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Is history on Anthony Yarde’s side? British boxing star looking to make home advantage count against feared champ Artur Beterbiev

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If British light-heavyweight star Anthony Yarde wants to become a world champion, he’s going to have to earn it. The 31-year-old Londoner has been largely written off in his bid to dethrone unified light-heavyweight king Artur Beterbiev at the Wembley Arena in London on January 28.

Yarde (23-2, 22 KOs) will be taking part in his second world title bout. In August 2019, the hard-hitting Englishman succumbed to an 11th-round stoppage when he faced then-WBO champ Sergey Kovalev on Russian soil. The challenger put up a gallant effort that night, but Beterbiev – another Russian-born destroyer – looks to be an even more arduous test.

“My version of cherry picking is picking the absolute best,” said Yarde during a recent interview with BT Sport. “I’m excited for the challenge and I’m excited for the 28th of January, 2023 – Anthony Yarde, the unified light heavyweight champion of the world.

“I’m about my business. I’ve never really felt the need to trash talk. That’s what makes this fight so exciting. You’ve got two similar fighters, or characters, in that aspect – go and destroy. There’s only going to be one winner and I’m excited for it.”

MORE: Sign up to watch Artur Beterbiev vs. Anthony Yarde, exclusively on ESPN+ 

It’s easier now to become a world champion than it was decades ago. In the 1950s, The Ring Magazine only recognized eight male world titleholders. Eight divisions, with one title in each, equaled eight world champions. Fast forward 70 years, and we have 17 divisions and four legitimate governing body titles available in all of them.

Beterbiev (18-0, 18 KOs) was a decorated amateur, and – as the record suggests – he doesn’t believe in doing overtime in the paid ranks. The rampaging 38-year-old holds notable victories over Oleksandr Gvozdyk (TKO 10), Marcus Browne (KO 9), and Joe Smith Jr. (TKO 2).

Yarde has gone back in time for this challenge. A fighter like Beterbiev would have been a monster in any decade, so if the title changes hands on Saturday, let’s be sure to give Yarde the respect he deserves. The challenger is a prohibitive 6/1 underdog and is expected to go the way of all flesh.

Can Yarde emulate some of the great British fighters who have confounded the critics and defended their country with honour? The Sporting News now looks back on six occasions where the home fighter came good:

MORE: Predictions and best bets for Beterbiev vs. Yarde

Sugar Ray Robinson vs. Randy Turpin

  • Date/ Location: July 10, 1951/ Earls Court Arena, London
  • World Championships: Undisputed middleweight (held by Robinson)

The great Sugar Ray was on a 92-fight unbeaten streak over eight years and five months. His overall record was 129-1-2 (85 KOs) and he was hailed as the finest pound-for-pound fighter alive.

Turpin (40-2-1, 29 KOs) had already held the European championship, but there was nothing on his resume to suggest that the Englishman could dethrone Robinson.

Well, on this particular night, the form guide and respective resumes went out the window.

Known for his cute defensive maneuvers, Turpin could also mix it up and he fought brilliantly. The British challenger made Robinson fight at a hot pace throughout and outworked his legendary opponent in most of the rounds.

Per British rules at the time, referee Eugene Henderson was the lone judge and scored the fight in favour of Turpin, who was a 4/1 underdog coming in. This result has arguably never been bested by any British fighter.

Just 64 days later, Robinson regained the title via 10th-round TKO in a direct rematch.

Result: Turpin PTS 15

Nigel Benn (right) engaged in a classic, but tragic, bout with Gerald McClellan

Nigel Benn vs. Gerald McClellan

  • Date/ Location: February 25, 1995/ London Arena, London
  • World Championships: WBC super-middleweight (held by Benn)

Benn was a two-weight world champion and a naturally bigger man. However, almost no one expected “The Dark Destroyer” to survive the concussive hitting power of boxing dangerman Gerald McClellan.

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McClellan had wrenched the WBC middleweight title from fellow power-puncher Julian Jackson in May 1993 and made three successful defenses. Fighting out of Detroit, Michigan, “The G-Man” was on a 14-fight knockout streak and sought to continue his reign of terror at 168 pounds.

This was arguably the greatest fight ever contested in a British ring.

By the time the main event got underway, the crowd was at a fever pitch and there was no feeling out process. Benn was knocked out of the ring in the opening minute, but survived a killer onslaught in the early going to take control.

The British fighter was dropped again in the eighth but turned the screw to score two knockdowns of his own in the tenth. The American challenger was hurt and blinking excessively when he was counted out on one knee.

Tragically, McClellan had sustained a devastating brain injury, which ended his career and left him partially blind and deaf with limited mobility. Despite being victorious, Benn was never the same again.

Result: Benn KO 10

Oliver McCall vs. Frank Bruno

  • Date/ Location: September 2, 1995/ Wembley Stadium, London
  • World Championships: WBC heavyweight (held by McCall)

This was the final chance for Britain’s favourite son to fulfill a dream.

