Yarde gunning for 'calm' Buatsi

Anthony Yarde is relishing the prospect of fighting Joshua Buatsi after witnessing the new-found “calmness” he brought to his victory over Dan Azeez.

Buatsi convinced throughout the course of a unanimous decision victory on Saturday at Wembley Arena over his long-term friend Azeez, and was rewarded with the British and Commonwealth light heavyweight titles and being made mandatory challenger for the WBA title held by Dmitrii Bivol.

Both before and after his highest-profile victory Buatsi spoke of his desire to next fight Yarde – Bivol is on course to fight Artur Beterbiev for the undisputed title on June 1 – and Yarde, who on Saturday at London’s Copper Box Arena fights Marko Nikolic of Serbia, is similarly keen.

The 32-year-old Yarde’s reputation continues to be enhanced by his admirable display in defeat by Beterbiev in January 2023, and after being asked if Buatsi twice knocking down Azeez represented his rival’s best performance, he responded: “On paper. Azeez has been getting better and better. Styles make fights, and they sparred each other for so long – I think they’ve always known that Buatsi’s got his number, especially in the styles. 

“How Buatsi fought Azeez, we hadn’t really seen him fight like that yet. That’s where there was so much calmness. He was boxing with his left hand a bit lower; over the course of sparring him for so long, he maybe realised [Azeez’s] weak points. That’s why it went that way.

“It was a good fight. The first rounds they were maybe feeling each other out; Buatsi looked very composed in there; when he got hit he didn’t panic or anything like that. It was the 10th or 11th, they both seemed like they were very fatigued; it turned in Buatsi’s favour when Buatsi landed a good left hook. I watched it at O’hara Davies’ house. 

“Azeez’s corner were giving a bit of urgency, and I said, ‘They’re going to make him rush and get caught’. As soon as his corner said that he had a good round, and they pressed him more, ‘Keep doing it’, and he kept doing it, got caught with a left hook, backed off and the fight went from going towards Dan – he was coming on strong – he got caught with a good shot and then Buatsi finished very strongly. I don’t really agree with the scorecards – they were a little bit biased. It was a closer fight. Buatsi won clearly, but it was maybe two rounds closer than the judges said.”

A potential date with Buatsi would, after two fights with Lyndon Arthur and another with Sergey Kovalev and in the event of victory over the 34-year-old Nikolic, perhaps prove the highest profile of Yarde’s career.

“As two human beings and two men, me and Buatsi both wanna fight each other,” he explained. “It will be a massive fight – a good fight. I’m seeing it through the eyes of both of us – me and Buatsi – benefitting from the fight, and good timing, because I can’t overlook my opponent this weekend and that’s all I’m focused on. 

“I’ve said it publicly – I’ve gone on Sky Sports and said it on camera. ‘I wanna fight Buatsi.’ He said he wants to fight me next. After my fight on Saturday, in June [after Beterbiev-Bivol] the belts are going to be available again. If me and Buatsi fight for a world title that’d be the icing on the cake. Hopefully we get a good offer to headline a show somewhere. It’d be deserved for both of us.

“There’s been so many conversations. There’s even conversations regarding Chris Billam-Smith; Callum Smith. There’s so many options – Buatsi’s not the only option for me. It’s an option I want and have wanted for quite a while. There’s certain fights that make sense and certain fights that don’t, and the Buatsi fight makes sense.”