Sergey Kovalev has successfully retained his WBO light heavyweight title, stopping previously undefeated mandatory challenger Anthony Yarde in the penultimate round of a memorable battle.
The opening rounds were punctuated by almost unbearable levels of tension as Kovalev, soaking up the adulation from his raucous home support, somewhat edged the early jab exchanges and began to assert his authority on the front foot.
Yarde, meanwhile, was ducking and dipping menacingly – attempting to look for openings on the counter – as Kovalev continued to expertly pick him off with straight shots from a comfortable distance.
Kovalev’s relatively conservative approach, honed by Buddy McGirt, played dividends as he was consistently able to neutralise his counterpart and prevent Yarde from sustaining any meaningful offence throughout the first half of the fight.
It was ultimately a disciplined and almost punch-perfect display from the defending champion, who was connecting with almost unerring accuracy, until Yarde began to operate with a greater sense of urgency; swarming the Kovalev and successfully landing with some significant bodywork.
A furious rally by the challenger in the eighth nearly silenced the thousands in attendance at the Traktor Sport Arena as a tenacious Yarde pummelled the tiring champion with some devastating shots. The heavy-handed Londoner was agonisingly close, perhaps seconds away from the fight being stopped in his favour, before the bell rung to signal the end of the eighth round.
By that point, Yarde had evidently punched himself out and the seasoned Kovalev capitalised, clawing back control of proceedings with an educated lead left hand.
Yarde came out again with malicious intent in the penultimate round – attempting to put his devastating reserves of punching power to good use – but shipped a no-nonsense left hand for his troubles and crumbled to the canvas in an exhausted heap.
With the dominant, albeit rocky win; the Russian has proved he is still a force at the age of 36 and has now potentially set up a lucrative showdown with Mexican superstar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in the winter.
Article by: Navi Singh
Follow Navi on Twitter at: @DarkMan________