Russian boxer Kovalev promises ‘spectacular win’ vs Britain’s Yarde in WBO world title defenсe
Three-time world champion Kovalev goes up against 18-0 Yarde, who ventures outside of the UK for the first time in his career to make his maiden world title bid, at the ‘Traktor’ Ice Arena in Chelyabinsk, the west-central Russian city close to the Ural mountain region.
The fight will be something of a homecoming for Florida-based KO-artist Kovalev, whose last eight fights have been held in the USA.
London-based Yarde has also built up a reputation as a flashy power-puncher, claiming 17 early wins in his profesisonal career so far, claiming the WBO inter-continental title along the way to set up a date with the champion.
Kovalev, who has a record of 33-3-1 with 28 wins by KO, insists the "added responsibility" of fighting in front of his home fans means a "spectacular win" is necessary but will only come with strict psychological control.
“Fighting at home [there is] pressure and the press. It's an additional responsibility that doesn't make the event any easier. I have to control myself, and psychologically first of all,” Kovalev said.
“I want to confirm my status as a world champion. It is necessary to win with dignity and spectacularly. I want my countrymen to see this fight. And I, as a resident of my native Chelyabinsk, want this fight to be memorable for years to come for those who will come to see it live,” he added.
Kovalev has a win from his only previous fight British opposition, having became world champion for the first time by pummeling Nathan Cleverly into submission in four rounds to prise the WBO belt from the Welshman in Cardiff in 2013.
Ring magazine's 'Fighter of the Year' for 2014 is making the first defence of the title since he won a portion of the light-heavyweight crown for the third time against Eleider Alvarez by unanimous decision in February, having been stopped by the Colombian-Canadian in seven rounds just six months prior.
The only other defeats on the Russian’s formidable record are two back-to-back reverses to former pound-for-pound king Andre Ward, both in controversial manner, losing his unbeaten record and titles first time round.
Prior to the fight with Yarde being made, there had been speculation Kovalev was being sized up as a possible opponent for Mexican superstar Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez, with Kovalev’s camp confirming Canelo’s people had “made a very serious offer” but Kovalev decided on a fight in Russia.
The Briton has had no problem voicing his confidence going into the fight, posting a series of mock-up shots of the two in action, one with the caption: "When that bell rings my life officially changes...well it’s changed already but it changes even more".
Kovalev’s title defense comes a month after the tragic passing of Russian boxer Maxim Dadashev, who collapsed and died of a bleed on the brain following an 11th-round TKO loss against Subriel Matias in Maryland.
Dadashev’s death plunged the boxing fraternity into a dark period, not least for Kovalev, who was a personal friend of the 28-year-old and who has urged fans to donate to a crowdfunding page set up to support the boxer’s young widow and son.
Kovalev could relate more than most boxers to the despair; Roman Simakov never regained consciousness after a match between the two in 2011, an event which brought with it huge emotional and professional repercussions.
In a poignant twist, Kovalev will have renowned coach Buddy McGirt in his corner for the Yarde fight. Hall of Fame inductee McGirt was also the trainer of Dadashev who made the decision to stop that fatal fight after imploring the young fighter for his permission.
The 175lbs light heavyweight division is perhaps one of the richest in boxing talent at the moment, with another Russian Dmitry Bivol also holding the WBA belt in that weight category. Should Kovalev win on August 24, a unification match between the two could very much become a reality, providing another incentive for a home victory.
For now, boxing fans can eagerly await a fight to "live long in the memory". If Kovalev follows up on his promise of a "sepctacular win", he could ensure the fight and his legacy does exactly that.