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Hard to measure Yarde -- Kovalev set to test Brit's unbeaten run

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5 things you should know about Anthony Yarde (1:54)

Mike Tyson, football and lions in the camp. There's more to Anthony Yarde than big knockout punches. (1:54)

Anthony Yarde is unbeaten, untested at the top level, fighting one of boxing's most dangerous champions away from home in front of 7,500 hostile fans and still he thinks Saturday's fight will be easy.

In the Tractor Sport Palace in Chelyabinsk, an industrial city two hours east of Moscow, on Saturday night, the hometown hero Sergey Kovalev, arguably Russia's greatest professional boxer, defends his WBO light-heavyweight title against Yarde in a fight that has divided the opinion of experts.

Yarde has won all 18 of his professional fights, stopped 17 of his victims inside the distance and dropped his opponents a total of 30 times in a succession of simple fights; Yarde has not come close to losing a round as a professional boxer. Yarde insists it is because of his skill and power, his critics insist he has been matched carefully, which is a polite way of putting it.

Kovalev has been a world champion on and off since 2013, has been in some brutal, memorable and bloody brawls and now at 36 is admittedly facing the last stages of a glorious career. However, the Russian, who started with nothing when he moved to America to fight in 2009, has been in 15 consecutive world title fights, is considered the finest light-heavyweight in the world right now and in Chelyabinsk his picture hangs on walls.

The problem for Kovalev and boxing's acknowledged form guides is that Yarde simply does not care about statistics, history, odds or any other boxing facts. The intriguing unknown detail in this fight is whether Yarde can hurt a man like Kovalev and that is central to the debate; Yarde is an enigma, both feared for his power and totally untested in the ring. If he connects cleanly there could be a massive shock.

Yarde started to fight late in life after a flirtation with football and enough skirmishes on London's streets to make him very aware of his own mortality. He had a gun pulled on him, knives drawn, had friends killed and had to tread with care before finding the sanctity of a boxing gym. The sport saved him, that's an uncontested fact.

"I was living a dangerous life before I started boxing," said Yarde. "There was always a danger and a threat. I was not involved, but at the same time it was hard not to be involved. I was young and every day was a challenge."

His idols when he started to box were the sport's mavericks, fighters like Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather: "They refused to fight in conventional ways -- I did the same, I was told to get up on my toes as an amateur and I refused: I wanted knockouts and I got 11 out of 12 stoppage wins before turning professional." Kovalev, a member of the Russian boxing team, had 215 amateur fights, winning 193.

When Yarde decided to turn professional he met Tunde Ajayi, one of the resident coaches at the Peacock gym in London's East End. The pair forged an instant friendship and understanding, a meeting of two intelligent boxing minds with a controversial plan for the future; Tunde has developed a training method that appears to reject most of the sacred rituals boxers and their trainers have been using for centuries.

"I call Tunde the genius," said Yarde. "He is changing the face of boxing and the way people look at boxing. When I win the title, he will get the validation he deserves."

Tunde's training method, which is packaged as System 9, includes limited sparring, repetition and total sacrifice to the system by the boxer. Yarde has done no hard sparring for this fight. "Boxing is an art rather than a battle," insisted Ajayi, who was unbeaten in five fights in his own career in 2001.

"How does getting punched in the face hard or punching somebody in the face hard get a boxer fit?" Ajayi added. Instead of gruelling rounds against hired sparring partners, the pair have their own mesmerising, fast workout on the pads, punching and parrying shots in a highly choreographed routine; not getting hit in the face goes against all the perceived wisdom in the boxing game and the pair simply don't care.

The opponents quickly toppled when Yarde turned professional in 2015 and as the quality has inevitably increased, Yarde has continued to find the finishing punches with ease. He is accused of never having a test, of not meeting a boxer from the top ten -- a designation that is becoming increasingly meaningless -- and Ajayi rejects any notion that Yarde is not ready. "Anthony has not come out of first gear yet and Kovalev gasses after four rounds -- Anthony has better skills, the better punch and better ring IQ. It's that simple, that is why he will win," said Ajayi on Tuesday at a small gym in his hotel opposite the fight arena.

Yarde listened to his friend talking, the man he has dubbed 'The Genius': "I know I will get the knockout in this fight. I don't care about Kovalev, I don't want to be his friend or be in awe of him -- it's not about him, it's about me now."

But, as Kovalev told me at Chelyabinsk airport late on Tuesday night, when he arrived from Moscow: "Saying and do are two different things." On Saturday night Yarde will try and make his words match his ambition to test Kovalev's belief -- it might not be pretty.