Anthony Yarde will have to channel his inner-Rocky Balboa a la Rocky 4 this weekend as he prepares to go deep into enemy territory when he takes on the seasoned Sergey Kovalev in his hometown of Chelyabinsk, Russia for the WBO world light heavyweight title.
Whether a young prospect can beat a grizzled veteran is a debate that’s been attached to countless fights across boxing’s long and storied history, and we’ll never get any closer to the right answer - which is what makes Saturday’s showdown so tantalising.
It’s a calculated risk for the unbeaten Yarde, who has stopped all but one of his 18 opponents thus far, but one that should propel him to superstardom should he beat the fearsome Russian.
Before the announcement, the 28-year-old was beginning to attract criticism for being paired with lacklustre opposition in recent fights but the Hackney-fighter has thrown caution to the wind for his upcoming bout, and he should be applauded for it.
It’s a fair argument that Kovalev, at 36, is a different beast to the one that carried the WBA (Super), IBF and WBO belts between 2014 and 2016, and with three defeats in his last six fights, many are questioning whether the Florida-based Russian is on the other side of the hill now.
Yarde would be wise not to look too much into his opponent’s recent form though, considering two of his defeats came to Andre Ward, a bonafide great in the modern era of boxing, in close encounters and his third loss in that period came to Colombia’s Eleider Alvarez, a shocking seventh-round stoppage loss that he managed to rectify six months later with a unanimous decision win.
Kovalev has been a dominant force for more than a decade and at his peak, he managed to reawaken a light-heavyweight that had fallen into a rut prior to his ascendency.
Yarde, on the other hand, has seen his stock rise steadily since making his debut at the Wembley Arena in 2015, thanks in part to his penchant for a spectacular knockout - nicknamed ‘The Beast From The East,’ a somewhat ironic moniker given his opponent is literally a beast from the East this time out, Yarde has picked up an impressive 94% ko rate across his professional career so far.
Like Anthony Joshua’s fairytale win over the battle-hardened Wladimir Klitschko in 2015, a win for Yarde over another similarly established Eastern European boxer would be the perfect springboard to the world stage and boxing mainstream.