The projected fireworks fail to materialise in Anthony Yarde vs Lyndon Arthur but the tactical battle still has its moments
‘Crossroads clash’ is an overused term, even in a sport like boxing, replete with cliché. That said, Anthony Yarde vs Lyndon Arthur, for the latter’s Commonwealth light-heavyweight title despite his opponent taking top billing, looked to be just such a fight. At London’s Church House and promoted by Frank Warren, this main event saw an unbeaten and promising former Team GB amateur in Arthur trying to leap to world level by virtue of upsetting Yarde, who started the sport late but bravely challenged Sergey Kovalev for the WBO title last year and planned to return to that sphere sooner rather than later. By putting down the upstart, Yarde could reaffirm that he was beyond the domestic leaders, but a loss would be a potentially devastating blow to his lofty ambitions.
There had also been some needle during fight week, muscular Londoner Yarde not at all keen on interviews and taking issue with their common victim Dec Spelman picking the tall, rangy Manchester man, while Arthur bristled at suggestions his opponent was ‘the puncher’ in their meeting.
In what what was more of a chess match than a war, Arthur took a split decision, with two scores of 115-114 (same as me), against a ludicrous 117-111 for Yarde.
Both were understandably cautious in the opener, with far more feinting than throwing. Arthur edged it with his fast, long jab. It was more of the same in the next, albeit Yarde advancing to a greater degree and moving his upper body to avoid the quality lead. Arthur continued to control behind the jab in round three but had yet to launch a single right hand. Carl Greaves, Spelman’s manager, had noted before the introductions that he thought Lyndon had injured that hand during the warm-up; that now looked a distinct possibility. Arthur did chance one in the fourth but it was Yarde’s right that landed with authority early in the session. He began to close the gap better but was 3-1 behind for me.
I made the fifth even as Yarde still posed and rolled more than landed but did connect with a few solid jabs to the body. Arthur remained composed and patient, able to fight at this moderate pace all night. It was perplexing to see Yarde seemingly content to fight at distance against the rangier man and, on my card, he fell to a 4-1-1 deficit by the halfway point. Yarde’s corner implored him to let his hands go before round seven but he only responded intermittently and Arthur remained able to control the pace and distance with one hand. I gave Yarde the next though as he sustained the pressure and his trainer Tunde Ajayi had noticed by the interval that there was an issue with Arthur’s right hand.
Perhaps Arthur sensed his injury had been rumbled, as he landed his first right at the start of the ninth stanza. Yarde still showed little urgency and was picked off with the jab as he rumbled forward. With three stanzas to go, I had the Manchester man with a four-point advantage. Yarde enjoyed a better 10th, especially with rights to the midsection, but constantly seemed on the verge of exploding into life, only to then relax back into a malaise. Yarde noticeably increased the aggression in round 11, landing one flush right hand counter but it was tight. Something approaching a firefight finally broke out in the final heat, with Yarde landing some big shots, but I had Arthur retaining his title by a razor-thin 115-114 score.