Anthony Yarde did talk the talk but he also walked the walk, in Chelyabinsk, Russia last night when he came close to scoring a stoppage in the 8th round of his challenge to Sergey Kovalev for his WBO Light-heavyweight title.
The almost manic self-belief shown by Yarde and long-time friend and trainer Tunde Ajayi during Yarde's 4-year career had been met with disdain from certain quarters, but that was all put to sleep with this performance.
The 36-year-old Kovalev was by far the better boxer, dominating the fight with a heavy and accurate jab, but in the 8th he just couldn't keep the strong challenger at bay and had to give ground, not allowing the big-hitting Russian the ability to set himself for his own power shots and then catching and wobbling the champion who did well to survive the sort of punches that have accounted for 17 early stoppages in Yarde's 18 wins.
Promoter Frank Warren had said beforehand that Yarde had turned down $1m to step aside and allow Kovalev to face undisputed Middleweight champion Saul "Canelo" Alvarez with the proviso that he would face the winner, a move that seemed ill-advised at the time. But, now, the Hackney-born Yarde has established himself as one of the world's top 175lb contenders and Warren is vindicated in allowing his charge to travel to Russia and face a renowned knockout artist with the experience of 15 world title fights before this one.
While Yarde failed to take the title, he can now look forward to some big nights ahead against the likes of Artur Beterbiev, Oleksandr Gvozdyk, and Dimitry Bivol. Kovalev was gracious in victory saying that he believed Yarde would go on to become a world titleholder.