Interview – Declan Warrington

BN: Now that you’ve had a break, what’s next?

I’m meant to be fighting end of July. We’re waiting for the promoters and managers to do their things in the background, in terms of opponents. I part-manage my own career – I do have a say – but if they say, “Fight this guy”, I’ll say, “Okay”. As long as I’m being paid fairly, I’m going to go for opportunities.

We had a meeting with George [Warren], and we’re going to see what the options are. Not a lot of people are willing to fight me if it’s not for a title. If it’s a big fight, fantastic. I really want to fight as soon as possible.

If I get given an opportunity, I’m going for it. I would rather retire and say I went for it, than, “What if?” “What if” would ruin the rest of my life, because I’ve seen it time and time again. People have injuries that stop their careers; people have life incidents that stopped their careers. During Covid I had five family members pass away, so that shows you how short life can be. “You’re here; you’ve got an opportunity; go for it.” You’ve only got one life to live, so why not?

BN: Having since watched back your fight with Artur Beterbiev, how do you reflect on it?

I watched the fight as a fan first. I turned off my emotions – the fact that it was me – and what an entertaining fight. Back and forth. Heavy shots. Then I watched it again, analysing myself – to give Beterbiev his hardest fight to date, I’ve got to be proud of that. I’ve got hardly any experience and had all this criticism – I did something right, to give him the fight that he said, “I respect you”. There was a bit of relief [from him] when the fight got stopped. We’re [me and trainer Tunde Ajay] are definitely going to be watching it together [too].

We had a lot of respect for each other after the fight; we both went in there and gave it our all. He landed a hell of a shot while I was throwing – that’s inexperience – I opened myself up and got caught on my chin. That first punch would have put a lot of people to sleep. I was annoyed that Tunde stopped the fight when he did, but Beterbiev might have started unloading more than he was.

[Afterwards] I had the longest I’ve ever had out of the gym – four weeks – since I’ve started boxing. I was enjoying it. You need to have that ability to know when to switch off; know that you’ve been doing this for a long time now – given it your all – you need to give your body a break. Surprisingly, when I came back, Tunde was like, “You’ve been doing secret training’”. The rejuvenation. I felt sharper; it was like I was hitting harder. I feel better as well. All the niggles that I had; little injuries that I was training through [are gone]. I feel better.

Realistically, the only time I’ll tell [how much that fight might have improved me] is when I get back in the ring, ‘cause training’s one thing [and fighting’s another]. When you actually have a fight there’s pressure – the reality of, “This matters”. When you spar there’s a lot of practising you’re doing – it don’t really matter. A fight’s not practice. From [Tunde’s] perspective of watching it, and my perspective of watching it, we’ve incorporated certain things into training.

BN: One of the best fights that can be made is Beterbiev-Dmitry Bivol…

It’s not going to happen. I genuinely feel like I took a lot out of Beterbiev. Even when I watched the fight back – I rewound to Tunde stopping the fight about 15 times. I watched a lot of his fights leading up to that – I’ve never seen him so relieved at a fight being stopped before. Never. Usually he bangs the floor in aggression. “Aagghh.” Beast mode. “I’ve done this. Look at me. I’m an animal.” This one was more like, “Thank God”.

Absolutely [it needs to happen soon] but it’s not going to happen. I could put money on it. I can’t remember a time two Russian champions have fought each other. We haven’t seen Bivol lose; we haven’t seen Beterbiev lose. It’s hard to rule out either of them winning [against each other]. What Beterbiev does, which a lot of people don’t realise, is he makes a fighter surrender. He didn’t make me surrender, but he pressures a fighter and makes them scared to throw punches. He puts them into that state where they just want the fight to get stopped – he puts on so much mental pressure that they end up getting cornered and beaten up. I was in there with him and see how smart he is and certain things that he does.

Bivol is technically sound, in the centre of the ring. Can he keep Beterbiev from the centre of the ring? I don’t think so. If the fight happens now I think Beterbiev wins. If it happens in three years Bivol wins.

BN: As a leading light-heavyweight, how do you feel about Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, a super middleweight, potentially getting another shot at one of your division’s leading fighters, in Bivol?

It makes me feel happy for him, I promise you. People don’t know how hard boxers work. Canelo’s been doing this at this level for a number of years, so he’s earned it. The same way Floyd Mayweather is having exhibition fights and still making a lot of money – it’s because he paved the way. He built such a career. All them years in the gym. All them years training two times a day; having all them mega fights. Risky, hard fights. Taking shots to the head. When you retire, someone that paved the way for us [active] guys to be put on the map, they deserve to be able to go and have these exhibition fights and still make good money after boxing. It’s sad for me when I see boxers give their life to boxing, and then afterwards they ain’t got no money. You risk your life in there.

I think Bivol wins again [if he has a rematch with Alvarez]. It’s at light heavyweight; as good as Canelo is, he’s not a light heavyweight. He came up from junior middleweight; he’s a solid middleweight, and he was pushing it at super-middle. In terms of his size, and Bivol’s style, it’ll be a very, very similar fight.

BN: What did you make of your domestic rival Joshua Buatsi’s performance against Pawel Stepien?

I saw the response to the fight. A lot of people were tweeting me saying, “Yarde will wipe the floor with Buatsi; it’s an easy fight for Yarde”. I don’t pay attention to that, because styles make fights. I’ve always thought I’d beat Buatsi; I still think I’d beat Buatsi. I know I’d beat Buatsi. But there’s a lot of politics; people not wanting to lose. I didn’t watch it live, so I’m not going to talk about it based on other people’s opinions.

It’s maybe made the fight easier [to make, through Buatsi moving from Matchroom to BOXXER]. I want to fight again in July. A fight like Buatsi, I want it to have a good promotional build. It’s a pay-per-view fight. Me and Buatsi have always said it; we’ve actually met face-to-face a number of times; we’re both from London. We both know by our energy, we’re going to fight each other. We’ve always said it. I’m excited for when that happens. We’ve never sparred. When you’re from London and you’ve been around it a bit, there’s a natural respect that you’ve chosen that certain type of life. I respect what he’s done – he’s been to the Olympics and stuff. He’s respected my grind and how I’ve risen out of nowhere.

BN: How do you see Beterbiev’s fight with Callum Smith?

I think Beterbiev will stop him, but there’s that thing. How much did I take out of Beterbiev? He even said after the fight, “You hit me and I felt dizzy”. [Smith’s] the underdog but he’s such a good fighter. He’s long; rangy; got a good left hook. Will it be enough for Beterbiev? I don’t think so.

BN: Your friend and stablemate Ohara Davies is pushing to fight Rolando “Rolly” Romero…

I was there [when they sparred]. This is when people were talking about Romero. “He’s knocking people out in the gym.” Ohara actually said, “I want to spar you”. Ohara was calling out everyone in the gym. Everyone. How the spar ended was Rolly Romero stumbling all over the ring. He basically stopped him, and then after they said, “Yeah, that’s enough”. He was out of it. It wasn’t that late in the spar either. If the spar carried on he would have knocked him out. It was competitive in the sense of Romero was coming forward. But he did get jabbed a lot. He just got caught with a hell of a shot. I really want them to fight. I know they’re trying to move Ohara out of the way to fight Ryan Garcia, which makes sense in terms of money, but if Ohara’s anything like me he’ll say, “Fuck that”. I think he wins it.

Anthony Yarde and his trainer, Tunde Ajayi