Tyson Fury’s brother aims to impress on the YouTube star’s undercard in Ohio as Yarde aims to remain involved in what is blossoming into an exceptional domestic light-heavyweight scene
The Matchroom Garden experience finished last week with Joshua Buatsi’s 15th win and that started the end of a summer of suspended fights, a summer of ridiculous boxing announcements, hype, hope, a few lies, collapsed fights; this Saturday and Sunday, a mix of the mayhem and quality continues. And then in September, it gets very serious.
On Saturday night in Birmingham, Yarde, a light-heavyweight of calibre, fights for his future in a division of pure quality; Yarde has started to work with James Cook, a former British and European champion, who has been a good Samaritan and guardian on the streets of Hackney in East London for decades. Cook runs the Pedro club, a frontline retreat and a place made safer by the retired fighter’s presence. Cook will bring the balance to the mix, offer Yarde the hard truth at a point in his boxing career where there is no time left for promises. In the modern game promises are somehow valuable currency, which is an awful deception.
Last Saturday, Buatsi finally arrived fully formed on the world stage; Yarde has to be mindful now to stay in the pack, stay in contention and stay relevant.
The following night, the boxing carnival opens in Cleveland, Ohio, when Jake Paul fights for the fourth time and gets the headline attention; Paul continues to annoy most people in the boxing business with his reflections on the fight game and his crazy purses. Jake Paul just might be the best novice out there; he is certainly the richest. Not even James Cook could bring balance to this cocktail of glamour, blood and a craving for dollars.
On Paul’s undercard, Fury fights for the 7th time; the pair of boxers from the celebrity circuit have been talking and there is a chance they could fight. Paul is a YouTube sensation, which just about covers his rise from pranks to main event, and Fury is a Love Island legend. Hey, go figure. Paul can fight and Fury has fighting blood; Tyson is his big brother and John, his dad, is a boxing survivor of the oldest of old schools.
There is actually, and strangely, a whole Love Island boxing franchise out there; Fury, obviously, but also Jack Fincham, a good amateur who broke his nose in a car crash a few weeks before his planned debut last year, and Idris Virgo, unbeaten in 11 who fights in Coventry in a couple of weeks. Three so far and all close in weight; one day there will be a Love Island title fight. I can feel it in my bones.
And, Jake’s brother, Logan, recently made millions of dollars for dancing through a few rounds with Floyd Mayweather. This is all part of boxing life right now and it is pointless getting angry over it; there will be more fake billionaires, more retired heavyweight champions, more celebrities discovering a calling and more of the trashy, sideshow attractions in the next few months. The Paul boys are not delivering boxing’s apocalypse, trust me. Consider this, the WBA, the first sanctioning body, now has 54 world champions in 17 divisions and collects a fee from every single title fight. So, where is the circus? Where is the damage? Tommy Fury and the Paul boys, Logan and Jake, are all good novices.
Anyway, back in the real world, Yarde’s gentle rehabilitation, after two defeats in big fights in the last two years, is part of a brilliant bill in Birmingham that also features three British title fights; Akeem Ennis Brown defends his light-welterweight title against Sam Maxwell, Anthony Cacace defends his super-featherweight version against Leon Woodstock, a full year after it was first announced, and Ijaz Ahmed and Quaise Khademi fight for the vacant super-fly version in a rematch. The men in the British title fights might be sliding under the radar, but they are in three tremendous fights.
On the same show, Cook is in to guide, help, hold the hand and transform the thinking of Anthony Yarde in the most important part of Yarde’s boxing life. Cook is the right man for the hard job and their partnership starts on Saturday in Birmingham. The domestic light-heavyweight division is quite exceptional.
It was just two summers ago that Yarde, unbeaten and avoided, travelled to Chelyabinsk, a location stuck in time in the Cold War regions of Russia, to fight the local idol, Sergey Kovalev. It finished in pain, but he left the ring with his dignity after the 11th round stoppage. Last December, Yarde lost again, this time on points in London to Lyndon Arthur, and there was very little dignity in the rush to find excuses and reasons for the loss; Yarde lost because he never did enough, it’s that simple. And, Arthur did his homework and listened to his corner and stuck to a plan.
It was a crisis moment for Yarde, now 30 and with 20 wins from 22 fights; Yarde will continue to work with his old trainer, Tunde Ajayi, but Cook has been drafted in to tell the truth and to look for the truth. Cook is honest and that is what all fighters need. “The truth is one of boxing’s essentials,” said Cook, an MBE for his work on the streets. “I’m not in here to carry a bag and just say “yes” – what would I gain from that? I can help, I know I can and they will hear the truth from me.”
Yarde’s return, with Cook in his corner, feels like a boxing event from a time where all losing world title challengers got one last chance. Yarde deserves one more crack and Cook, no doubt, will fund the Pedro club with his earnings. It’s like a nice little boxing movie.
The following night in Cleveland, there will be a continuation of the Hollywood theme when Jake Paul’s carnival comes to town. Fury will be catching as much glitter as he can from the halo of wonder that will dominate the event.
Fury and Paul are on a loose collision course and fighting on the same night will bring their paths a bit closer. It is as cynical as that. It would be a big event; sorry, but that is the truth.
Fury is unbeaten in six, with four ending very quickly and Paul is unbeaten in three, with two finishing in the opening round and the other in the second. They have both been massively under matched and that is understandable in a business that can invent its own rules; Fury is 22, Paul is 24. Fury weighed 13st 5lbs in his last fight, Paul was two pounds heavier. It would be Love Island against a YouTube icon – sounds good to me. And mad. It is not criminal that Paul will make so much more than the combined wages of the six men in British title fights on Saturday; it’s not criminal, just wrong.
It really is a funny old game.