Anthony Yarde warmed up for January’s world light-heavyweight title fight with Artur Beterbiev as he smashed his way past Stefani Koykov in three rounds in Telford.
Yarde had been out of the ring since beating Lyndon Arthur last December, but when an injury put his fight with Beterbiev back to 2023, he wanted this fight to shake off some ring rust.
It was a straightforward task. He took his time, picked his shots and got an impressive finish.
Koykov, originally from Bulgaria but fighting out of Germany, was as soft an opponent as he dared face, whose 14-1 record was made up of exclusively low-level opposition,
From the opening bell, Koykov came forward trying to smother Yarde, but one right that landed high on the head seemed to stagger him and then Yarde caught him with a peach of an uppercut. Koykov wasn’t deterred, though, and he came forward throwing shots that were mostly blocked as he got through the opening round without alarm.
There was no rushing from Yarde in the second round, as he picked his shots well, softening Koykov up to the body. Koykov kept swinging away in the third, but Yarde was breaking him down.
Koykov started back-peddling and Yarde was after him, landing a series of hurtful hooks, before a right to the body and a right uppercut dropped Koykov by the ropes. That was enough for Koykov, who made it to one knee but no further as referee Kevin Parker counted him out. The time was 2:31.
“Whether I would have got him out of there in the first round, whether I would have got him out in the tenth, it doesn’t matter because I am getting that experience again of walking in the ring, making weight,” Yarde said . “I’ve got a big fight coming up next so it wasn’t about being over-cautious, it was about not making any silly mistakes, so I was happy with the victory today.
“It wasn’t flawless, I don’t think flawless is possible, but that is what you strive for. I always want to be better, I want to be the best version of myself. I don’t think anyone has ever had 12 amateur fights and had the career I have had in the professional ranks. I’ve got to be proud of myself and I have so much confidence going into my next fight.”
George Warren confirmed the news – revealed on boxingscene.com – that Beterbiev’s fight with Yarde would take place on January 28 at the old Wembley Arena.
“I think he is excited to fight in London,” Warren said of Beterbiev. “We all know how close British fans follow their boxing, the hard-core know this guy. Nobody wants to fight Anthony Yarde, so we have had to work so hard to get him into this mandatory position [with the WBO]he has been doing the business in the ring.”
Yarde, who lost to Sergey Kovalev for the WBO title in Russia in 2019, said he was confident he could dethrone Beterbiev.
“All I expect is that when I beat him, I get that spot,” Yarde said. “People say ‘how did he do this? How did he go from having 12 amateur fights to that position? How did he stick to his guns and beat someone who had over 300 amateur fights and then unified in just 18 fights?’ I feel like it’s just a story.”
Ethan James overcame the toughest night of his professional career to date as he got off the floor to win a close ten-round decision over Keanen Wainwright at super-lightweight.
James had been due to face Connor Parker, but when Parker pulled out, in stepped Wainwright, who had seen a fight fall through himself.
And for four rounds James had as much trouble as he could have wished for, as he was dropped in the first round and then suffered two cuts from head clashes, while Wainwright built a handy lead.
The further it went, the more James made his extra size tell and, while it was scrappy at times, James was getting the better of the exchanges, although Wainwright had a decent last round, which could have edged it for him.
Referee Kevin Parker gave it to James by 96-94.
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 – covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.