Artur Beterbiev ends fight against Anthony Yarde with 19th consecutive KO, calls Dmitry Bivol

Artur Beterbiev and Anthony Yarde clashed in a war on Saturday. (Photo by Mark Robison/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

There are few, if any, boxers in the light heavyweight division who could survive a prolonged firefight with unified champion Artur Beterbiev. Anthony Yarde had an admirable shot on Saturday at Wembley Arena in London but still failed to advance to the eighth round.

Yarde hit back at many critics of this fight with an outstanding performance. He cut Beterbiev in the left eye, landed a series of hard left hands, was leading on two of three scorecards and was still stopped at 2:01 of round eight.

Beterbiev dropped Yarde in the eighth for the first knockdown of the fight with a combination that started with a searing right. Yarde got up on shaky legs and took two or three more punches before his corner wisely asked referee Steve Gray to stop him.

This is what will happen when you face Beterbiev. He improved to 19-0 with the win scoring his 19th knockout. It’s hittable, and therefore beatable, but it will take a different strategy to achieve that than Yarde employed.

“This was one of the great light heavyweight battles I’ve had the privilege of watching,” Top Rank president Bob Arum said. “Artur Beterbiev is a true master of his art. I prefer him to anyone in the division.

The good news for boxing fans is that the guy with the best chance is, like Beterbiev, an undefeated Russian who holds a world light heavyweight title belt. Dmitry Bivol, who beat Canelo Alvarez last year en route to nearly sweeping Fighter of the Year honors, has the style that could beat Beterbiev.

That the fight, if it happens, is for the undisputed light heavyweight title is even better.

LONDON, ENGLAND – JANUARY 28: Artur Beterbiev celebrates after defeating Anthony Yarde in their WBC, IBF and WBO light heavyweight championship bout at OVO Arena Wembley on January 28, 2023 in London, England.  (Photo by Mark Robison/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Artur Beterbiev celebrates after defeating Anthony Yarde in their WBC, IBF and WBO light heavyweight championship bout at OVO Arena Wembley on January 28, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Mark Robison/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Bivol is 21-0 with 11 knockouts. He’s a sharp puncher but he’s not going to scare many away with his power. But he’s good at creating angles, controlling distance and singling out a guy who, like Beterbiev, is more often looking for the home run.

It’s usually not a good idea for a boxer, no matter how good, to be willing to take two to land one, but one of the things that makes Beterbiev great is that he can do it if necessary. He has both punching power that steals the soul and a chin of granite that allows him to do so.

Yarde felt he had to make it a shootout to win, and he largely nailed the strategy. But there were no defensive subtleties in his game, and when he was there attacking Beterbiev he created openings for his Russian opponent to exploit.

The problem for Yarde is that Beterbiev has landed almost half of his power shots, according to CompuBox. He connected on 84 of 181 power punches, a 46% connect rate. When hitting as hard as Beterbiev usually wraps it.

The secret to beating Beterbiev will be to exploit his defensive shortcomings without allowing him to counter much.

It’s something Bivol has that Yarde and previous opponents like Joe Smith didn’t. Perhaps since Beterbiev defeated Oleksandr Gvozdyk in 2019, he hasn’t faced an opponent with this combination of skills.

He wasn’t shocked that Yarde tried to attack him, courtesy of an elite corner led by Marc Ramsey, John Scully and Russ Anber.

“Every fight is different,” he said. “Different sensations, different preparations. I can’t say that I had a bad fight, but if I start again, I want to do better.

He’ll have to be better to defeat Bivol, frankly. Now Bivol is in an enviable position as he has the option of a rematch with Alvarez, the sport’s big money man, or the undisputed title fight with Beterbiev.

It’s hard to imagine a fight between a pair of Russians who speak little English doing a lot of pay-per-view business in the US, so that could mean for that to happen it’s going to ESPN , where Beterbiev fights under the Top Ranking Banner.

That could help a potential Alvarez-Bivol matchup in a weird way, given that exposure of an undisputed title fight with Beterbiev on ESPN would make Bivol a bigger name ahead of a theoretical rematch with Alvarez.

That’s a concern for the downstream, though. On Saturday, Beterbiev (and Yarde, to be fair) proved that the light heavyweight division is alive and well.

Best of all, his best may be yet to come. Beterbiev is the furthest thing from a talker, but he said the three words everyone should want to hear after such a big fight: “I want Bivol.”

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