Anthony Yarde and Joshua Buatsi set up Britain’s next great boxing battle

Anthony Yarde and Joshua Buatsi will meet in the type of fight that has vanished during the last few decades in Britain.

Too often in recent years, fights like this have not been made as both men have had too many reasons for not fighting each other. This time it looks like the fight has been agreed and it could be officially announced soon.

It is fair to say that Yarde is a British boxing attraction because of his defeats and Buatsi is best known for his promise. That might be a harsh assessment and the truth is that they are both better than that.

They will meet in a British ring in the summer, possibly outdoors, in the type of fight that dreamers in the boxing game have been placing at the top of their wish list at the start of every recent year. Buatsi vs Yarde has been on mine in 2022, 2023 and 2024; now it will happen.

Yarde went to the edge of Siberia in 2019 to fight Sergey Kovalev for the WBO light-heavyweight title; he lost in the 11th round but had Kovalev out on his feet a couple of times.

Last January, Yarde once again had a war and lost a world-title fight when he went eight savage rounds against Artur Beterbiev for the IBF, WBC and WBO titles. Beterbiev moved to 19 wins, no defeats and 19 knockouts. Yarde has gone the hard, hard way.

Two Saturdays ago, Buatsi won the British light-heavyweight title in a thrilling fight with Dan Azeez at Wembley’s Ovo Arena. The pair, who live a couple of miles apart in south London, sold every ticket at the venue without any pushing, swearing or empty promises. They were friends but fought like enemies.

Buatsi (right) during his decision win over Dan Azeez (Getty)
Buatsi (right) during his decision win over Dan Azeez (Getty)

Buatsi, who won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, moved to 18-0 in the best win of his career. There was talk of a fight with Yarde before the bout with Azeez, but the pair have been linked since 2021. They have been separated by different promoters, broadcasters, direction and money; now it feels like there is an unlikely but welcome alignment. It seems to be a growing trend in the British boxing business – and it is a welcome development.

Last Saturday, at the Copper Box, Buatsi was ringside to watch Yarde shake off a bit of ring rust and go through the motions and then the gears to stop Marko Nikolic in three easy rounds. Yarde, as expected, put on a show of power.

“I’m here because of our fight,” said Buatsi. “I want it to happen, the fans want it to happen, and I believe Anthony wants it to happen. If it was not going to happen, I would be at home watching this.”

Yarde ran through Marko Nikolic in three rounds (Getty Images)
Yarde ran through Marko Nikolic in three rounds (Getty Images)

Buatsi joined Yarde at ringside for the post-fight interview and there was no need for security. Buatsi apologised for gate-crashing Yarde’s victory interview, they touched fists and hugged and that was the start of the unusual but welcome sell for their summer fight. They both have fierceness in their eyes and that means there will be no need for any tricks or mayhem in the build to the fight; there will be no cages, no thrown tables and fines for idiocy.

“They are both respectful men,” said Frank Warren, the promoter. “It’s a real fight, both top boxers. It’s real, there is no need with them to do anything stupid.”

In a British ring, only the long overdue Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury fight can compare to the Buatsi and Yarde fight for quality, promise and the potential of something very special. And Fury against Joshua has been on and off for nearly five years. Sure, there might be other fights that appeal to purists, but a Buatsi and Yarde fight right now has that genuine crossover appeal.

Buatsi and Yarde facing off at London’s Copper Box Arena (Action Images via Reuters)
Buatsi and Yarde facing off at London’s Copper Box Arena (Action Images via Reuters)

It’s the type of popular appeal that was once swirling above Conor Benn’s head and that, arguably, Chris Eubank Jr would still have in a selection of carefully chosen fights. I can make a strong case for a dozen or more British fights with similar ingredients, but there is now something special about Yarde and Buatsi. Perhaps it is because people have been putting them together for so long.

And perhaps it is simply because everybody knows that they will fight to a standstill with pride, the British Lonsdale belt and the promise of a world-title fight motivating each of the boxers. It will be memorable.