Sergey Kovalev v Anthony Yarde, WBO World Light-Heavyweight Title, BT Sport
After weeks without a decent fight to write about, we finally have one this weekend in Russia as Sergey Kovalev (33-3-1) defends his WBO World title against Anthony Yarde (18-0). Once one of the most feared men in boxing Kovalev seemed an unstoppable force at light-heavyweight. Winning the IBF World title in 2013 against Nathan Cleverley, Kovalev went on a 2 year run where he smashed everyone, bar Bernard Hopkins, they put in front of him. Then they put Andre Ward infront of him, and things began to fall apart. Their first fight was a super close, controversial UD win for Ward, which set up an immediate rematch 7 month later. This time, Ward was just too good for Kovalev, who had no answers, and in my opinion blatantly quit in the 8th round to suffer back to back defeats. Stories of bad training camps and arguments came out, long time trainer John David Jackson was sacked, but he rebounded with a couple of easy wins over Vyacheslav Shabranskyy and Igor Mikhalkin, winning the vacant WBO World title, and setting up a defence against Eleider Alvarez, which many thought another easy win for Kovalev. Once again things fell apart in the middle rounds. Kovalev was winning 59-55, 58-56 and 59-55 on the cards going into the 7th, and seemingly cruising to victory. But then Alvarez caught him and put him down. He didn’t recover, and after getting up, got put down twice more in the round, the ref stopped the fight, and Kovalev lost his title again. Once again he jumped straight into a re-match 4 month later, but this time dominated and practically won every won on the way to regaining his title. Anthony Yarde is up next, and this is a monumental step up for Yarde. 17 KO’s in 18 fights is impressive for Yarde, but no one on his record is remotely close to the level of a Kovalev. His power is about to be tested at the highest level. This fight is close at the bookies. Kovalev starts 4/7 and Yarde comes in around 6/4, which considering the levels both have boxed at, and this is in Russia, quite a big shock to me. I expected Kovalev around 1/3, but maybe they believe the Yarde hype, or Kovalev is there for the taking. As mentioned earlier, this is in Russia, so Yarde isn’t going to win on the cards, unless Kovalev is totally shot, which he isn’t (or shouldn’t be). A KO for Yarde is 2/1 which maybe his only chance. He’s a massive puncher, so if he nails Kovalev clean it will be interesting to see how the fight develops. Alternately, Kovalev to win by KO is 5/4. He doesn’t seem the killer (no pun intended) he once was, and I fancy him to win the cards, which is 11/4. A Yarde win on the cards is a long shot 10/1. Yarde hits much harder than Ward and Alvarez, but im not sure if hes good enough to get in position to land his big shots. If he can’t, Kovalev will box his way to an easy win, possibly a stoppage. But im banking on a smart Kovalev, keeping out the way of Yarde’s desperate wild swings, and keeping his belts in a wide points win. Sky are offering a very good even money double chance on Kovalev in Rounds 7-12 or on points, which should be a solid bet.
BNC – Kovalev to win on points (11/4), Kovalev to win in rounds 7-12 or on points (Evens – Skybet only)
Aleksei Papin v Ilunga Makabu, WBC Silver Cruiserweight Title – This should be a corker of a fight on the Kovalev undercard. Papain (11-0) starts favourite at 4/6, with Makabu (25-2) 11/10. Between them they have 34 KO’s in 38 fights, so fireworks are to be expected here. Both are 31 years old, but Papain has only 11 professional fights, compared to 27 for Makabu. Papain for the stoppage is 21/20. I can’t see this lasting long, both over and under 5.5 rounds are 5/6. Experience could prove crucial in this fight, and coming off the back of a thrilling stoppage of Kudryashov, im going for Makabu to wear down and stop Papain at 11/10
Jono Carroll v Eleazer Valenzuela 1.50 14.1 – Carroll (16-1-1) gets a glorified sparring session against Valenzuela (20-11-4) to bounce back after his loss to Tevin Farmer. Odds are 1/50 for Carroll and 14/1 for Valenzuela. Carroll by stoppage if you need to pick something.
Liam Smith v Mario Alberto Lozazno – A stay busy fight for Smith (27-2-1) against Lozano (33-9). After his win over Eggington you may have expected for Smith here, but maybe no one was available and he wanted to keep himself ticking over against a human punch bag. Smith by stoppage the only option here