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British light-heavyweight contender Anthony Yarde moved a step closer to challenging WBO world titleholder Sergey Kovalev with a fifth-round win over Travis Reeves at the Royal Albert Hall, London, on Friday.

In just the second boxing show in 20 years at the atmospheric London venue, Yarde ground down his American opponent who was stopped on his feet by referee Marcus McDonnell.

Yarde (18-0, 17 KOs), 27, cemented his place at No 1 in the WBO rankings after turning Reeves’ legs to jelly with a series of clubbing right hands in a fight that was streamed live on ESPN+ in the U.S.

Reeves (17-4-2, 7 KOs), 38, from Baltimore, showed courage and ambition earlier in the fight, but Yarde has undeniable punching power.

Yarde, from Stratford in east London, has only been taken once to points as a professional, after a brief amateur career, and as soon as he decided to step up the pace the fight was over.

“I learned to keep being myself,” Yarde said. “You need to focus on your own journey and not outside. People are saying you should be fighting for a world title five fights ago, but its not kamikaze. It’s a long journey.

“My foot is in the door. My big toe is knocking on the door. Kovalev is world champion, and that’s what we are aiming for. I would take it [next]. We got offered the world title shot a few months ago, but my team decided it wasn’t the right time. A good career is ten years; I have seven years left, there’s no rush.”

Yarde opted to take his time early on and Reeves was confident enough to box on the front foot at times in the second and third rounds.

Reeves could not be faulted for appetite, but his punches did not carry enough venom while Yarde’s certainly did. Reeves absorbed a solid right hand in the fourth round, and later in the round three right uppercuts in short succession.

Yarde began the fifth full of urgency, and when he connected with successive right hands, Reeves fell apart.

Yarde told ESPN before the fight he wants to face U.S.-based Kovalev before the end of 2019 after his team turned down an offer to fight the champion last year. Kovalev (33-3-1, 28 KOs), 35, impressively regained the WBO title in a rematch with Eleider Alvarez last month, once again becoming the man to beat at light heavyweight.

Yarde’s promoter Frank Warren hopes the WBO makes Yarde the mandatory challenger so a fight can be made later this year.

Dubois marches on

Daniel Dubois made a statement of his punching power by demolishing Razvan Cojanu in two rounds.

Romania’s California-based Cojanu (16-6, 9 KOs) was a good step up for Dubois as he took New Zealand’s Joseph Parker, then WBO world heavyweight titleholder, to points two years ago.

But Dubois stormed to victory in just two rounds, after planting a left hook on Cojanu’s jaw followed by a sledgehammer right. Cojanu was left in a heap, with his leg awkwardly bent back underneath him.

This result underlines the power in south Londoner Dubois’ fists, which have stopped nine of his ten opponents.

“I was expecting a knockout, I had trained hard, hard work pays off,” Dubois said.

Dubois (10-0, 9 KOs), 21, who is 6-foot-2 and 238 pounds, is now being lined up to face British rival Nathan Gorman, who has impressive hand speed, later this year. Gorman unanimously outpointed Cojanu in December.

“When the time is right and we step in the ring, I will knock him [Gorman] out,” Dubois said.

Dubois, from Greenwich, became the latest British heavyweight to take a significant step at this historic venue early in his career.

The 5,000-capacity Royal Albert Hall saw Frank Bruno and Lennox Lewis have over 20 fights between them early on in their careers before they went on to become world heavyweight champions. Most of Bruno’s 15 fights at the 148-year-old venue ended in early knockouts, as did this one.

Dubois struggled to land many clean punches early on against Cojanu, who was five inches taller than him, but he certainly found his range in the second round.

Cojanu looked in trouble as soon as he was backed up against the ropes, and Dubois saw an opportunity. Dubois started flinging in hooks, and a left buzzed Cojanu before a right sent him sliding down the ropes to be counted out.

Dubois has more development before he reaches title contention, with plenty of potential all-British clashes against the likes of world No. 1 Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury, Dillian Whyte and Joe Joyce.

Williams’ hot form continues

Liam Williams was once again in the mood as he knocked out Joe Mullender in the second round of the first defense of his British middleweight title.

Williams has revived his career from two back-to-back defeats to Liam Smith at super welterweight in 2017 with four stoppage wins on the bounce.

The Welshman, who also boxed impressively to stop Mark Heffron in ten rounds in December, will be fighting for bigger titles within a year if he continues his current form.

“I want big fights now,” Williams said.

The gulf in class was evident from the start. Mullender (11-3, 5 KOs) tried to keep a tight guard, but Williams (20-2-1, 15 KOs) still got through with a variety of shots in the first round.

Williams, 26, was allowed to pick his shots, and in the second round uncorked a right uppercut that hurt Mullender. The champion then unloaded a series of hooks to send Mullender down for a count.

Mullender got up on unsteady feet and was allowed to continue by referee Bob Williams, only for Williams to plant a huge right hand on the Englishman and leave him flat out.

Williams criticized his namesake for allowing the fight to continue after the first knockdown.

“He was still wobbling on his feet when he got back up. It was the referee’s fault — he should never have let it go on,” Williams said.

Williams’ career is on the rise after recovering from a frustrating 2017.

Williams was leading former WBO super welterweight champion Smith on the scorecards when he was cut from a clash of heads, and his trainer Gary Lockett pulled him out. Williams lost a rematch by a majority decision and is now trained by Dominic Ingle in Sheffield, alongside former WBO world middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders.

Ingle, who has trained the likes of Kell Brook and Naseem Hamed, says a world title shot at super welterweight would suit Williams, and mentioned Mexico’s Jaime Munguia, the WBO world titleholder.

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