Anthony Yarde and his trainer-manager Tunde Ajayi are in Russia ahead of the former’s WBO light-heavyweight world title clash with Sergey Kovalev.
Yarde a is a big underdog in the fight, with Andre Ward carrying the opinion that the bout has come too suddenly in a career that’s been spent swatting away ‘C-level’ guys.
Ward also said back in April that Yarde carried too much muscle and that Kovalev, who the American has beaten twice previously, would stop the Hackney-born boxer.
Those comments came after Ajayi expressed his opinion that Yarde had a superior skillset to Ward – a former two-weight world champion and Olympic gold-medalist who retired undefeated.
And although Yarde and Ajayi, who spoke exclusively to Express Sport, reiterated their respect for Ward, both feel that there’s no need for the 35-year-old’s negativity.
“You can’t discredit or take away what he’s achieved in boxing. Unbeaten as a professional, the last time he lost a fight was when he was 12 years old, his resume speaks for itself,” Ajayi said.
“This started because of what I said about his skillset. A week prior to what I said he said that he’s never seen Anthony Yarde fight.
“And then a week later he comes back and says Kovalev is going to do this and that. That’s a shot fired, because he’s a man who has a lot of people listening to him.
“I’ll reiterate what I said, he’s a great fighter and I respect him but we’re about to do something at the beginning of Anthony’s career which took him his whole career to do.”
Ward retired in 2017 after two fights with Kovalev, the first of which was won via unanimous decision, despite the Russian managing to score a knockdown early in the fight.
The second clash saw Ward come out victorious again – stopping Kovalev in the eighth round following a slew of brutal body shots.
Yarde, who was ordered to fight Kovalev back in March, echoed his trainer’s sentiments, stating that there was malice on the face of Ward when he spoke about Saturday’s world title bout in Chelyabinsk.
“Andre Ward is a boxer with an opinion. He’s been there and done it. Regardless of what Ward says, I saw the clip of him on Instagram the other day, I think what Tunde said offended him,” he said.
“You’re meant to be a proud fighter, he’s going to say negative things towards me but I don’t care because Ward has been there and done it already. He retired undefeated, he fought at the top level, he won at the Olympics, he did his thing, he moved up in weight class.
“He’s someone that I’m always going to pay homage to because he’s done his thing in boxing. Tunde said he thinks I’ve got a better skillset than Andre Ward. Tunde is entitled to his opinion. Tunde just has belief in his fighter, same way that Ward had belief in himself when he was coming up.
“If you look at me in my stage of my career and you look at his career at the same stage, I’ve taken this punishment and I’ve got a better record.
“I can see the malice in his face as well, how he feels offended. But he shouldn’t feel offended. He should just see me as an up-and-coming lion, whose confident in himself and wants to accomplish everything.”