Anthony Yarde entered the ring Friday night as an unbeaten light heavyweight contender on the rise but also regarded as a work in progress.
His progress looked pretty good by night’s end.
The undefeated Brit turned away a determined but outgunned American scrapper in Travis Reeves in a fifth round knockout Friday evening at Royal Albert Hall in Kensington, England.
Reeves did his best to make things as uncomfortable as possible for the local favorite, who hails from nearby Ilford. The 38-year old boxer from Baltimore, Md. took the fight to the younger Yarde, but was largely ineffective other than providing an awkward presence.
Yarde took a few rounds to settle in, but made his presence felt in round three when Reeves’ chin was tested through a series of power shots. The most consistent shifts in action came whenever Yarde was able to force an inside fight, a distance which left Reeves on the defensive as the 27-year old repeatedly scored with right hand shots upstairs.
Round four proved a vital turning point in terms of Reeves any longer remaining a threat. Yarde was able to seize the initiative, mixing in left hook shots while still effective with right hands on the inside. Reeves’ response to the infighting was to throw up an earmuff defense, hoping to ride out the storm and rediscover his own offensive groove.
It would never come, as Yarde closed the show the moment he saw his opponent no longer willing to engage. A right hand upstairs had Reeves hurt, with a follow-up left hook sending the American into the ropes. Yarde saw a knockout well within his sights, but would have to settle for a stoppage as referee Marcus McDonnell intervened to rescue Reeves who was clearly out on his feet.
The official time was 0:48 of round five.
“I believe every fight is a statement. I’m learning on the job. I’m making it look good, but I’m learning on the job.
“The performances are speaking for themselves. It’s not a 100m sprint, it’s a journey, it’s a career.
“My big toe is knocking on the doorstep [of Sergey Kovalev], my foot’s in the door. Soon I think I’ll be mandatory for the WBO belt. Kovalev’s the world champion right now.
“I would take it, but you’ve got managers and promoters for a reason.
Yarde, advances to 18-0 (17KOs) with the win his first of 2019 but an important step in his continued journey.
Reeves falls to 17-4-2 (7KOs), snapping a two-fight win streak in his second fight outside of the United States. His lone other appearance overseas also resulted in a stoppage loss, suffering a 12th round knockout at the hands of veteran contender Karo Murat last March.
As for Yarde, the young rising star is currently the highest-rated challenger to the World Boxing Organization (WBO) title currently in the possession of Sergey Kovalev. Whether it happens next or down the road, the young contender will take ‘em as they come.
“My foot is in the doorstep,” Yarde said of his chance of landing a title shot. “But 12 amateur fights, three years as a professional and I’m already the number one contender for the WBO title. I believe we will be named the mandatory challenger soon enough.”
The preference would be to continue to learn while he earns, but is fully prepared to rise to the occasion should plans for his next fight call for that demand.
“I would take it,” Yarde bluntly insists. “But that’s to be discussed by my managers and promoters. I have a team behind me for a reason.
The bout aired live on BT Sport in the United Kingdom and on ESPN+ in the United States.