like Tunde helped me evolve my boxing skill as I was very powerful.
“As an amateur I trained with Tony Cesay up until around seven fights in and, even as a professional, he used to come and join some of our sessions as well. From when I started boxing Tony used to say to me ‘you are sitting on your shots too much, you’re being flat-footed, you need to be in and out. Yes, you are powerful, but you need to be in and out, in and out’.
“I replied to him saying ‘Tone, I want to be a great professional boxer, not a good amateur. I know what you are saying, but I’ve got a plan in my head. I’m going to knock out everybody’.
“He said I couldn’t do that because I wouldn’t get any fights. In my first fight I knocked the guy out – we are friends now – then I couldn’t get a fight for three months. Tony said, ‘You see, because of your physique, the way you look, and you knocked out somebody, no-one wants to fight you’.
“So, in the second fight I boxed the guy. I still won, it was clear I won, Ohara Davies was there shouting the place down and, when they announced the other guy as the winner, he had a bloody nose, a bruised eye… They gave him the decision on their show, an army show, and afterwards the guy came into my changing room and tried to give me his medal, saying ‘you won that’.
“I said to keep it because now I was upset. If I got no fights, I got no fights, and after that I knocked out everyone I fought in the amateurs. So, I always wanted to have that great professional boxing style.”
And therein lies the lesson. Playing the longer game is not for him.Yarde admits that he listened to the doubters who questioned whether he could go the full 12 rounds ahead of his maiden world title challenge against the long-standing Russian champion.
Against his better judgement, he bided his time and did the same thing when he first came up against Lyndon Arthur.
The spectacular outcome of the rematch with Arthur demonstrated which method of boxing works for Yarde and it isn’t a cagey, calculated approach.
“Fact. That is what I’m trying to say. I don’t think it is to do with anyone but myself. I had a mindset when I started boxing and, the second I tried to change it or listen to people asking if I could go 12 rounds, I went away from what I knew.
“I know why the Kovalev fight didn’t go my way, I know why the fight didn’t go my way in the amateurs, I know why they gave the decision to Lyndon Arthur in the first fight.
“When all these things happened, it was when I went against my natural instinct and what I said I was going to do from the beginning.
“After that first fight with Lyndon Arthur I said ‘no more games, I know exactly what I’m going to do. And I’m going to do it’.”It is like back to the future.”
Artur Beterbiev v Anthony Yarde for the WBC, WBO and IBF world light heavyweight titles takes place at the OVO Arena, Wembley on January 28, live on BT Sport.
The bumper card also features the WBA world flyweight title fight between unbeaten fighters Artem Dalakian v David Jiminez.Willy Hutchinson and Karol Itauma fight for the WBO Intercontinental and WBC International light heavyweight titles respectively, with the show also featuring top prospects Charles Frankham, Umar Khan, Sean Noakes, Joshua Frankham, Khalid Ali and Tommy Fletcher.