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Buncey’s BOXXER Bulletin: Buatsi is Back!

In this week’s column, presented by RDX Sports, veteran columnist Steve Bunce looks at the career of top British contender Joshua Buatsi, including his glittering amateur pedigree followed by a lack of high-level fights in the pro ranks, ahead of his clash against the unbeaten Daniel Blenda Dos Santos on Saturday.

Joshua Buatsi went to California to fall back in love with boxing.

Buatsi won the bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics in the light-heavyweight division, beating two top seeds on the way. It was one of Team GB’s finest medals.

He turned professional, he won in style, he was guided by Anthony Joshua… and that was four years ago. In early March, he went to Oakland in California to start working with Virgil Hunter, the enigmatic man behind the great Andre Ward. 

Buatsi had lost his way – Not a criticism, a fact.

Now, Buatsi is back in the UK and topping Saturday’s Matchroom bill in Manchester. It is time to get his career moving a bit faster and in the right direction; he is unbeaten in just 13 fights from four years in the business and the brutal truth is that he has not come close to having a test.

On Saturday, after seven months away from the ring and two months under Hunter’s guidance, he fights unbeaten Frenchman, Daniel Blenda Dos Santos. 

It is a good start to the serious part of his career and a stoppage win would finally send a message to the leading light-heavyweights. (That’s the leading light-heavyweights in Britain, not the scrappers on the world scene.)

Buatsi has teamed up with new coach Virgil Hunter, who trained Andre Ward throughout his career / Credit: Sky Sports

“I still have not shown what I can do,” says Buatsi. “It’s time to show people what I can do.” 

I agree with him.

Buatsi is now 28, which is certainly not old for a contender, but he must not waste another year waiting for the right fight. There are no easy routes to a world title at the moment, but there are four really good fights to be made.

He has always been rated kindly by the men and women who make ratings, but his position in the top five is now most definitely up for debate – the British light-heavyweight division is a hidden splendour in the boxing business.

Three of the top five have been in heroic world title challenges and two, including Buatsi, are unbeaten. It is possible to add former BOXXER winner and British champion Shakan Pitters to the list. Pitters has sparred a lot of rounds with Buatsi and the pair are friends.

Craig Richards, the current British champion, just went 12 rounds with Dmitry Bivol for the WBA title, Anthony Yarde lost to Sergey Kovalev for the WBO title and Callum Johnson lost to IBF and WBC champion, Artur Beterbiev. All three want and deserve another shot.

Last December, Yarde lost on points to Lyndon Arthur. Yarde wants revenge and Arthur wants a shot at the current WBO champion, Joe Smith.

RDX fighter Lyndon Arthur (left) and Anthony Yarde (right) are two other highly-rated British light-heavyweights / Credit: Boxing News

It is not an easy weight division to rank. And, to be honest, on performances, Buatsi would probably be at number five, with Arthur at number one. The people behind Richards will insist their man is the current number one and Johnson has dismissed them all, believing he is the clear number one.

Yarde, meanwhile, plans to beat Arthur in a rematch and return to number one. Buatsi is the clear number one on “promise” – amazingly, the WBC has not yet made a lizard-skin “promise” belt.

It is a wonderful dilemma for the sport in Britain.

This Saturday, Buatsi has to make a statement and he can. Forget minor belts, forget Olympic medals right now, forget promise – it is now time to deliver. Joshua Buatsi can really fight and we might all get to see it in the coming months.

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