The WBO has officially ordered a light heavyweight title fight between titleholder Sergey Kovalev and Anthony Yarde, giving the parties 30 days to negotiate a deal before a purse bid is ordered.
Kovalev (33-3-1, 28 KO) regained the title with a rematch win over Eleider Alvarez on Feb. 2 in Texas, outboxing Alvarez handily over 12 rounds. Alvarez had knocked Kovalev out in an upset last August to win the belt, but Kovalev switched trainers again and looked refreshed and confident under the guidance of Buddy McGirt.
The 35-year-old Kovalev not only got the belt back, but reestablished himself among the top fighters in what is a pretty strong, competitive weight class, at least at the top, headed by Kovalev and fellow titleholders Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Dmitry Bivol, and Artur Beterbiev, plus rising contender Marcus Browne.
Yarde (18-0, 17 KO) is in kind of an odd spot with this order, honestly. The 27-year-old British fighter is really still a prospect, totally untested at the higher levels of the sport. He’s coming off of a win over 38-year-old American Travis Reeves on March 8 at Royal Albert Hall, and he and his team have talked plenty about fighting Kovalev.
From the outside looking in, it’s tough to say he’s ready, because Kovalev is an enormous step up from the likes of Reeves or Dariusz Sek or Tony Averlant. Yarde is a big, strong light heavyweight who can punch, and there’s always clearly been potential there, but this is just such a big leap for him.
If the fight does go to purse bid, the minimum is $300,000, but if everyone does agree to do it next, the fight shouldn’t be terribly hard to put together. Yarde is promoted by Frank Warren, who works with Top Rank and ESPN in the United States, as Warren’s cards currently air here on ESPN+, including Yarde’s recent win over Reeves. And Kovalev is promoted by Main Events, who are working with Top Rank and ESPN on Kovalev fights.