On Saturday, undefeated light heavyweight Lyndon Arthur takes on the highly regarded Anthony Yarde in an all-British contest which is as much about earning a future competing for world titles, as it is to defend the nominal Commonwealth title that is also on the line. Recently, Lyndon spoke to ESBR senior staff writer Elliott Grigg, to capture the specificity of this fight, and to discuss his preparation, his thoughts contextualising it and the current domestic light heavyweight division, as well as to what career path potentially lays beyond it.
In boxing, as in all forms of competitive life, opportunity is of lofty value. And on Saturday, at Church House, Westminster, and live on BT Sport, the opportunity of Lyndon Arthur’s professional career, to date, will be upon him.
There has long been clamour for Anthony Yarde to face revered British rival Joshua Buatsi (13-0), though Lyndon Arthur has always believed himself capable of disrupting the monogamy of this desire. In overcoming Yarde, he can ensure that the upper echelon of the domestic light heavyweight scene is no longer considered bilateral, but, perhaps, instead, troilist in nature.
Twice, this fight has been cancelled and rescheduled. For each man, contests against Dec Spelman were engaged in and overcome. At 17-0, Arthur is undefeated; and though Yarde (20-1) has lost on one occasion, it was to distinguished light heavyweight champion, Sergey Kovalev. Since experiencing this defeat, in August 2019, Anthony Yarde has also had to contend with the dual unpleasantries of grief and bereavement, having tragically lost both his father and grandmother to coronavirus, but arrives into this contest, professionally, on a two-fight KO winning streak.
So, having circled the possibility of fighting each other for several years, and in concurrently mentioning himself alongside the likes to Anthony Yarde and Joshua Buatsi, to now have the opportunity to fight one of them, what does this fight mean to Lyndon Arthur?
‘[It is] just the next step, basically. Just the next step towards world honours, that’s how I’m taking it. Obviously, it’s a big fight, a tough fight and a good fight. Anthony Yarde is a very, very, very good fighter, but I’m just excited.’
Given the comparative enormity of the occasion and the prospective rewards in victory, one could be forgiven for feeling a little differently about it, for hyper-focusing, or for seeking to approach it in a novel way – something to counterpoise and assuage the magnitude of the occasion. Whilst Lyndon accepts that this is his greatest pugilistic challenge thus far – ‘It is the biggest name, of course… Yeh, yeh, this is mostly definitely the biggest fight to date.’ – his preparations and routine have been unaffected:
‘Regardless of this being the biggest fight, it is just another fight. This is how I am treating it. I’m preparing for it and treating it as though it is just another fight.’
Lyndon has sparred with Buatsi but never with Yarde. I ask, in follow up to his assertions of treating this fight like any other, how he chooses to prepare for any fight, and whether, especially in cases where he has no sparring experience against them, whether he studies his opponents beforehand:
‘[With regards to the routine] There’s nothing that I specifically do. I’ve been doing this for 11/12 years now, so it is just second nature. I just go in there and fight. […] My coach probably studies them a little more than I do. I mean, I’ve always watched, I’ve always been a fan of boxing, so anytime the boxing is on, I’m watching it, and that is up and down the weights. But I’m not just specifically watching him, or specifically watching an opponent. I just love boxing, so if a fighter has been on, then, yeh, I’ve definitely seen them.’
A lifetime fan of boxing Lyndon may well be – ‘I’m a fan of Mayweather, Roy Jones Jr., Muhammed Ali, [Miguel] Cotto. I like everyone, really, Larry Holmes! I watch up and down the generations. I like all boxing.’ – but to those uninitiated to his story, it is important to mention that Lyndon only arrived to boxing in a participatory capacity aged 18 and had his first fight a year later. So why the delay?
‘I played football when I was younger, here and there. I wasn’t the best at it, but I could kick a ball and that. It’s probably the reason I stopped doing it, that I was not the best at it. My brother boxed, Pat [Barrett – former British and European light welterweight champion and Lyndon’s coach and uncle] boxed, so perhaps it was, subconsciously, written that I always would, too, that it was always going to happen.’