Bruno, 33, had come unstuck in three prior title fights (Tim Witherspoon TKO 11, Mike Tyson TKO 5, and Lennox Lewis TKO 7). Following the Lewis setback, the colossal Londoner knocked over three sub-par opponents before being thrown yet another world championship lifeline.

MORE: Buatsi: I don’t know why everyone’s writing Yarde off against Beterbiev

One year earlier, McCall had scored a sensational second-round stoppage of Lewis to win the WBC heavyweight crown. However, in his maiden defense, the American was lackluster in a 12-round unanimous decision win over aging legend Larry Holmes.

McCall needed to restore his reputation and the super-popular Bruno was a big enough name.

Due to his poor performance against Holmes, the 30-year-old McCall was only a slight favourite coming in. There was just an ominous feeling that “Big Frank” would find a way to lose, and that he was destined to be a “nearly man.”

On a memorable night, before 30,000 fans at the national football stadium, Bruno turned in a career-best performance. He dominated behind the jab, landed some well-placed power shots early, and survived a late McCall rally to earn himself a points triumph.

The U.K. celebrated this one for weeks.

Result: Bruno UD 12

Ricky Hatton (left) goes after legendary champ Kostya Tszyu

Photo by Nick Potts – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

Kostya Tszyu vs. Ricky Hatton

  • Date/ Location: June 4, 2005/ M.E.N. Arena, Manchester
  • World Championships: IBF and Ring Magazine super-lightweight (held by Tszyu)

This was the biggest fight staged on U.K. shores for years.

Hatton’s popularity had extended far beyond his native Manchester. A cerebral pressure fighter with a pulverizing body attack, the former British champ was unbeaten in 38 fights with 28 knockouts. He’d also scored solid wins over the likes of Eamonn Magee, Ben Tackie, and Ray Oliveira.

This, however, was an enormous step up in class for the 26-year-old Englishman.

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Tszyu, 35, had cleaned house at 140 pounds. The Russian-born Australian had become the first undisputed super-lightweight champion in over 30 years, courtesy of a chilling second-round knockout of the previously unbeaten Zab Judah.

But what we got was a Ricky Hatton fight. “The Hitman” smartly cut the distance and drained the older fighter’s energy with sustained mid-and-close-range assaults. Tszyu landed some excellent counter punches, but the challenger ate them up and battered the older man into submission.

Hatton was never better than he was on this epic night.

Result: Hatton TKO 11

Joe Calzaghe vs. Jeff Lacy

  • Date/ Location: March 4, 2006/ M.E.N. Arena, Manchester
  • World Championships: WBO super-middleweight (held by Calzaghe), IBF super-middleweight (held by Lacy), Ring Magazine super-middleweight (vacant)

While Calzaghe came into this fight with an eyepopping 40-0 record and 17 consecutive defenses of the WBO title, there were still some question marks surrounding his ability at the elite level. Despite a 12-year unbeaten streak, the career-defining fights had alluded the quick-fisted Welshman, who was now desperate to break free of the pack.

Enter Jeff Lacy.

The Florida-based fighter, known as “Left Hook,” had won 21 straight fights with 17 knockouts, so the hype machine was in full effect. Lacy had held the IBF title for almost 18 months and had made four successful title defenses, three of them by stoppage. The chiseled American looked mean and was being marketed in the U.S. as a super-middleweight version of Mike Tyson.

When the bell rang, the reality was quite different.

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Calzaghe won literally every minute of every round in this fight. With an incredible display of agility, hand speed, and ring generalship, the home fighter rendered Lacy completely ineffectual before 20,000 awestruck fans in attendance.

The only point Calzaghe lost was for an illegal blow in the 11th round. However, the Welsh wizard took that point back in the final session when he decked Lacy at ring centre.

Hyperbole to one side, you can put this one in the running for performance of the decade.

Result: Calzaghe UD 12

Carl Froch (right) destroyed the previously unbeaten Lucian Bute

ANDREW YATES/AFP/GettyImages

Carl Froch vs. Lucian Bute

  • Date/ Location: May 26, 2012/ Nottingham Arena, Nottingham
  • World Championships: IBF super-middleweight (held by Bute)

Timing is everything in boxing.

Bute was an unbeaten champion with the world at his feet. What the Canadian-based Romanian needed was a signature triumph that would set him up for super fights and life-changing money.

Froch was a former two-time world champion and highly respected on both sides of the pond. However, the Englishman was coming off a points loss to Andre Ward in the Showtime Super Six tournament and had lost some momentum.

At least, that’s what Team Bute thought.

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Galvanized by the opportunity to win a third super-middleweight title, Froch trained like a man possessed for what he knew was a crossroads matchup. Come fight night, he was red-hot, whereas Bute was a rabbit in the headlights.

“The Cobra” was super aggressive, hurting the visitor with almost every punch he threw. By the end of the fourth round, Bute had been hurt on multiple occasions and he was marked up around the face.

Froch, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame later this year, finished his man off in the fifth with a vicious two-fisted barrage.

Result: Froch TKO 5

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