Rumble in Russia: Sergey Kovalev vs Anthony Yarde

On Saturday, August 24th WBO Light Heavyweight champ Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (33-3-1, 28KOs) will collide with the young Brit, undefeated Anthony “The Beast” Yarde (18-0, 17KOs). The fight will be in Kovalev’s hometown of Chelyabinsk, Russia at the Traktor Sport Palace. This will be the first time Kovalev is fighting in his hometown. Will we see a hungry version of Kovalev?

Highlights of Kovalev exacting his revenge against Eleider Alvarez.

Sergey Kovalev is coming off a UD win where he got revenge against Eleider Alvarez who was previously undefeated at 24-0 and had knocked out Kovalev in their first meeting. Sergey came back from that defeat and convincingly defeated Alvarez (120-108, 116-112 2x). I personally scored the bout 119-109, having him only lose the 11th round – and it was a close round, so I have no problem with the shutout. I do feel the 2 judges that gave 4 rounds to Alvarez were a bit generous. I’m not sure what they were watching, but that’s boxing.

Onto the current upcoming fight. Many boxing fans wonder what Kovalev has left in the tank. Is he still hungry enough to compete at the top level? His best days are clearly behind him, and he’s on a decline, but how steep of a decline? He looked great in his last fight. Has he gotten his mind right outside of the ring? Has he cut out the drinking? Lets hope so. Even with his bad habits outside of the ring, I don’t see him losing this fight.

Is it his time? Can Yarde pull off the upset?

Anthony Yarde is a young, undefeated, hungry lion. He is vicious in the ring and has showcased very good power in his 18 fights, finishing 17 of them by KO. He’s coming off a 5th round victory over Travis Reeves (17-4-2, 7KOs). He’s looked good in all of his fights, but there is plenty of room for improvement, as there is with any young fighter. He is still very raw and after watching some of his fights, there are flaws that make you wonder.

Are they bad habits?

Does he just get complacent with the inferior competition? With the latter, it’s not a major problem per se. With an intelligent and experienced opponent like Kovalev, he won’t be able to get away with any of those bad habits.

Some of you may be asking, is Yarde ready for the step up? He hasn’t really fought anyone to prepare him for this caliber of a fight.

Will he get by on pure, natural ability? Maybe. If he comes with the right game plan, and doesn’t come in overconfident, he has a chance.

Heavyweight Lineal Champ Tyson Fury thoughts on the fight.

Keys to Victory for Yarde:

  • Go to the body. From the opening bell, Yarde will need to find a way to close the distance and get inside and work Kovalev’s body. Easier said than done. Kovalev is aware that it’s his biggest weakness, and Yarde is no Andre Ward. If he manages to get inside early and work the body with ripping hooks, he sets himself up for success in the later rounds.
  • Lateral movement. I’ve noticed in some of his previous fights that he has been flat footed. Maybe he didn’t respect the power of his opponent, or like I said previously – he got complacent. A lot of unknowns as to why he makes the errors he makes. Will need to move a lot with someone like Kovalev, especially if he wants to create angles to get inside.
  • Keep those hands up! I’ve also noticed that Yarde likes to keep his left hand low. Maybe because it makes it harder to read where his jab is coming from, but it leaves his entire left side open and he isn’t known for his lateral movement. He likes to use a half ass shoulder roll. He needs to know that he isn’t Mayweather, and that won’t work against Kovalev all fight. An experience fighter like Kovalev will adapt quickly. Avoid this scenario and keep hands up.
  • Use feints to close the gap. Yarde does his best work from mid-range and close up on the inside. Kovalev is very good at controlling the distance behind his power jab. Yarde will need to feint and use movement to close the gap and get inside to go to Kovalev’s body and mix combinations upstairs. He will need to use his entire toolbox in this fight.
Boxing Great Andre Ward on Kovalev vs Yarde.

Keys to Victory for Kovalev:

  • Time the jab and counter. Yarde likes to keep his left hand low. If Kovalev can time that jab, he cant use the counter right over the top and cause a lot of problems for Yarde early and often.
  • Control the distance. This is a major thing to look at in this fight. Kovalev is known for keeping the fight at long range, behind his power jab. If he can force Yarde to fight his fight and counter him coming inside, it will be a long night for Yarde, or a short one, depending how Yarde handles the power.
  • Be aggressive, but intelligent. Kovalev needs to find a balance of patience and aggressiveness. He cannot charge in overconfident. I can see Yarde trying to bait him while he moves off the back foot, then trying to counter Kovalev as he comes in. Kovalev will have to be clever, move laterally, create different looks, different angles to confuse the far less experienced Yarde. If Yarde ends up being the aggressor, Kovalev can feint, move laterally and slip the punches and counter with hooks. Kovalev is as dangerous as they come. He may be on the decline, but his power is still there. Yarde does get careless at times, and Kovalev will make him pay if he gets too careless.

While I believe Yarde has at least a good career ahead of him, I feel he was rushed. I would have preferred him to fight a gatekeeper or a couple of former champions before getting into the ring with someone of Kovalev’s caliber. He’s also going to Kovalev’s backyard. The only way I see Yarde winning is by KO/TKO. He won’t go in there and outbox Kovalev. Kovalev looked dominant in his rematch against Alvarez under new head trainer Buddy McGirt. Whatever McGirt did with Kovalev, it showed. He made the necessary adjustments and Kovalev absolutely dominated the fight. Now Yarde is young, confident, and undefeated. I see a lot of boxing fans buying into the hype, combined with the fact that Kovalev’s best days are behind him. Personally, I feel like Kovalev, may be on the decline, but not such a deep decline that he’s washed. Kovalev can’t sleep on Yarde; I don’t think he will. It’s going to be interesting to see the tactics by both sides early. Who will be the aggressor? How sharp will Kovalev look? All in all, Kovalev has the experience, has the stronger resume against world class fighters that Yarde seriously lacks. Kovalev is a big guy, with legit power and he knows how to box. Yarde has not fought in any tough fights, so to me, he’s untested. This, in my opinion is too big a test at this stage in his career, it’s too big of a jump in competition. My prediction: Either late TKO or UD Kovalev wins.

Since this fight is taking place in Russia, the fight will be early. It will be shown on ESPN+ at 12:30 ET. For our UK fans, the fight will be shown on BT Sport 2 at 5PM Also on the card are a couple of good fights:

Ilunga “Junior” Makabu (25-2 24KOs) vs Aleksei Papin (11-0 10KOs) WBC Silver Cruiserweight Title.

Andrey Sirotkin (16-1 5KOs) vs Azizbek Abdugofurov (12-0 4KOs) WBC Silver Super Middleweight Title.