Anthony Joshua describes one of the most intriguing all-British cross-promotional fights as “the lion against the lone wolf”.
Joshua Buatsi and Anthony Yarde are surely on a collision course which should edge closer on Saturday night.
The London-based light-heavyweights are the smiling, respectful types but each have an edge to them, a glint in their eye that suggests they are not to be messed with. They each know that ‘this town ain’t big enough for both’ and eventually they will have to duke it out.
Buatsi is expected to return soon and Yarde will fight on Saturday night, against Dec Spelman, in the most emotionally-charged bout of his life.
After impressive rises – Buatsi promoted by Eddie Hearn and Yarde by Frank Warren – they are fascinatingly poised at different phases of their careers, each confident in their own risk-taking.
Yarde dived into an unexpected challenge of world champion Sergey Kovalev last year, bravely coming up short but leaving with a taste of the big-time.
“If he would have had intermediate fights, Yarde would have won [against Kovalev]. This is what we have to do with Buatsi,” Hearn said at the time.
Time will tell which route to a world title bears fruit.
Yarde told Sky Sports that a fight with Buatsi would be wasted if it comes too soon.
“It has to be a fight for a world title,” he said.
Joshua is on board to watch: “As a fan, 100 per cent I’d like that.
“The lion Yarde against the lone wolf Buatsi. Two wild animals coming together to slug it out.
“One is an Olympian, the other is an east London-bred fighter from the Peacock Gym. So different.
“Like me and Dillian Whyte – I was the Olympian, Dillian was a south London-bred, rough fighter. A contrast that made for a great fight.
“I believe in Buatsi, he is talented, but he has to step his game up. Yarde went to the world level against Kovalev and was beaten but that experience does something to you, providing you don’t lose the hunger.”
Yarde said about Buatsi: “The best need to fight the best, at the end of the day, and that’s the only way that there’s any proof. The fight a lot of people want, that I’ve wanted for years now, it’s me against Buatsi.
“He keeps doing what he’s doing, I come back and keep doing what I’m doing, it’s a massive fight.
“It has to be a fight that benefits both of us. We’re two characters that will give it everything. I’ll go for the knockout, I’m sure he will go for the knockout, and that’s what makes it such an exciting fight.”
Buatsi told Sky Sports: “I’m confident in my ability, in the skills that I’m learning.
“The people that are teaching me, I’m confident in them as well, so it’s just about me applying it. Once I’m applying it, I don’t feel there’s anyone that’s going to beat me.
“I believe I beat anyone in the country, I don’t doubt that.”
What makes this rivalry interesting – aside from the south London vs east London aspect or the refined Olympian against the knockout powerhouse – is that Buatsi and Yarde have no animosity towards each other.
Buatsi credited Yarde for heading to Russia – it was a move so ambitious that his desire was doubted, until he turned up in deepest darkest Chelyabinsk. The inexperienced and then-unbeaten Yarde had Kovalev, one of the scariest punchers of his generation, on the brink of defeat in the eighth round but could not sustain his attack and ultimately was stopped himself.
“Full respect,” Buatsi said. “I don’t feel like he was majorly outclassed. I know he was losing a lot of the rounds before he got stopped. It would have been nice if he finished it on his feet. He proved a lot of people wrong.”
Yarde, with his eccentric trainer Tunde Ajayi in tow, continues his rebuild on Saturday night.
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