Unbeaten light-heavyweight world champion Artur Beterbiev stopped Britain’s Anthony Yarde in thrilling eight rounds at London’s Wembley Arena on Saturday to retain his WBC, IBF and WBO belts.
The Russian-born Canadian sent the Briton to the canvas with a punishing right and, after a count, the challenger’s corner signalled to referee Steve Gray to stop the fight two minutes and one second into the round.
Montreal-based Beterbiev, 38, was behind on two of the three judges’ scorecards at that point but the victory, against an underdog who turned out to be a real threat, took his professional record to 19-0-0.
Yarde, 31, is now on 23 wins with three defeats and no draws.
Both men suffered facial cuts as they traded blows at a ferocious pace from the opening bell, Yarde under his right eye and Beterbiev to his left eyelid.
Yarde twice lost his gumshield in a pulsating fight that saw both men hammered against the ropes and landing stinging blows.
Beterbiev made every punch count but Yarde held in there and landed a crunching right in round five before then being caught by an uppercut.
Round seven was another classic, Yarde pushing Beterbiev into a corner but the champion turning it around to rain down blows on the Briton.
“He gave one of the best fighters in the world the toughest fight he’s ever had,” said promoter George Warren of Yarde.
“I had him up (on the scorecard). It was a pendulum fight almost, it swung like a pendulum. Anthony started really well. He showed that he can hurt him and keep him off him and at bay.”
Beterbiev, booed as he entered the ring and applauded as he left it, sank to his knees in joy as the referee stepped in and said afterwards he was prepared to take the punches and counter.
Asked about a future bout with Russia’s unbeaten WBA champion Dmitry Bivol for the undisputed title, Beterbiev said he hoped that might happen.
“I want Bivol,” he said. “This right now is everything. In this fight we have four belts, it’s a really good fight I think.”