WHEN Eddie Hearn looks back at the results from his second edition of Fight Camp, what will most likely please him most, more than the world class exploits of Leigh Wood and Kid Galahad, will be the way Joshua Buatsi stepped up on Saturday night (August 14). Buatsi came through the biggest test of his professional career to date, against Latvia’s Ricards Bolotniks, with a lot of boxes ticked. Firstly, it was a win, secondly it was spectacular, but most importantly, it proved to be difficult. Boltoniks did not fade away under Buatsi’s bombardment.
After being dropped in the sixth round. Bolotniks stuck to it, showed an incredible capacity to take punishment, frustrated Buatsi, was a constant danger and seemed, at one point, to have turned the tide on the former British light-heavyweight champion.
Eventually it was a huge right hand in the 11th round that sent Bolotniks crashing to the floor to bring an end to proceedings. It was far from easy, but people sometimes overlook that boxing isn’t meant to be.
“I had to work hard for it,” Buatsi said. “He was an opponent I was told everyone said no to, but I said yes. I believe we are doing things right and we’ll get there. I’ve got 11 good rounds to watch. Look at what I did well and what I didn’t.”
The fight with Bolotniks had been seen as the final step before a shot at a belt – it was a WBA final eliminator after all – but such talk afterwards was thin on the ground. Another fight, perhaps in the United States, in October and November, was Hearn’s suggestion.
Hearn has often pointed to Buatsi as a leading figure in the new wave of British boxing. When he upped sticks from Sky Sports to take his stable to DAZN this summer, there was a shortage of household names included. He needs the likes of Buatsi (ranked 10th in the world) to make the crossover.
For five rounds, Buatsi boxed within himself, keeping the Latvian under pressure, picking his moments to step on the power to both head and body. After soaking up some big shots, a crunching left hook finally had Bolotniks in the floor in the sixth round. Then things got interesting.
Buatsi went for the finish, but Bolotniks backed away, took the sting out of Buatsi’s shots and made him use up energy. “I felt him recovering as the round went on,” Buatsi said. It was a subdued Buatsi who came out for the seventh, as he looked for his stamina to kick in. But Bolotniks was making him work and in the eighth round, when Buatsi was deducted a point after a third warning for low blows, he seemed to be frustrated.
It would have been easy for Buatsi to just box his way to victory, to be content with what would have been a comfortable points decision. But he didn’t settle, he upped the pressure on Bolotnkis again in the ninth and 10th rounds and found the finisher in the 11th – a long right hand that landed flush as Bolotniks tried to escape along the ropes. Referee Howard Foster called it off instantly at 2-08 of the round.
It was also a big night for Joe Cordina, who gave a reminder of his ability after being dogged by a right-hand injury for the past three years, as he flattened Joshuah Hernandez with a right hand in 53 seconds of the first round. The result was announced as a stoppage, although referee Lee Every appeared to count out the American.
Michael McKinson backed up his breakthrough win over Chris Kongo in March as he won a wide unanimous points decision over Poland’s Przemyslaw Runowski in a 10-rounder that never really caught fire. Southpaw McKinson, from Portsmouth, boxed throughout on the backfoot, often with his hands down and caught the Polish boxer as he lunged in. Michael Alexander and Marco Morales had it 99-91 and Jose Ignacio Martinez had it 98-92. Foster was the referee.
Kash Farooq won his third fight under the Matchroom banner, winning the WBC international bantamweight belt with a one-sided unanimous decision over Mexico’s Luis Gerardo Castillo. One judge, Mark Lyson, scored it 100-91, the other two Braham Ait Aadi and Christophe Fernandez had it a shutout, 100-90.
Hopey Price also found a good shot to put an exclamation mark on his best performance to date, as he dropped Claudio Grande with a sharp left hook just before the final bell of their super-bantamweight six-rounder. Price is incredibly tall for the weight, which creates obvious problems for a come-forward, stocky fighter like Grande. For the first half, Price controlled the action well, spearing the Italian with shots as he tried to work his way in. Grande came back into things in the second half, as he forced Price back against the ropes, but the Leeds fighter kept looking for opening and finished in style to earn a 58-55 decision on referee Mark Bates’s card.
Raymond Ford, from New Jersey, stopped Reece Bellotti in the third round. Bellotti, 30, was once Commonwealth featherweight champion and 12-0 as a pro, but he went down to his fifth defeat in seven fights as the American finished matters with a blistering two-fisted attack, forcing Referee Alexander’s intervention at 0-39 of the third round.
Zelfa Barrett kept busy with a four-round win over Viorel Simion, dropping the Romanian in the first round with a body shot and keeping on top until Simion was pulled out at the end of the fourth round. Every was the referee.
The Verdict: The Buatsi journey again gathers pace.