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Ajayi ‘Made Up’ At Recognition for Yarde’s Bravery Against Beterbiev


Tunde Ajayi praised the “massive achievement” of Anthony Yarde’s fight with Artur Beterbiev being awarded Fight of the Year by the British Boxing Board of Control.

It was Ajayi, Yarde’s trainer and manager, who intervened to rescue him in the eighth round of the thrilling contest in January 2023 for the undefeated Beterbiev’s IBF, WBO and WBC light-heavyweight titles.

Beterbiev is on course to fight for the undisputed title against his fellow Russian Dmitrii Bivol in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on June 1, and the 32-year-old Yarde is expected to fight Joshua Buatsi in a stadium in London later that month.

Where once Yarde would have been regarded the underdog against Buatsi, his performance against Beterbiev means it has come to be considered the most competitive of fights, and after watching his fighter accept the award at the BBBC’s awards dinner and again express his disappointment at his defeat, Ajayi said: “There was only one fight [that could have won]. 

“It was in January of last year. I spoke to [the retired super-middleweight champion] Richie Woodhall, and he said it had to be the best fight of last year. Just for sheer excitement. The sheer underdog mentality. The fact he’d only had 12 amateur fights, and again – fighting another Russian. Another [future] hall of famer. Another generational champion. This is stuff that dreams are made of. 

“It had to get Fight of the Year. I’m so happy for him. We didn’t win it, [but] this is a massive achievement for him. I’m made up for him. He deserves it. He’s so hungry. The fact that the boxing community recognises him – that’s what it’s about. I couldn’t be more happy for him.”

Buatsi, 31, impressed in February when he earned a unanimous decision over fellow London light heavyweight Dan Azeez, and Ajayi, by then aware that his leading fighter was on course to fight Buatsi, said: “It was a good fight for the fans. A good fight. Very entertaining. A credit to both men – it was a good fight. 

“In terms of impressed, I’ll be honest – I’m always impressed with Joshua Buatsi, because I know what he can do. The Azeez fight – you had two good fighters who knew each other, so that took away a little bit of the fight, because they knew each other so well. There’s always going to be that on the table when two fighters have sparred with each other. In that context they actually looked like they was going for it at times, so that’s what made it a great fight. It was a great fight. Buatsi impressed me, but Dan impressed me before [then].”

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