SAN DIEGO, Calif., August 24, 2019 – Three time WBO champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev remains the top light heavyweight in the world, digging deep and relying on his ring experience to deliver an 11th round TKO over challenger Anthony Yarde of Great Britain. It was Yarde’s first loss and stoppage.
See the fight highlights here.
“He’s strong, he has an IQ, good defense,” said Kovalev, but said Yarde simply lacked experience. “I won by experience, and because I’m Sergey Kovalev, Krusher. I can’t lose anymore. Right now, I got it right. Right training camp, right life, everything I do right now.”
Kovalev dedicated the fight to Russian countrymen Maxim Dadashev, who shared trainer Buddy McGirt with Kovalev. Dadshev died on July 23, three days after suffering injuries in a July 20 fight.
“Early in the fight I was very very confident,” said Yarde. “But experience does play a part. It’s not only me. My whole corner, my whole team are very inexperienced when it comes to this level. But we’re going for it. So no one can knock us. We’re taking a risk, we’re doing it, we’re trying to move up and do things … I went for it. A lot of people don’t go for it.”
Kovalev agreed wholeheartedly, complimenting Yarde after the fight.“You’re a great fighter. Be proud. You have a great future, believe me. You’re good, you’re very good,” said the champion.
Time-tested champion outlasts the younger challenger
Yarde showed impressive speed as expected, and the power to make it stick at times in the fight. But with 15 world title fights on his resume, Kovalev (34-2-1, 29 KOs) gave Yarde (18-1, 17 KOs) too much to deal with and knew how to dig deep when the going got tough.
Despite his nickname, Kovalev did not get in and brawl with the younger, stronger man. Kovalev’s best weapon is a long snapping left jab, and he deployed it to near perfection in this bout. For most of the rounds, it kept the worst of Yarde off Kovalev. It also served to frustrate Yarde, who had to expend some of his limited energy trying to figure out how to get around it.
Yarde found success in the seventh and eighth rounds when he attached the Russian’s Achilles heel – or rather, his Achilles gut. Kovalev is vulnerable to body shots, and even when he survives one it shifts his mindset. Yarde scored to the body in the seventh, and realized he had his chance, landing 16 of 60 punches including seven hard body shots.
Then in the eighth, Yarde rocked Kovalev with a big right hand with a minute left in the round. Kovalev had to hold to survive. The hometown crowd willed Kovalev on, and he relied on their energy, muscle memory, and ring IQ to survive the round.
In the corner, trainer Buddy McGirt told Kovalev, “Listen, if you take more stuff like that in this round, I’m going to stop it. You’re getting hit with too many punches.” Was McGirt trying to light a fire under Kovalev? Or was the fate of his fighter Maxim Dadashev on McGirt’s mind? It could have been both, but it was just was Kovalev needed to hear.
Krusher Kovalev dug deep and delivered when he needed to come through
For all the knocks Kovalev has gotten over the years about his conditioning, he came into this fight in the best condition of his life given his age. If Yarde had been able to deliver a second hard round of effort, he might have won the fight right there. But Yarde had emptied the tank and had little left. Kovalev went right back to the left jab, winding it up and taking the stuffing out of a tired Yarde. Breathing with an open mouth, Kovalev has stood in front of too many opponents to not see an opportunity.
Knowing the fight was in the balance, Kovalev came at Yarde, doing damage with power punches now following the lead left jab. Yarde’s head was hanging. He needed to make a stand but it didn’t have it in him.
In the 11th round, Kovalev was backing Yarde up on unsteady feet. It was the perfect blank canvas for Kovalev to paint on. He caught Yarde with a stunning left jab at the upper left side of the head, and Yarde fell back on the canvas with authority. Pabon made officially what the crowd of 7,500 at the Traktor Arena already knew. Kovalev had successfully defended his title.
Give tremendous credit to trainer Buddy McGirt for Kovalev’s performance. McGirt had Kovalev well trained, in phenomenal condition, and he delivered clean, definitive instructions when Kovalev needed guidance in the right. Whatever Kovalev’s problems are outside the ring, his head was right inside the squared circle.
Anthony Yarde can benefit from the experience in the long run
Despite the loss, Yarde remains an exciting young talent. He took a big gamble on himself. He lost Saturday, but many young fighters like Yarde have learned from an early loss to a veteran champion and come back the better for it. Canelo Alvarez did not hurt his career with his loss to Floyd Mayweather. Yarde and his unorthodox trainer Tunde Ajayi need to rethink their approach – and for Pete’s sake, do some sparring before your next fight, son. #SparringMatters
“I’m very ambitious. I’m never going to say that was good enough, because I didn’t win the fight,” said Yarde. “In my mind I’ll go back to the drawing board. I worked my ass off, but there are probably some technical things I need to work on. We’ll work extremely hard probably harder, and learn from the experience.”
Kovalev succeeded in protecting his proud legacy, and securing a potential major payday on the horizon in a fight against Mexican champion Canelo Alvarez. Was it worth fighting for? You bet. Kovalev said before the fight, “Everything depends on this Saturday. I have a focus for this fight and next I will be open for each fight, you know,” saying he didn’t see being in the ring too much longer past age 36.
Bring on the big money fight between Sergey Kovalev and Canelo Alvarez
Saturday’s fight reminded fans the light heavyweight division is the most competitive in boxing in 2019. Kovalev is one of four equally formidable champions, and there are several understudies waiting for their shot. Unifying the division is a purist’s dream. But don’t blame Kovalev if he instead chooses the path of a mega-fight with Canelo Alvarez.
Kovalev’s manager egis Klimas said after the fight, “”We did everything we were supposed to do for Canelo,” Klimas said. “Does Canelo want the fight? They have my number.” Promoters Golden Boy Boxing and Main Events have worked together many times. There are no business barriers here.
When you’re near the end of your career and thinking about your family’s future, taking the payoff you’ve worked all your life to earn is a responsible choice. It’s also a fan friendly Clash of the Titans with something for everyone. Orale!
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.
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