It’s no surprise that British light heavyweight prospect Anthony “the Beast” Yarde names Mike Tyson as the first boxer who inspired him to lace up a pair of gloves. They’re both small, stocky, supreme athletes who pack a hell of a punch.
I’m not a morning person, so I’m not going to lie to you and say that I wake up at 6am
Yarde tells of watching Tyson in his formative years, explaining how as a kid growing up in East London, he couldn’t imagine how the man they called Iron Mike was able to knock people out with such regularity.
“I loved everything about it, a smaller guy knocking out these heavyweights,” says Yarde. “I started gaining an interest in Mike Tyson, and this was at the time when he was everywhere, but I never ever thought that I could do it. I always said to myself I don’t know how this guy is going out and fighting in front of such a crowd on TV.”
If Yarde didn’t understand it then, he certainly will come December 1, when he fights on the undercard of the current WBC world champion Deontay Wilder who, as we all know, is up against lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury.
It’s arguably the biggest fight in the history of heavyweight boxing, but to those who have been watching Yarde’s progress, from his short amateur career through to his rise up the professional ranks, it’s no surprise that he finds himself on this stage.
Both his promoter Frank Warren and respected boxing commentators like Steve Bunce have said that there’s no need to rush Yarde into fights for world championships, but it seems inevitable that those kinds of fights will start to appear in 2019.
It’s something that Yarde is prepared for.
“If I keep entertaining and stay exciting, which I plan to do, I’m planning on giving boxing fans what they’ve been missing for years,” says Yarde. “I don’t have a date [when I plan of fighting for a world championship belt], I just believe at the right time it will happen and it’ll fall into place, and when the time comes I’ll be ready.”
Before he makes his American debut on December 1, MH sat down with Yarde, after taking part in a hard HIIT workout at BLOK London, to talk training, waking up at 1pm and his love of burgers and pizzas.
Men’s Health: How does the HIIT workout we’ve done today compare to the kind of training you do at your boxing gym?
Anthony Yarde: Very different. I like to concentrate 99 per cent of my time on boxing exercises, so I’m getting my body conditioned to box. I do a lot of pads, I do a lot of bag work, a lot of skipping, the traditional boxing exercises.
MH: How often do you work out?
AY: Every day, except Sundays I like to rest. It’s not a particular day that I take to rest, but I like to rest one day a week and it happens to fall on a Sunday. On Sundays I try not to leave my bed. I believe in recuperation and your body tells you when you need to rest.
MH: What’s a typical training day for you?
AY: I’m not a morning person, so I’m not going to lie to you and say that I wake up at 6am. Today is a one off [we started today’s workout at 8am]. I believe in listening to your body. I wake up when my body wakes up and then I’ll message Tunde, my trainer, and I’ll say a time, and that’s usually around 1pm or 2pm. I’m a night owl, so I usually go to bed at around 3am, so I let my body get its rest. I try not to set an alarm, although I do just in case I go overboard.
MH: Do you think you need structure to your workouts or are you happy to just go with the flow?
AY: I don’t really have a structure, as long as I train. The reason I don’t have a structure is because as a boxer when you have big aspirations and you feel like you’re going to travel the world and do all these things there’s no time clock. Everyone has different times that they wake up and go to sleep, so I just like to adjust. Some days I’ll train at 6pm, and sometimes I’ll have my first training session at 12pm or 1pm, so it just varies.
Watch: The boxing workout that will improve your power
MH: We read that you don’t touch weights, so what kind of strength and conditioning work do you do?
AY: I’m an example of someone that’s got a big physique but doesn’t touch any weights. I used to, but I realised when I used to touch weights I’d get a lot of soreness and mobility issues, so I’d get up and my shoulder would be hurting, not only the muscle but around the joint. So the way I keep my size is by doing natural body exercises: a lot of dips, back dips, pull-ups, press-ups, squats and things like that. Sometimes we might add a little weight, but I’m talking about maximum 5kg, and do a lot of reps with it. I feel the way our bodies are designed, we should focus more on bodyweight exercises.
MH: Do you think of yourself as a natural athlete?
AY: 100 per cent, I’m a natural athlete. From when I was younger, I played so many different sports and I’ve got a competitive mindset. I wasn’t good at football when I was young but I made myself get good at football because of my mentality. Everyone used to play football, and I used to get nutmegged a lot and everyone used to take the mick out of me, but within the space of a year I was playing for the year above, and the level I got to, I got trials for QPR, so I got to a decent level and that’s all down to my mindset.
MH: So, is it your mind that sets you apart?
AY: In a way, and I don’t like to use this word, but delusion can be a good thing, it can be a bad thing, but when you genuinely believe in something, if you’re putting in the effort to progress, you’re going to progress more than someone who doesn’t think they can do it. I think mindset and mentality are very important.
MH: With that attitude you could have gone into any sport or any field, so why did you choose a career where you get punched in the face?
AY: The aim is to not get hit! Growing up in East London, you’re forced to defend yourself sometimes, so I always had an interest in learning how to box, but my mum was very hesitant to let me go to a boxing gym, because, as you just said, she didn’t want me getting hit in my face. But as I got older, I just said to my mum “I’m an adult now, so I think I’m going to try the training”. When I tried it, I fell in love with it. I started when I was 18 and had my first fight when I was 20.
MH: Why have you been able to avoid injuries in boxing?
AY: I feel like the reason I don’t get injured in boxing is because I know my body more now. As I’ve got older I’ve learnt to listen to my body and push myself to my limit, but in the right way. I’ve learnt more about my diet. Before, I had a strict regime of eating only healthy food but everyone has that point where they want to eat something unhealthy – chocolate, sweets, burgers – and anytime I did do that I felt terrible. But now I’ve got accustomed to eating what I want and when I do eat the good foods I see an improvement, so I lose weight quite fast and I feel stronger.
MH: What’s your diet like?
AY: To the average athlete or average fitness person, people would say that my diet’s not good. People say that you should eat three or four meals a day and have small healthy meals. But I eat what I want. I love burgers. I love pizza. I love meat, so I eat a lot of chicken, a lot of lamb and a lot of beef. The only time I’ll change my diet slightly is when I’m preparing for a fight to lose the weight, and that’s just eating natural foods like nuts, avocado, chicken, meats and things like that, and just eating things that grow from the Earth or are on the Earth naturally, nothing that’s processed, nothing with sweeteners.
MH: Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury is coming up. Who wins?
AY: I feel like whoever wins that fight is the man that shows up on the night, so I can’t call that one. If it’s going to be a knockout it’s going to be Wilder, but if it’s points I think Tyson Fury takes it.
Anthony Yarde was speaking at the launch of Alphaedge 4D, engineered with the Adidas 4D midsole, for controlled energy return and breathable cushioning during intensive training runs. Get yours from adidas.co.uk