Dream it, believe it, become it… Or something of that ilk.
East London’s undefeated light-heavyweight Anthony Yarde (16-0, 15 KO’s) seems pinned firmly between the latter two – seemingly desperate for a significant step-up in opposition.
I’m trying really hard to ‘believe it’. Honestly, I am.
Yarde’s astonishing appeal as a commercial brand ambassador is hard to ignore, recently capturing a role with Adidas and previously popping up on sports supplement advertising. He has the image, he lives the life of a model professional and he also possesses an astute knowledge of the game: which is often overlooked.
Incase you weren’t aware, his amateur experience was limited. “How many contests?”, I hear you ask. Twelve. Only twelve. A dozen. As a naturally gifted athlete, Yarde had also turned his hand to basketball and track-and-field before committing himself to boxing. It’s a gift and a curse, his lack of top-level mileage in the unpaid ranks.
He is, of course, learning on the job, picking up vital experience and making mistakes aplenty. If anything, Yarde should be applauded and almost studied for his success thus far. He’s created a financially rewarding career for himself in a sport that sees World champions struggle to break even. He’s done it all without any real backing or furore – credit to him.
The ability is evident. I wouldn’t want anyone glancing at this piece to assume I don’t rate Anthony Yarde. He’s fluid, throws lovely combinations and picks his shots intelligently. Clearly, he carries power, which in a division so talent-rich, certainly helps.
But… as he enters his seventeenth contest, he’s answered less questions that many had hoped, leaving doubters revelling in his lack of a much-needed acid test.
As much as we enjoy seeing him fight ‘someone left-handed’ or ‘someone-who-once-upon-a-time-fought-someone-who-challenged-unsuccessfully-for-a-title’ – it is starting to wear thin.
Joshua Buatsi had barely warmed up before blasting out Tony Averlant in the opening round. It was Buatsi’s seventh contest. Yarde took seven rounds to grind down the very same Frenchman in his fifteenth contest. Cue: “He only had twelve amateur fights, he needs the rounds!”.
Let’s address that.
Now, having to gain experience and expertly hone your craft on a massive, televised, pay-to-watch subscription channel is unforgiving. The pressure of performing in-front of thousands live in attendance is far more than I’d be comfortable with. You just can’t have it both ways, is all. I’ll try and break it down, for reference;
[Imagine I work with you…
I’ve just started, I have a lot of potential and our manager starts to really value me as an employee. Our peers are watching my progress and notice I’ve started popping up on billboards for the company, appearing in training videos, the lot. I get a MASSIVE payrise. Huge. The boss has me going on corporate trips with him, lavish bonuses… The works.
That would be completely fair, if I’d taken risks, proven myself and excelled in testing situations in the workplace, right? If I’d raced ahead of the competition and built the business, you couldn’t begrudge me fair recompense, could you?
What if I was constantly tasked with elementary roles during my day-to-day? Imagine I hadn’t really progressed from my fifth day, to my fifteenth. I make it look good, I seem busy, but really, I can handle the workload I’ve got fairly simply. It’s not as fair, is it?]
Yarde is a smart, smart man. Tunde Ajayi, his long-term trainer and manager, also seems to have his head screwed on. Shouts of “Lions in the camp!” echo from almost every training clip, pushing themselves to the limit with intricate padwork which is impressive on the eye.
Frank Warren consistently refers to his fighter’s WBO world ranking – an overly lofty #2. “Why would he take that fight, he’s ranked number two in the world?” or “Why don’t they fight Anthony? He’s got that high ranking up for grabs” acting as familiar war-cries. This is the issue. You can certainly gain experience as a novice professional, not a problem. You cannot, however, flick the switch between ‘Mr Twelve Amateur Bouts’ and ‘Mr World-Ranked Number Two’.
It doesn’t work. Not because I disagree, but because the fans and the followers of the sport punch holes in this logic’s transparency. Don’t use the World ranking as a cheap bargaining tool, but use his lack of experience as an escape route: it just doesn’t work.
Frank suggested, when questioned about potential bouts with Hosea Burton or Joshua Buatsi, that Eddie Hearn should ‘let them fight each other, the winner can fight Anthony’. Why?
A career which has unquantifiable potential is hanging in the balance. Ajayi’s focus on timing is admirable if he feels Yarde isn’t yet ready to challenge the division’s elite. He’s looking out for his fighter, as a manager and a trainer should.
But if it isn’t that reason and that reason alone, then the time is now.
Article by: Craig Scott