WBC: Adonis Stevenson
WBA Super: Andre Ward
WBO: Andre Ward
IBF: Andre Ward
WBA: Nathan Cleverly
European: Karo Murat
WBO European: Anthony Yarde
British: Frank Buglioni
Commonwealth: Callum Johnson
Lethal light-heavy Anthony Yarde has forced a dozen to perish – 11 inside four rounds - as he romped to the WBO European title and the periphery of the world rankings last weekend. However, his passage to the major championship belts is likely to encounter the stiffest resistance from one of boxing’s deepest talent pools.
The division’s current dons, Andre Ward and Adonis Stevenson are among the most dominant champions at any poundage, though both are likely to be past tense by the time the 25 year old Hackney hammer is positioned to contest.
The latter from Montreal, Canada by way of Haiti is the longer reigning, having annexed the belt with a spectacular one round blow-out of Chad Dawson in June 2013. The deceptively long-armed 39 year old southpaw carries real menace in his mitts and has successfully retained on eight occasions against credible but carefully selected competition. Six challengers failed to finish but ‘Superman’s’ reluctance to risk his rep against the division’s elite – Ward, Kovalev, Beterbiev – leaves a sour taste.
Such a slight cannot be levelled at ‘Son of God’ Ward, a 2004 Olympic gold medallist who last endured defeat, amateur or pro, almost 20 years ago!
Formerly a long-term 12st world champion, the brilliant all rounder from Oakland, California, emphatically established himself as the division’s top dog by taking on, and twice taming Russian roughhouse Sergey ‘Krusher’ Kovalev in the 2016-17 season, securing an eighth round stoppage in the sequel.
Top three P4P in anyone’s reckoning, Ward is strongly rumoured to be heading north – possibly as high as heavyweight - where ‘Bomber’ Bellew might be the latest to cop a headache, physically and psychologically.
The ‘Krusher’ from Russia had his aura of menace and invincibility shredded by Ward – bleating like a sheep when a close decision went the other way in their first gig, then folding to borderline body shots when granted a re-sit. His best hope for redemption, should he choose to prolong his career, might be to attempt avenging a brace of amateur defeats against Chechen chiller Artur Beterbiev.
The Montreal based monster, once AIBA World Amateur Boxer of the Year, has obliterated 11 straight since switching to the paid sphere and loiters menacingly as the IBF’s second placed contender.
‘Wolf’ is one of three Eastern Europeans with significantly superior credentials to the mallet-fisted Yarde, suggesting ‘The Beast’ from east London certainly shan’t be strolling to world title status.
The Ukraine’s 6ft 2in London 2012 bronze medallist Oleksandr ‘The Nail’ Gvozdyk went 9-0 in the WSB and has stretched 11 of 13 punching for pay. Already, he features in the top six of all four sanctioning bodies.
And despite making one less start than Yarde, Russia’s Dmitry Bivol – a World and European amateur champion at junior level – is already mandatory challenger at the WBA.
Welshman Nathan Cleverly reigns as that sanctioning body’s ‘regular’ champion, after suffocating east German warhorse Juergen Braehmer with leather over in Neubrandenburg last October. ‘Clev’, still only 30, remains relevant and the grapevine is ripe with rumours that he’ll shortly open his defence against Sweden’s ex WBC super-middle czar Badou Jack, a very welcome addition to the 175lb ranks.
On the outside peering in, Columbian-born, Quebec based Eleider ‘Storm’ Alvarez is 23-0 (11) but the 33 year old Beijing Olympian – eliminated on a ‘count back’ by GB’s ‘Jaffa’ Jeffries – is high risk, low reward and best swerved by those with aspirations.
The competition should thin marginally this weekend in light of two high grade eliminators in the US. On the fabulous BoxNation televised bill from Inglewood, California, Big Apple banger Joe Smith Jr – who finally culled Bernard ‘The Executioner’ Hopkins last December – bumps noses with once-beaten (Ward) Cuban cutie Sullivan Barrera, in a punch-up that nestles into the ‘pick’em’ pile.
Then, in Uniondale, New York, local Irish-American Sean Monaghan puts his padded 28-0 slate on the line against Al Haymon’s significantly more authentic ‘Sir Marcus’ Browne, a 19-0 former US Olympian. Expect ‘Irish Seanie’ to be brutally exposed.
Given the quality mentioned previously, young Yarde might do well to shop locally for the foreseeable, where the traditional belts appear more readily attainable.
Reigning British boss Frank Buglioni insists he is receptive to the fight but, despite a significant sway in seasoning, would enter as an outsider. Boston’s unbeaten Commonwealth king Callum Johnson, 31, is gifted but struggles to acquire work while bonafide European champ Karo Murat is well into his 34th year and has already succumbed to Hopkins, ‘Clev’ and Barrera. The latter two, neither noted punchers, both put the Armenian away early, suggesting that he is far from indestructible.
To conclude, Yarde should be advised to consolidate on this continent over the next 12 months before attempting to scorch his way through arguably boxing’s hottest division.
Buy BoxNation to watch Joe Smith Jr v Sullivan Barrera, plus Miguel Berchelt v Takashi Miura.