IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston seeks the betting value in tonight’s light-heavyweight rematch between Lyndon Arthur and Anthony Yarde as well as Stateside action featuring Devin Haney vs Joseph Diaz and Gervonta Davis vs Isaac Cruz at 135lbs.
In the first fight between Lyndon Arthur and Anthony Yarde last December, Arthur survived a wobbly last round to win a split 12-round decision. The question, obviously, is whether Yarde learned enough from the first fight to turn the tables.
The two meet at the Copper Box Arena in London, and one thing that will be different is that the fight will be held in front of a crowd. Last time, Covid restrictions were still in place in the UK, with just family and friends permitted to attend. I would expect most of the crowd to be rooting for the local fighter, Yarde, although Manchester’s Arthur will have supporters present. Yarde is the favourite (8/11 or -140 at Betfred) but it looks an even-money type of bout.
In the first fight, it was a case of the boxer beating the puncher. Arthur piled up points with the jab but the muscular Yarde landed the more telling blows. Yarde had a big last round but it was too little too late. Even so, I had Yarde winning, 115-113.
If you are a Yarde backer he can be a frustrating watch. He moves in and looks relaxed but he can be extremely patient. It’s as if he wants everything to be exactly right before he cuts loose. But when Yarde lets his hands go he can be exciting and explosive.
Arthur is an excellent textbook boxer. He has a beautiful jab and he punches with authority with the right hand or left hook. In the first fight, Arthur apparently had a compromised right arm and could only use the right hand sparingly. He won the fight with the jab. If Arthur can land right hands in the rematch it will make him a more difficult opponent for Yarde. However, I had the impression, watching the first fight unfold, that Yarde was pacing himself and, in his own mind, doing just enough to win rounds before taking it to Arthur in a truly assertive manner in the 12th. Unfortunately for Yarde, he got it wrong. The judges — well, two of them — preferred Arthur’s steady jabbing and workrate to Yarde’s flashes of power.
I believe Yarde realises that changes in his training and preparation needed to be made. He has brought ex-fighter James Cook on board to assist his trainer, the controversial Tunde Ajayi, whose methods — lots of work on the pads (or “target mitts” if you prefer), and little sparring — have come in for much criticism.
Cook, a former British and European 168-pound champion, is known to be a no-nonsense individual who believes in old-school methods. My concern is that there could be disharmony in the camp, because Tunde Ajayi is not a man with a small ego, but Yarde says it’s a team effort, with no clashing of personalities, and I have to take him at his word.
If you believe Yarde, he was the one who wanted this rematch. He seems to accept that he has to start faster this time and can’t give away the early rounds.
Yarde explained his slow start in the Face Off preview show on BT Sport. Having run out of gas against Sergey Kovalev in Russia, Yarde said he wanted to get 12 rounds of boxing under his belt before making another world title challenge. This, he said, is why he didn’t really unload on Arthur until the last round. He felt he was winning the fight. Now Yarde acknowledges the bout was much closer than he thought, although he still feels that he won.
On the face if it, this explanation makes sense. The other side of the coin is that Yarde might be uncertain about his stamina and doesn’t want to risk punching himself out, as he did against Kovalev, when he had the Russian fighter seemingly out on the verge of being stopped in the eighth round.
I believe Kovalev told Yarde after the fight that if he sticks with it he will be a world champion one day. And Yarde is talented, no question. He throws some educated shots. He’s the puncher in the fight. But Arthur is a competent technician with an excellent jab and he has a respected trainer in Pat Barrett, the former European light-welterweight champion.
I’m just not sure who wins the rematch. It’s all well and good Yarde saying he plans to start faster this time, but Arthur will have something to say about that.
My instinct is that we’re looking at another long, technical fight, with Yarde looking good in spurts while Arthur pegs away with the jab and perhaps brings the right hand into play. If Arthur gets hurt he should, I think, be able to weather the storm, as he did in the 12th round last time the fighters met. While Yarde is dangerous he doesn’t seem to have it in him to sustain an offensive. I could envisage Yarde hurting Arthur, perhaps more than once, but failing to close the show.
If you feel that Arthur will again outpoint Yarde you’ll like the odds of 7/4 (+175) on the Manchester man to win by decision.
But Yarde had Arthur hurt late in the first contest. If you feel he can start letting big shots go earlier this time, the Yarde KO prop at 6/4 (+150) will appeal.
What if you can’t make up your mind who will win? Then you might be interested in one of the proposition markets. The price for “Distance — No” is 11/10 (+110) while “Distance — Yes” is offered at 4/6 (-150).
If you’re backing Arthur you’re likely going to be nervous in every round that Yarde might land a big shot. If you’re taking Yarde, you could find yourself exasperated that he’s not letting his hands go.
Arthur has boxed once since the first meeting, stopping a somewhat limited but stubborn Italian fighter in the ninth round, while Yarde had a predictable one-round blowout.
Those who like Yarde to win the rematch no doubt see him as more naturally gifted, more athletic and more powerful. Bettors who like Arthur’s chances likely consider him more fundamentally solid, with a better jab, better stamina and simply the more reliable of the two men. So it really is a toss-up although I’ve noticed a slight shift in the odds in Yarde’s favour.
As for the winner, tentatively I lean a little towards Yarde getting it right this time. Yarde is 30, as is Arthur. Obviously both men want to win but I think a loss would be more devastating for Yarde because there are cynics on social media who consider him to be a hype job who is more sizzle than substance. If Yarde loses to Arthur again there will surely be a lot of gleeful “I told you so!” comments on social media platforms. So Yarde, when it comes right down to it, carries the burden of proof into the fight. He has to prove that he can really dig down and win a big fight and thus remove some of the doubts that hover over him.
Across the pond in Las Vegas tonight undefeated Devin Haney defends his lightweight title against always tough Joseph ‘Jo Jo’ Diaz. Haney looks too fast and skilled but he’s a 1/6 (-600) favourite. Fight not to go the distance at 2/1 (+200) could be worth a look because Diaz brings pressure and Haney could be starting to get his “man strength”, so this might be more of a firefight than it appears to be on paper.
Exciting and dangerous Gervonta “Tank” Davis puts his WBA 135lbs belt at stake in Los Angeles on Sunday against tough and tenacious Isaac Cruz of Mexico. Cruz really brings it, but Tank is a truly explosive puncher. The total rounds proposition has been set at 6.5. I lean a bit towards the under 6.5 at 10/11 (-110). Tank’s firepower is like something Cruz will never have faced. I’m thinking of a Tank stoppage any time around the sixth.
Main image: Arthur (right) and Yarde meet again tonight. Photo: Queensberry Promotions.