Yarde could be on course for Beterbiev rematch

Anthony Yarde is relishing the prospect of a rematch with Artur Beterbiev as he prepares to fight Marko Nikolic at the Copper Box Arena in London.

Saturday’s fight is the 32 year old’s second since January 2023 when he so admirably enhanced his reputation by standing up to Beterbiev, the IBF, WBO and WBC light heavyweight champion, until being rescued by his corner in the seventh round.

In September at Wembley Arena he stopped the lightly regarded Jorge Silva, and he next fights Serbia’s 34-year-old Nikolic aware that he could be awarded with a fight against Joshua Buatsi, his leading domestic rival.

Buatsi, also at Wembley Arena, last week defeated Dan Azeez to win the British and Commonwealth titles and to earn the status of mandatory challenger to the WBA title held by Dmitrii Bivol, but amid the expectation that Bivol and Beterbiev will fight for the undisputed title on June 1, he spoke of wanting to fight Yarde.

Yarde has been similarly vocal about what could even prove the biggest fight of each of their promising careers and is aware that should – as he predicts – Beterbiev beats Bivol, he could be on course for a rematch with the Russian if he, too, wins.  

“If I work my way back up – I’ve given him a good fight already – if he wins and becomes undisputed and the belts fragment and I happen to pick up a world title, if he don’t move on and do other things he’ll take that fight,” he told ProBox TV. “If it generates enough attention again – some of these rematches end up being the bigger fights. 

“You’ve seen it before with ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard-[Roberto] Duran. Sometimes the second fight is even bigger because no one expected Duran to do that to Leonard in the first fight. The second fight came and it was a completely different fight. [Evander] Holyfield-[Mike] Tyson, you know what I’m saying?

“I’m just being real [about Buatsi favouring a fight with me over Bivol] – I’ve been beaten before. Bivol hasn’t. I don’t take any offence. I’d fight Buatsi for a world title over Bivol as well. I’d fight Buatsi over Beterbiev again. I’d fight Beterbiev again tomorrow. I tried to get the rematch with Beterbiev straight away – I always feel like I do better in second fights [as against Lyndon Arthur] because I’m learning on the job. Beterbiev respectfully declined – obviously he’s on to bigger and better things. But I don’t take any offence to Buatsi saying that. 

“It makes sense, but the difference between me and Buatsi, on paper, is I go for the world titles. It’s not about who’s the easier fight or who I think’s the easier fight. I wanna be a world champion and I want the hardest challenges out there, and that shows a bit of my mentality.”

Beterbiev excelled in January when stopping Callum Smith, then considered Britain’s leading light heavyweight, in seven rounds.

“People expected me to get blown away in that fight [in January 2023],” Yarde said. “In the build-up to the fight it was, ‘Yarde is no match’, based on my experience; the people I’ve beaten. [In 2019, Sergey] Kovalev was the only other world champion I’d fought, and he won that fight, so people just gave me a puncher’s chance – maybe I’d catch him like Callum Johnson did and finish the fight. 

“But the performance I gave surprised a lot of people. Smith being an ex-world champion and fighting bigger names – he fought Canelo [Saul Alvarez] – how Beterbiev walked through him and made it look easy, left the fight without a mark on his face, not one mark on his body, people gave me a lot of props.”