Anthony Yarde’s ambitions to fight for a world title will soon become a reality as a deal to fight WBO light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev is set to be confirmed for late June in the title-holder’s homeland of Russia.

Yarde, who has 17 knockout wins from 18 unbeaten fights, said negotiations for the fight were “near enough completed” while promoter Frank Warren says his son George and Kathy Duva, Kovalev’s promoter have struck “the best deal possible in the circumstances.”

The 27-year-old Yarde will undoubtedly face questions over whether he is ready to face a hard-hitting former unified champion with only nine rounds in the bank since last October.

However, Warren is full of admiration for his fighter who has “stepped up to the plate” by fighting in unknown territory.

“You look at each situation as it arises and that’s all that matters.” said Warren in an exclusive interview with Boxing Social

“What you look at is where you are and what is available. I really fancy Anthony in this fight and if the worst situation happens, so what? He’s gone in with a quality world champion and he’s earned a great experience out of it.

“He’s going into the lion’s den and once that bell goes, it’s just him and Kovalev. Would I prefer it to be in the UK? Course, I would. But we haven’t got the 80 percent of the purse to play with. We had a serious discussion with Anthony and Tunde (Ajayi, Yarde’s trainer) and that’s the decision we’ve made. It says a lot about Anthony as a fighter.”

It has been a tough time for Yarde to get big opportunities over the line. He was supposed to showcase his talent in Los Angeles on the undercard of Deontay Wilder versus Tyson Fury in December, but that has only increased his motivation towards this big chance. 

Yarde thinks that missing out on certain fights, particularly at domestic level and in LA where no opponent could be found, have done his career no harm.

“I don’t take any negatives away from that.” Yarde said.

“It was all a learning curve for me and all I can do is think positively. My goal is to become world champion and a lot of people see the British title as an honour but when you’re British champion, in my opinion, you’re only known by people in your country but when you’re a world champion, you’re known by so much more.”

The Ilford knockout artist is fearless in his approach about travelling to Russia, a country that hasn’t got the best track record with issues of racism.

As an example, Russian sports fans have been reported for throwing bananas at black athletes previously.

“I’ve got no concerns about (going to) Russia.” said Yarde.

“People around the world unfortunately think in this type of way and suffer from the illness of being racist. Boxing is a sport of war and racism happens all over the world, but I do think in Russia, it’s going to be more in your face. It’s something you just have to laugh at.”

Yarde has the strong belief that he can keep cool against such despicable behaviour but could plan to visit the country before the proposed fight date to ensure he is treated properly and respectfully. 

“I’m not saying I will, but what I might do is go over there for two or three days to walk around and see how I feel.” he said. 

“Look at the hotels and see how I am treated over there just to prepare myself mentally to go there and have a fight. If you know what’s coming and you know what to expect, sometimes you deal with it better. My main concern is my safety and to make sure there are precautions in place for when I’m over there, when I’m in the ring and when I’m leaving.

“If I do see any hostility, I would just try to ignore it and focus on the task at hand. I find it more offensive when people tell me I can’t achieve what I want to achieve so I would want my goals and aspirations to do the talking.”

However, one stumbling block that could prevent Kovalev fulfilling a fight with his mandatory challenger Yarde is the Russian’s ongoing court case.

The 36-year-old Kovalev was in court on April 19 over charges related to an alleged assault in Big Bear, California. A woman named Jamie Frontz is suing Kovalev for 8 million dollars in damages after suffering a broken nose and a concussion from being punched in the face. She alleges Kovalev and one of his friends did this after she rejected his advances at an earlier party in the evening.

Yarde meanwhile stated that he will not be forced into inactivity if his big opportunity is stalled by decisions out of his control.

“If it gets postponed and that course case does delay the fight with Kovalev, then I’ll probably get in the ring for another fight in between.” he said.

“And then it’s business as usual where you’ll get people saying it’s risky and dangerous but that’s the same in every fight for me.”

If Yarde does enter Russia without any hinderances to square off with Kovalev, a champion who has 28 out of 33 wins by knockout, Kovalev has shown vulnerability in getting out-boxed twice by Andre Ward and being knocked out by Eleider Alvarez.

Promoter Warren firmly believes his charge can cause a similar upset like Alvarez did, but on Kovalev’s turf. 

“What you know about Anthony Yarde is he’s a devastating puncher.” said Warren. 

“They’re both big punchers. We could’ve side-stepped it but that’s not what Anthony wanted. And I’ve got my confidence in him as a fighter and as a person. I’ll stick by him and I think he’ll win. If he comes through this fight and gets this title, the world’s his oyster.”

He won’t be running up snowy mountains and screaming Kovalev’s name like the Rocky IV movie, but Yarde does envisage a spectacular and almost cinematic curtain closer. 

“Rocky IV is a bit too brutal for me.” Yarde joked.

“I do feel like I’m the hardest puncher in the division. I’ll prepare with a little bit more tempo than usual in camp. It won’t be because I’m preparing for Kovalev specifically, but I’m preparing for world title level. I’ve never focused on any other individual but myself.

“I don’t want to leave the ring with too many bumps and bruises but the image in my head is winning by knockout and I don’t have a magic globe but in myself, I know Anthony Yarde can win by knockout.”

Article by: Nate Williams

Follow Nate on Twitter at: @nate_williams23