It’s a big step up from 175 to 200lbs but Anthony Yarde would fight WBO cruiserweight champion Chris Billam-Smith, trainer and manager Tunde Ajayi revealed; Londoner is targeting the Joshua Buatsi vs Dan Azeez winner: "No one wants to see the Buatsi fight more than Yarde"
Wednesday 3 January 2024 06:19, UK
Anthony Yarde believes he can move up to cruiserweight eventually and challenge Chris Billam-Smith for the WBO championship at 200lbs.
London's Yarde has twice challenged for light-heavyweight world titles, tackling Sergey Kovalev in 2019 for the WBO belt and then fearsome knockout artist, and unified champion, Artur Beterbiev last year.
There are tremendously exciting fights for Yarde at light-heavyweight, with the winner of the Joshua Buatsi vs Dan Azeez February 3 fight particularly appealing.
But longer term Yarde's team believe he can be a force at cruiserweight, too.
"There are some great fights, some great possibilities for Anthony primarily as the fighter and myself as the manager and trainer to explore. We were even talking about big fights up at cruiserweight," Tunde Ajayi, his coach and manager, told Sky Sports.
"I would even go so far, if you put the right proposal to Anthony now, he'll fight Chris Billam-Smith tomorrow. 100 million percent."
Billam-Smith beat Lawrence Okolie to win the world title and defended it in December against Poland's Mateusz Masternak.
At 175lbs Yarde has notable power and he did have an exciting battle with Beterbiev, who is one of the heaviest punchers, pound-for-pound, in the sport.
Ajayi maintains Yarde does have the attributes to succeed at cruiser, even with the big step up in weight from light-heavy.
"Anthony has been a cruiserweight from the beginning of his career, it's discipline and dedication which has allowed him to make the light-heavyweight division. It's not because he's not willing go and fight bigger guys," Ajayi said.
"It's no secret, he's a massive light-heavyweight in terms of width. He packs a punch. We know that he's capable of fighting as a cruiserweight no problem.
"We just have to wait and see what comes up. That's the honest truth. We're ready. We're always ready. Anthony's a consummate professional.
"He trains and spars with bigger guys, has performed well against British champions at cruiser and even world champions at cruiser in the gym. So I don't think there'd be any problem with Anthony moving up to that weight and fighting Billam-Smith."
But Croydon's Buatsi, one of the stars of the 2016 Olympic Games, has been Yarde's long-term rival.
"Those two names have been linked for so long," Ajayi said. "It was weird - you have someone who's an Olympic darling, a bronze medallist, massive pedigree being aligned to someone who'd had 12 amateur fights [before turning pro].
"At that time most people wouldn't have even given it a contest. Most people would say there's no way AY could beat JB. But I think history ultimately rights everything and I think people have seen Anthony's been the fighter that's stepped up to world level twice, even though he's had less experience.
"People talk about experience, Anthony's got it now. For Anthony, he's said it here, what better time to make the fight. He even went so far to say [to Buatsi] I'm calling you out on your platform. It's all exciting."
But Ajayi warns that Lewisham's Azeez, the reigning British champion, is a severe threat to Buatsi.
"Because so many people are talking about Buatsi and Yarde some may be overlooking Dan. You can't measure passion, desire and determination and we know that's what Dan brings to the table. So that's going to be a very interesting fight," he said.
"I think a fight with either one of them would be a massive - not to say they're not world class - domestic dust up [for Yarde].
"But the one everyone wants to see is Joshua Buatsi and the one who wants to see it more than anyone is Anthony Yarde."
Joshua Buatsi vs Dan Azeez is live on Sky Sports on February 3.