Anthony Yarde opens up on how boxing is helping him cope

EXCLUSIVE: ‘I just want people to understand. Stop being childish. Just stay home or keep apart’: Boxer Anthony Yarde pleads with public as he speaks for first time since tragic coronavirus deaths of both his father AND grandmother

  • Anthony Yarde has spoken out on people not obeying the social distancing rules 
  • The British boxing star tragically lost his father and grandmother to coronavirus 
  • In an exclusive interview, Yarde has told how boxing is helping him cope 
  • There have been more than 20,000 deaths in Britain from the deadly disease
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Running in the park has become a blessing and a curse for Anthony Yarde. With each stride he feels the grief departing through his feet, but then the sight of so many people mingling reminds him of the problem all over again.

Why don’t they listen, he asks himself on those training routes through Ilford, north London. Why are the rules on social distancing so hard for these people to follow?

It baffles him. But on he runs, knowing there was a time not so long ago when he too didn’t feel so strongly. He does now, of course, as anyone would if their families had faced what his has in the past few weeks. On March 27, his father was lost to coronavirus; on April 2, his paternal grandmother also fell to it.

In a Sportsmail exclusive, Anthony Yarde has opened up on his own personal tragedy

The boxing star lost both his father and grandmother to coronavirus in a matter of weeks

His hope is maybe his experience and profile as a world-title challenger can persuade some folk to keep to the guidelines, and that is why he is on the line now, talking to Sportsmail in first interview since they passed.

‘I just want people to understand,’ he says. ‘Don’t do it. Just stay home or keep apart.’

He pauses and then adds: ‘I know I am kind of guilty of it too. When it all got announced that people couldn’t leave their house, I listened because I didn’t want to take any risks, but it doesn’t sink in fully how real it is or can be. Only experience can tell you, I guess, and maybe my experiences can help others.

‘I hope it does because at the moment people are still not listening – I see it whenever I run in the park.

‘It’s serious!’ Yarde wrote on social media following the passing of his close family relatives

Yarde says it angers him to see people flouting social distancing guidelines in the park

‘I see people in parks, having gatherings, playing football. My message to them is that all it takes is for them to meet their friend because they are bored, and then they go home feeling happy and healthy and the next thing, they don’t even know they might have given it to their parents.

‘It might affect their parents or a relative more than them and suddenly you have a tragedy in the family. People need to make better decisions. It’s serious. I have seen what this does, and how quickly lives can change, and people should be learning by now. Stop being childish. Use your time better – better yourself. Read a book, or do a workout exercise on YouTube. Going to hang out with friends – I find that very selfish.’

For Yarde, who would prefer not to name his relatives, it is still raw. He hadn’t lived with his father since he was eight, but boxing had helped keep them connected to a degree.

Yarde has taken to boxing and running in a bid to help him cope with the two family losses

‘He would go to my fights and we would check in on each other,’ Yarde says. His father was there in Russia last year when Yarde almost caused a monumental shock in his brave but unsuccessful challenge for Sergey Kovalev’s world light-heavyweight title. With just one more clean hit in the eighth round that night, Yarde would have had a result to stand among the finest upsets in the history of British fighters.

His grandmother had been especially prominent in the early part of his life. ‘She used to own a hair shop next to my house in Stratford and we basically grew up in there,’ he says. ‘My contact with my dad’s side of my family got less after we stopped living together, but they were in my life. What has happened is sad.

‘With my dad it was a short time between him getting ill and passing. He got ill first and he took a turn for the worse very quickly, within days. They induced him into a coma because he couldn’t breathe and he passed away in the coma. With my nan, her one didn’t get bad as fast, but it just shows, there is no one way that this happens to people and it happens to different kinds of people as well. She was in her seventies, my dad was in his fifties but he was a healthy man.

Yarde has vowed that he will use the tragic losses as fuel to come back as a stronger boxer

‘That is important – he had no underlying conditions. He went to the gym a lot and he was probably one of the healthiest on that side of the family.’

The grieving process for Yarde, and so many in his position, has been complicated by the situation around funerals. ‘They haven’t happened yet,’ he says. ‘It has been stressful. People cannot be around to comfort each other.

‘I am still mourning, really. From time to time it comes back to you, you know. I try not to talk about it to be honest, but people do ask and so it keeps it coming back to my mind. I know they are coming from a really nice place when they offer condolences. But I find it reminds me.

‘For me, it has been important to get back focused on boxing. I have been going for a lot of bike rides or runs, exercising indoors. I have been watching a lot of comedy films, anything really that keeps your mind off it, but training helps most with that, knowing I have a job to do.’

Yarde is scheduled to return to action on July 11 against Lyndon Arthur at The O2 Arena

As it stands ahead of any possible postponements, Yarde is scheduled to fight the Commonwealth light-heavyweight champion Lyndon Arthur at The O2 on July 11, as support for Daniel Dubois’s clash with Joe Joyce. 

With 19 wins and one defeat, the 28-year-old is among a prominent cluster of British fighters pushing for a global breakthrough, and comes from a classic boxing backstory of colourful moments. He has made no secret of his proximity to trouble when growing up around Forest Gate and Stratford, where shootings and stabbings were not uncommon.

‘I know where I want to get to in this sport,’ says Yarde. ‘I have to use what has happened now as fuel. I want to make all my family proud, particularly my mum, Sonia. Ninety per cent of everything I do is for her, but this has all added to that drive.

‘You need to mourn, you need to be upset, to give yourself time to replenish. Then you use it all as fuel to get stronger. I’ll get stronger.’ 

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