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Artur Beterbiev’s piece of genius stops Anthony Yarde in a brutal, uncomfortable watch

Up close, I could sense the hurt, but Yarde was defiant

Steve Bunce
Wembley Arena
Sunday 29 January 2023 17:02 GMT
Artur Beterbiev dishes out a hammer blow to Anthony Yarde
Artur Beterbiev dishes out a hammer blow to Anthony Yarde (Action Images via Reuters)

Artur Beterbiev found what great fighters always find to drop and stop Anthony Yarde in round eight of an unforgettable fight.

It was a genius piece of finishing from the Russian veteran on a night when bravery was pushed so far that it was at times uncomfortable to watch. It was a fight of great sacrifices from both.

Late on Saturday night, inside the old Empire Pool at Wembley, Beterbiev, who was cut, bruised and tiring, turned a fight with just one punch in round eight. Yarde regained his feet and was trapped on the ropes when his close friend and trainer, Tunde Ajayi, stood and waved the towel. It was a perfect act of mercy to finish a truly brutal fight.

Beterbiev, now 38, is the cold-eyed fighting fanatic, a kid groomed under the last broken pieces of a Soviet boxing system and his desire to win is simply overwhelming. He fought over 300 times as an amateur and the win over Yarde was his 19th consecutive win as a professional and all have finished in knockout or stoppage. He is known as The Beast for a reason.

Yarde was also quite brilliant and rallied, with the help of a sold-out crowd, from the very edge of collapse and defeat several times. At the time of the stoppage, two of the three judges had Yarde in front. The fight was not the expected massacre and that was because Yarde simply willed himself to take the punishment so many have fallen victim to. I was positioned on the ring canvas, which means I could lean forward and touch their ankles, and it was clear that every single punch Beterbiev throws, hurts. Every single one and Yarde took them all until the end and his face has the welts, cuts and bruises as testimony to his bravery. Beterbiev was no better, leaving the ring with the same cuts, bruises and ugly swollen lumps. There was a lot of pain and suffering and sacrifice at Wembley on Saturday night.

There was always an expectation hovering high above the fight, a hope that something brutal would happen before the inevitable end at the fists of Beterbiev in about, well, round eight. The three light-heavyweight world title belts that Beterbiev was defending, vanished in significance as the savage rounds tolled. That is a good thing.

Beterbiev, we know, is both patient and lethal, his jabs able to drop and break a man and the combined testimonies of the eighteen men he had left sprawled in pain as a professional are proof of his ring brilliance.

However, Yarde’s desire broke the expected, he took the fight to Beterbiev with speed, accuracy and belief. Beterbiev had to back off, had to think and had to use every bit of the boxing knowledge stored in his fighting head. This was far more than just a plucky Brit taking a beating, rallying and then going over exhausted. That is the simple, fake narrative of a truly tremendous fight.

Beterbiev looks on as he walks back to his corner (Getty Images)

Yarde was smart in the opening rounds, caught and hurt in the third, bruised from that point and that is also when Beterbiev realised he had a fight on his hands. Yarde was not going to fall over; up close, I could sense the hurt, but Yarde was defiant.

It was even after four, Yarde had a good fifth and made Beterbiev back off, but the champion had a strong sixth. They were each taking the punches that 40 of the men they had knocked out in total, had failed to absorb. This was extraordinary.

Yarde dominated part of the seventh and the shock looked on; then Beterbiev took control, moving his feet, switching his punches with lethal ease. Still, Beterbiev was not dominating, just shading hard, hard rounds. The fight had pushed both to the very extreme edges of what should be allowed in the ring. In fairness, they looked equally bruised, hurt and broken as the bell sounded for the eighth.

And then Beterbiev did what all great fighters do and found the finish. The right cross that started the end was perfect in timing and power; Yarde at first remained upright, but he staggered, his hands flailing and Beterbiev landed again and down went Yarde. The brave man was hurt, exhausted and finished. He somehow regained his feet, rested on the ropes and then Tunde was there and the heroic night was over. The official time was 2:01 of round eight, the alternative time is that it was stopped at the exact right time.

Beterbiev wants a fight with another unbeaten Russian, Dmitry Bivol, but first he must rest. Yarde will do the same. They each deserve some peace from the fight they delivered on Saturday night.

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