One of boxing’s most exciting fighters returns to the ring on Saturday night when Artur Beterbiev defends his WBC, WBO and IBF light heavyweight world championships against Anthony Yarde. The fight takes place at Wembley Arena in London (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+).
Beterbiev (18-0, 18 KO) has a deserved reputation as a mauling force of nature. None of his opponents have made it to the final bell, which includes the seven men Beterbiev has defeated in championship fights.
In November 2017, Beterbiev won his first world title when he stopped Enrico Kolling in the 12th round to capture the vacant IBF title. After two defenses of his title, Beterbiev faced WBC champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk, scoring a 10th round stoppage in a thrilling fight, unifying the two titles. Beterbiev would again defend his titles twice before seeking another belt. In his most recent fight, he ran through WBO champion Joe Smith Jr. to unify three of boxing’s four world titles at 175 pounds.
A fight with WBA champion Dmitry Bivol is high on the list of “dream fights” for many boxing fans. Bivol has called for the fight and Beterbiev recently said that he “of course” wants to fight Bivol to establish an undisputed champion in the division.
If the undisputed championship clash with Bivol can’t be made, the WBC stated at their annual conference that the winner of Beterbiev vs. Yarde must next defend their titles against Callum Smith.
“In our camp, we always try to be ready for different scenarios. If it’s a tough fight, we’re going to be ready,” Beterbiev said.
“I feel good. I hope on January 28 I will change a little bit [to turn into a monster]. I said he looks like a bodybuilder because of his muscles. I don’t have this muscle and I didn’t say it to mean anything bad. I said it because he looks strong!”
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Yarde (23-2, 22 KO) enters the bout on a three-fight winning streak. He has been Beterbiev’s mandatory opponent since his December 2021 fourth-round stoppage win over Lyndon Arthur, a win that allowed Yarde to avenge one of his two career defeats after Arthur had taken a split decision in their first meeting a year prior.
In his only previous shot at a world title, Yarde suffered an 11th round TKO loss against Sergey Kovalev. In that fight, Yarde had done good work, including badly hurting Kovalev in Round 8, leading Kovalev’s corner to threaten to stop the fight. In the end, Kovalev was able to rally and stop a badly fatigued Yarde late in the bout.
“I’m happy to be alive, happy to be at this stage of my life as well. Being an underdog, over-dog middle dog … it don’t matter to me. I’m a dog,” Yarde said at the final press conference. “When I get in the ring and I start throwing my hands about, everyone knows what I can do. If you want to say it does anything to me, it gives me that little push, that little urge. But, again, it’s expected. I don’t lie or bulls— anybody. He’s got 18 fights, 18 wins, [100 percent] knockout ratio, Olympian. He’s done a lot in the sport, and that’s why he should be respected. I’ve respected him this far. As I said before, when we get in the ring, surely he will be saying the same thing. There’s no respect in the ring when you try and take the respect away from your opponent.”
A talented fighter, Yarde has faced criticism for not taking the steps to maximize his talent, including sticking with trainers and training methods that many feel have held him back.
The undercard features one other title bout and a pair of veterans looking to make a statement. Artem Dalakian looks to defend his WBA flyweight title when he takes on David Jimenez. Dalakian, the 35-year-old veteran fighting out of Ukraine, is unbeaten at 21-0 with 15 knockouts. His last win came on home soil when he stopped Luis Concepion in November 2021. Jimenez, a Costa Rican native, is unbeaten at 12-0 with nine knockouts. The other featured bout will see Karol Itauma take on Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna in a light heavyweight contest.
Let’s take a look at the odds from Caesars Sportsbook before getting to a prediction and pick on the main event.
Beterbiev vs. Yarde fight card, odds
|Artur Beterbiev (c) -900||Anthony Yarde +600||Unified light heavyweight title|
|Artem Dalakian (c) -135||David Jimenez +115||WBA flyweight title|
|Karol Itauma -4500||Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna +1600||Light heavyweight|
This is a fight with tremendous potential for action. Beterbiev has one of the most fan-friendly styles in boxing and Yarde has serious power. Both men also get hit a fair amount, leading to a strong possibility the fight ends with one man flat on his back.
What makes Beterbiev so good is that his aggression works because he is also very sound in his fundamentals, which can be seen with the long list of accomplishments he achieved in his amateur career. While he’s tough and willing to take a punch to close distance or get off a shot of his own, Beterbiev is able to do what he does because he has the technical foundation to cut off the ring, work to the inside and unload with sharp punches to the body and head.
The body shots of Beterbiev could play a big part in the fight, with Yarde’s conditioning having been an issue against Kovalev. Still, between the combination of Yarde’s power and Beterbiev being 38 years old, Yarde is a live underdog coming in.
That said, Beterbiev is so talented and so relentless that it’s hard to see how Yarde isn’t eventually overwhelmed by the non-stop attack of the veteran champion, leading to a stoppage in the middle rounds. Pick: Artur Beterbiev via TKO5