On the streets of Forest Gate, East London, only a couple of months ago gunshots rang out in broad daylight. A fourteen-year-old boy was shot and murdered, with a seventeen-year-old also seriously injured. The pavements, once again, stained with a wasted youth. Anthony Yarde, current light-heavyweight prospect, knows them all too well. 

Spending his upbringing between Forest Gate and Stratford, the importance of self-defence had stared him in the face. At the time of writing, it is hard to compare the rise of Yarde to any other British fighter in recent years. With only twelve amateur bouts to his name and as a relatively late starter to the sport, he has dedicated himself to a strict regime of training, fighting and repeating. 

“I’ve literally come from nothing, in terms of my life. I’ve been through a rollercoaster. I was high one moment, then I was literally down at the bottom. Almost homeless and things like that.”

“I said to a kid in the gym today, he was saying he had a court case for GBH and his Dad has heart problems and things like that… I said, ‘Listen, one thing you will learn in life is that everyone goes through problems. How you deal with your problems, that’s how you create your legacy.'”

The sudden spike in Yarde’s popularity has been astounding. From commercials on SkySports (for training product MaxiMuscle) to appearances at awards shows, it’s clear to see his muscular frame at the forefront of a Frank Warren revolution. Fronted by BT Sports, both Yarde and heavyweight Daniel Dubois have been progressing nicely as jewels in the BoxNation crown.

It was evident from talking to the WBO European and Intercontinental light-heavyweight champion that intelligence bred in the streets had transitioned to the business side of boxing. Patience is a virtue. Having the trust of a caring, honest trainer in Tunde Ajayi, has allowed Yarde the chance to learn. Whether it was emails, phonecalls or contracts, he was keen to understand how the political side of the game was controlled.

“We’ve tried to make certain fights. I’ve seen emails, I’ve been in the office when fights have tried to be made. They say, ‘Yeah, you are fighting’ and then a couple of days later they pull out. After they pull out, they go on Social Media saying they want the fight? But I’ve seen an email where your manager is going back and forth and then you’ve pulled out of the fight. Once again, there is a lot of politics in boxing.”

One such Social Media beef has included British champion Frank Buglioni. With Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn trading barbs, Buglioni calling out Yarde on Twitter and an unusual eliminator scenario, the two remain unmatched. 

With the ‘Wise Guy’ looking to win his Lonsdale strap outright, it seems unlikely the two will meet any time soon. Sadly, for the fans, a cross-promotional divide could prove the stumbling block. However, Anthony remained firm when asked about the situation and shed some light on recent events,

“The situation with the Buglioni fight, a lot of rubbish has happened. A lot of strings have tried to be pulled, you know, when a fight isn’t gonna happen at a certain time – it is not gonna happen. What I was saying in the beginning, Buglioni was then fighting a friend of mine actually that has had one fight in the division. I didn’t get no call for that British title fight either, but Buglioni calls my name out two fights ago?” 

Despite the hype, Frank Warren has received bundles of criticism for matching Yarde with seemingly limited opposition. His recent disposal of former super-middleweight Norbert Nemesapati was seen as a significant mismatch, whilst his fight with Richard Baranyi seemed almost a case of smoke and mirrors. 

Two titles wrapped up comfortably and with a top-ten World ranking, I was keen to understand his thoughts on recent opposition and also on the fans’ feedback.

“What angers me and what you have to understand is, I’m a student of the game. I’m a student of the sport. Now, what I understand is that I have a lot of belief in my ability. I understand that boxing ain’t a sprint, it’s a marathon! Legends before me, in the sport, that I look up to… who were they fighting in their twelfth fight or thirteenth fight?”

Funny you should ask…

  • Miguel Ruiz (v Julio Cesar Chavez)
  • Don Warner (v Muhammad Ali)
  • Eddie Richardson (v Mike Tyson)
  • Ricky Stackhouse (v Roy Jones Jr)
  • Angelo Nunez (v Floyd Mayweather)

Looking at the records of the men above, compared with the amateur pedigree of the great champions they faced in that twelfth fight, you’d be hard pushed to argue with the Hackney man’s statement. The legends above were the fighters that inspired Anthony Yarde, especially ‘Iron’ Mike. Striving to print his own name in the history books, he remains cautious whilst building his résumé.

Fur coats, jewellery and fashion. Fast becoming an extremely marketable fighter, I had spotted Anthony at the RATED Awards last week, looking slick as one would expect. 

A man dedicated to living the life of an athlete, he was adamant that these appearances were viewed more as a reward for his own hard work. The clips of him putting in time at the famous Peacock gym have been shared hundreds of thousands of times. The padwork, the skipping, the laughing and smiling. I was scheduled to call him at 5.30pm. When I did, I was told he had stayed for over an hour to complete more training as the camp picks up speed before December 9th. He apologised repeatedly, polite and genuine.

“I see it as this; I don’t let anything interfere with my training. If it don’t work around my training I’m not doing it. All these things for me, they are motivating. I’m not one of these people that let things get to their head. I went to the RATED Awards, I done the thing on TV, I went to the Future concert. These things that you do, the pleasurable things that you like, for me that is motivating. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a good thing.”

The impression I got from spending time getting to know Anthony was that boxing came first. Over everything. He struck me as a young man desperate to make something of his life, pushing past the obstacles of a misspent youth or the distractions of a poverty-prevalent surrounding. This was his life now and he knew the dedication required to maintain it.

“I could be a big name in the sport and I could be making a good living for myself. I’m on the right path now to being well known, but, I wanna be a respected, established professional. That’s what motivates me. Only a weak person lets themselves use excuses to give up or be lazy or lash out. It’s an easy way out. I wanna be remembered for working hard. For coming from where I come from… and being a great fighter.”

Is that too much to ask? Time will tell. Out again in just over five weeks at London’s CopperBox, Anthony Yarde has the World at his feet.

Written by Craig Scott