However, boxing is an unforgiving sport; one which exacts physical, emotional and, in some cases, cognitive tolls on those who partake, even upon those who are successful. It is one thing to visit a gym and hit the bags, quite another to embark on a full-bore fighter’s lifestyle. There are usually several bedrock reasons as to why someone would choose to fight for a living: these include aspirations towards fame and wealth, to escape desperate and hideous surroundings with the only tangible tools at their disposal, it is the family business, or, perhaps more morbidly, as it is a culturally acceptable means to express inherent violent impulses. The reasons are always fascinating, and I ask Arthur to elaborate toward his own:
‘I was just good at it. I went into the gym and I was just good. I didn’t get in there until I was about 17 or 18, but when I got in there, I found that I could just do it. And I just got better over time. I had my first fight about a year after starting boxing and I stopped the kid in the first round. So, you know, it was just something that I was good at. And then I thought ‘Ok, let’s see where this can go?’
Still, is the routine that boxing demands something to be enjoyed, or is it just a necessary endurance required in reaching the high of fight night itself?
‘You know, I enjoy the whole aspect of it. I’d much rather be doing this than to be sat doing something…different. I’d much rather be active in something that is hands on than doing something that is lesser, that I don’t really enjoy. I love sparring. I love this sport. I’m a fan of the sport and I was a massive fan of the sport before I ever started boxing.’
Returning from ethereal questions, with their intention to search the abstractions of the soul, to the concrete skull of Dec Spelman. In July, Lyndon made the first defence of the Commonwealth title that he won in October 2019 with a unanimous decision victory over the Scunthorpe man. The pattern of the fight saw the rangier Arthur jab and keep the fight comfortably at range, pause on the ropes and counter, and display his superior hand speed with momentary flashes of combinatory dexterity. It was the second time in succession that he had gone the full 12 round distance, yet was there anything particular that he felt he learned from the fight, and as he’ll once against have the height and reach advantage on Saturday, does he expect the contest against Yarde to follow a similar pattern?
‘No, not really. You know, Dec Spelman is a tough fighter, a good fighter. I did what I had to do, but I didn’t learn anything necessarily about myself that I didn’t know already that I could do. I know how good I am, and I know how good I’ve been treating myself. If anything, I went the 12 rounds which is something I showed again, but, to be honest, I knew already that I could do that, so it wasn’t learning for me, just showcasing it for everyone else, really. […] I don’t expect the same sort of fight against Yarde. Yarde is a completely different fighter than Dec Spelman, a completely different task, and I understand that highly. I’m not sure exactly how it will play out, if I'm honest; I guess we’ll just have to see.’
Six weeks following this victory, Yarde would also fight Spelman, stopping him in with a right hook to the body in the sixth round. Comparisons between and thus commentary upon, in certain quarters, the converging nature of both victories has therefore been used in the selling of this fight, but given the short interval between them, is there anything that Arthur takes from Yarde’s performance against Spelman?
‘I don’t take nothing from it. Same way I didn’t, I don’t think Yarde got out of first gear against Spelman, I really don’t. Spelman was beaten before he even got in there. Like you said, he went 12 rounds with me 5 or 6 weeks beforehand. For me, it [the Yarde-Spelman fight] was a pointless fight, but you know, he did what he and his team thought he needed to do. There’s nothing I can take from it, other than that he did what we know he can do.’
Lyndon has been keen to assure me that preparations for this fight have gone as planned. In the aftermath of the Spelman fight, he stated that he bruised his right hand, and so was content to simply outpoint Spelman rather than to risk injuring it even further (by needlessly loading up and looking for a knockout). The hand has recovered – ‘It was something which healed really quickly. [It didn’t require any further treatment or hamper training?] No. No.' – and 'training is as hard as it always is.'
Lyndon has fought in the bubble previously, but is, subject to a new relaxation in the Government regulations, set to face Yarde with several friends, family members and fans in attendance. As is the new normal, he’ll be isolating in a hotel for the week prior to the fight, and whilst he is not overlooking Yarde, he knows that a victory will push him further along in the approach to world title contendership.
And for the 18-year-old kid who wanted to ‘see just how far this could go,’ this would certainly be a step in the right direction.
Date: Saturday 5th December 2020
Time: Undercard starts at approx. 19.30
Venue: Church House, Westminster, London
Channel: BT Sport 1