After losing four close family members in the last six months, Anthony Yarde has once again found sanctuary in the boxing gym, but he has drawn inspiration from an altogether different type of Saturday night entertainment.
Yarde will top the bill this weekend when he takes on Manchester's Lyndon Arthur at the Church House in Westminster as he bids to end a heartbreaking year on a high.
Others in his position would have been engulfed in grief after a year punctuated by the death of his father and grandparents, but Yarde is steadfast in his belief that his show must go on. As far as he is considered, nobody cares.
“At the end of the day, the viewers are there to be entertained,” Yarde says. “I look at other entertainers, not just boxers, as a template. If someone is a TV personality and they go through some sort of tragedy, ultimately no one cares – it passes.
“If you think of someone with big energy like Paddy [McGuinness] from Take Me Out, he’s got such a big personality and if he were to show he was down and not doing his job properly, people would say: ‘What’s going on here? This isn’t Paddy.’
“It’s the same with boxing and boxing is a little more serious. It’s an unforgiving sport. At the end of the day, people don’t care about excuses. Yes, that’s my personal life, but in terms of my boxing, there’s a job to be done.
READ MORE: How to get tickets for Joshua vs Pulev
“I'm a strong believer in whatever you feed becomes stronger. There has been four deaths in my family in six months. My grandparents, my dad. It’s one of those things, it can’t be changed. It’s about moving forwards.
“I keep my personal life completely separate from boxing. It’s not a sport where you can act on emotion. If you do that you end up getting hit a lot.”
That is a very real possibility for the once-beaten Londoner, as he takes on 17-0 Arthur for the Mancunian’s Commonwealth light heavyweight title. The pair have been on a collision course for some time and have moved to the top of the bill after Tyson Fury’s proposed UK homecoming fell through.
As it happens, it is likely that the clash will be the last major boxing event in the UK without fans after a relaxation of coronavirus restrictions. Anthony Joshua’s world title defence against Kubrat Pulev seven days later will be attended by 1,000 spectators and it is likely that crowds will return regularly thereafter.
Both Yarde and Arthur have both boxed – and won – inside a ‘bubble’ this year, incidentally against the same man in Dec Spelman. Arthur won on points back in July while Yarde went one better, stopping the Scunthorpe man two months later.
It has meant that even in the darkest year of his life, when Covid-19 has torn a hole in his family, Yarde’s career has not come close to derailment.
“Everyone goes through their time of grief,” he adds. “I went through many years without losing anybody, but it’s like now everything has happened at once.
“When I do sit down and think about it, I do get emotional. It does get overwhelming, but the job must go on, that’s just life.”
Arthur, too, is no stranger to family tragedy, having lost his brother when he was just 10. Zennen was shot and killed close to his family home and Arthur spent many hours soul searching in that very spot before boxing saved him.
It was there that he was persuaded off the streets and into the gym by his coach Pat Barrett and Arthur now feels like he is the one who can provide a similarly positive influence for youngsters in the same position.
“I was 17-18 at the time, literally sat where my brother died, crying,” Arthur recalls. “Pat came and got me and gave me a talk – told me that it’s not the life I want and took me to the gym instead. Long story short, that’s how I got there.
“That was a crossroads. As cliche as it sounds, boxing changed my path and saved my life.
“There are many more kids at that crossroads now, even in worse positions than I was then, on estates worse than mine that have gyms around their areas. Maybe they can take inspiration from me and other fighters like me. They can look at us and see that no matter where you come from, there’s something out there for you. And don’t tell me you can’t do it, because I did it.
“Put it this way, I’m a kid from Moston, grew up on the estate and I’m now headlining on BT and getting paid. I come from nothing, so I’m doing OK.”
He knows everything will change once again this weekend if he can upset the odds, some of which are as long as 6/1.
“I don’t listen to that, because I don’t think it's going to be an upset,” Arthur adds.
“There are a lot of people that doubt me. I just take it as it comes, if after I beat Yarde I’m regarded as a big fish then it is what it is. I’m ready to take over that mantle.”
Yarde vs Arthur - Live on Saturday 5th December, 7.30pm on BT Sport 1 HD
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies