Anthony Yarde's Defeat To Artur Beterbiev Did More Good Than Harm

Yarde might have lost, but this light heavyweight classic will only enhance his reputation
12:00, 30 Jan 2023

If a fight looks like Mission Impossible and sounds like Mission Impossible, sometimes it simply is Mission Impossible. Anthony Yarde didn’t win the WBC, WBO and IBF light heavyweight championships from the Russian with the flawless knockout record, Artur Beterbiev. But he did earn considerable plaudits and a place on many first drafts of the 2023 Fight of the Year list.

The 31-year-old ‘Beast from the East’ was stopped in eight brutally thrilling rounds at the OVO Arena in Wembley. This 175lb headliner was pitched as a potential slugfest, with the two noted for their knockout power. Beterbiev had never been taken the distance in eighteen fights going in, while Yarde had 23 wins on his ledger with only one coming via decision.


Yet so often these perfectly-pitched puncher vs puncher battles flatter to deceive. It is not uncommon for two boxers so indebted to their mighty whack to cancel each other out, each man too tentative to risk it all for glory. Not Yarde and Beterbiev though. They fought with the sort of spirit and endeavour you wish for in every high-level bout. Every shot on both sides was thrown with intent. This wasn’t a case of each man trying to survive to hear the final bell. It was a case of the two boxers trying to make sure the other didn’t.

Beterbiev ended up winning that particular battle of wits and wills. He had to work hard to do it and was hurt several times by Hackney’s ‘Beast’. But ultimately, there is very little the Canada-based Russian hasn’t seen in a boxing ring. Beterbiev has been hurt before, he’s been down before. He’s faced power punchers, master boxers and world titlists. If and when someone does dethrone him, they’ll have to walk through fire to do it. 

But Yarde proved himself able to walk through that fire. The Londoner has been unlucky in that he has come up against two of the most feared light heavyweights in recent history. His previous world title defeat arrived in 2019 in not too dissimilar circumstances. The frightening figure in the opposing corner that night was Sergey Kovalev, the WBO kingpin.


Like Beterbiev, Kovalev had made his reputation on skull-rattling power. Like Beterbiev, he found himself hurt by Yarde before rallying to stop him. The Brit has everything required to take the very best fighters to the limit, despite there being some doubt over whether he can become the best himself.

As we have alluded to on these pages before, Yarde’s difficulties are sometimes of his own making. A fighter that rejects the easy path will often not taste as much glory as those that take shortcuts. But Yarde should not be deterred. The sort of defeat he tasted at the weekend is the sort that kick-starts, rather than curtails, a career.

Yarde was ahead on two cards at the time of the stoppage. He had tagged and hurt the champion on numerous occasions. The challenger’s efforts were such that this will be a tough fight to beat when the year-end lists are published. By any metric bar the result, Saturday’s bout was a positive for Yarde.

The excitement ‘The Beast from the East’ generated will also mean increased attention when he next fights. In terms of getting more eyes on him, the Beterbiev fight will have worked like a charm. It has also opened the door to some potentially exciting fights. Light heavyweight is a strong weight class domestically. Fights with the world-ranked likes of Callum Smith, Craig Richards or Joshua Buatsi would do arena-level business. 

At the age of 31, Yarde can come again as a world title contender. Beterbiev is 38 and won’t be around forever. WBA champion Dmitry Bivol is another incredibly tough route to a world belt, but we know Yarde doesn’t shirk those. Every loss hurts but Yarde’s brave and exhilarating defeat to Beterbiev may have been as positive as a loss can possibly be.

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