Tunde Ajayi believes the second time’s the charm.
The trainer of British light heavyweight contender Anthony Yarde is confident that he and his charge have immeasurably improved since Yarde’s first shot at a world title in 2019 against Sergey Kovalev.
Yarde came up short in that fight, getting knocked out by Kovalev in the 11th round in his hometown of Chelyabinsk, Russia. Yarde, however, put up a formidable effort, as he had Kovalev in dire straits in the middle rounds.
Now, Yarde, the WBO mandatory, appears to be on the verge of his second shot at a world title, this time against three-belt champion Artur Beterbiev. The two are projected to face each other in October in Yarde’s hometown of London, according to the promoters of both fighters. The Russian light heavyweight champion recently added the WBO title to his WBC and IBF versions last month with a second-round knockout of Joe Smith Jr. at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater.
In a recent interview, Ajayi was honest about Yarde’s shortcomings against Kovalev but vowed that, against Beterbiev, he would have the added benefit of experience.
“I’ve said it so many times,” Ajayi told Tha Boxing Voice. “Anthony Yarde had 12 amateur fights – 12 amateur fights. We went into another man’s back yard which many current fighters won’t do. Someone with 12 amateur fights went over to Russia and almost knocked out a two-time Ring magazine fighter of the year in Russia.
“What we know is that Kovalev was caught cheating after that fight so we don’t even know if it was a clean Kovalev, but having said that I think we did very well in our first attempt at a world title. It was just experience. Kovalev said that after the fight. The only thing that beat us was experience. And that is true.
“At that time we were cocksure. Both of us, both me and Anthony. We both started from the bottom. We were both inexperienced. Now the experience is there.”
Ajayi, moreover, was not bothered by the fact that Yarde will have been out of the ring for more than 10 months should the Beterbiev fight materialize in October. Frank Warren, Yarde’s promoter, was criticized in some circles for not giving Yarde a tune-up level fight. Warren argued that it was foolhardy to put Yarde in the ring when he had a mandated title shot in the near offing.
Ajayi agreed, saying that “ring rust” will not be a factor.
“A tune-up fight is always good in between,” Yarde said. “But if you go back in history when you’re the mandatory you don’t take a tune-up. You want your shot.
“If you’re a proper fighter, ring rust doesn’t apply. Yes, it would have been good to get another fight in between, but in terms of the guarantee, according to what I have been told, the fight is guaranteed. Bob Arum and Frank Warren confirmed that.”