ANTHONY YARDE was just one punch away from causing one of the boxing upsets of the year when he challenged Sergey Kovalev in August.
The Londoner was on the brink of shocking the Russian star in round eight, but Kovalev managed to survive and use his experience to get a TKO win in round 11 with Yarde exhausted more than hurt.
It may have been a first career defeat for Yarde who bravely travelled to Kovalev’s Chelyabinsk back yard, but the blue chip prospect proved he belonged among the 175lb division elite.
Promoter Frank Warren said: “We took the fight against Kovalev because we know how good Anthony is and it was only a lack of experience that cost him.
“He will become a better fighter for that defeat and in 2020 I expect him not just to challenge for a world title, but win one and go on to defend it many times.”
Yarde started out as a footballer and was on the brink of signing with professional club Queens Park Rangers until injury ended that career.
Boxing was his next stop and Anthony turned professional despite having had just 12 amateur fights, winning 11 by KO.
He says: “I didn’t start boxing until I was 18 but I believe that is a big advantage now. If you start too young, it’s easy to become distracted. Other things and bad habits come into your life and, as a teenager, you don’t know what you want.
“If you start a bit older, you know what you want to commit to and what it is really going to take to achieve your goals. I came in at the perfect time for me.”
Yarde made his professional debut in May 2015 and quickly collected a procession of highlight reel KOs that helped land a global deal with Adidas.
Warren’s expertise of making the right fights at the right time was showing and six of his first ten fights ended in the first round. Then, the promoter started moving him up in class, but the outcome was often the same.
Richard Baranyi an 18-1 solid opponent was unable to de-rail the Yarde express and referee Jeff Hinds spared him further punishment by stopping the contest nine-seconds before the end of the first round.
Being too good for his own good has been a theme since Yarde’s entry into the sport of boxing.
Nikola Sjekloca, who had drawn with European champion Robert Stieglitz in his previous encounter, also had close run affairs with the likes of Tyron Zeuge and Sakio Bika on his ledger, but his durability diminished in round four.
Tony Averlant and Dariusz Sek have been the most stubborn so far, both lasting until the seventh round.
Prior to his brilliant effort against Kovalev, Yarde faced his first American test, but decent operator Travis Reeves lasted just five rounds.