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Joshua Buatsi comes through punishing test against Marko Calic

Joshua Buatsi
Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing
Under pressure Joshua Buatsi rallies to drop and stop Marko Calic in Milton Keynes

JOSHUA BUATSI endured a torrid return to action when he met Marko Calic at the Marshall Arena (Matchroom). Croydon’s Buatsi zeroed in on his opponent’s chin with hard, straight jabs. Those shots alone were hurtful. But the Croatian unleashed rapid right crosses. Tearing through the openings he caught Buatsi repeatedly, damaging his left eye. That swelled up badly in the third round. Calic continued to press home his advantage. He flung in clusters of shots, well timed and well placed.

This was the test Buatsi has been waiting for in his professional career.

He hesitated when he sought to protect his eye but ultimately responded. He bombed forward behind rights of his own, hurting Calic by the end of the fifth round.

He found Calic’s body with vicious hooks. In the seventh round solid punches again forced Calic to retreat. The Croatian switched stances, only for a looping right to snag him high on the head. He backed off, but that invited a further onslaught. Heavy rights bounced Calic into the ropes and he sank to his knees. He looked to his corner, badly hurt. With Buatsi closing him down, Calic’s trainer threw in the towel.

Referee Michael Alexander stopped the contest at 2-09 of the seventh round.

“We bit down on the gumshield and we got the win. This is a gentleman’s sport, big credit to Marko Calic. I wish him nothing but the best. I wish him good health. Maximum respect to him,” Buatsi said. “He came in and he gave me a good run for my money. It was a hard fight but I learned. He didn’t just come to make up the numbers. He was a good fighter, heading into our fight unbeaten. I couldn’t see his right hands [but] I adapted. I dealt with it.”

While Buatsi showed a flaw in his defence, he did demonstrate his capacity to take the pain and that he can react well when under pressure. In his next fight he will need to prove that he has learned from that lesson. Otherwise British rivals, like Callum Johnson and Anthony Yarde, will be taking a keen interest in those right hands that Calic was landing.

Chantelle Cameron became the WBC super-lightweight champion, dominating the outgunned Adriana Araujo. Her Brazilian opponent had come in more than five pounds over the weight limit the day before, ending her hopes of winning the vacant title on the scales. Araujo seemed listless during the contest itself, planting herself in ring centre and reaching for Cameron with wide hooks. With superior footwork Cameron constantly offset her. Moving in Chantelle struck with sustained combinations, cracking in her right and following up with sharp hooks. She darted back out again, with the Brazilian struggling to catch her. But Araujo, with a hefty weight advantage over Cameron, stuck out the 10-round distance. Northampton, however, has a world champion, as Cameron shut her out, 100-90 for all three judges, Mr Alexander, John Latham and Terry O’Connor. Ian John-Lewis refereed.

Although Araujo is now 38 years old, it was still a surprise to see a former Olympian so outclassed and seemingly unambitious. But Cameron’s boxing was quality and her championship will lead her on to bigger fights.

“I can’t put it into words how it feels. I was nervous but my team kept me calm. I wanted this belt, so I had to keep my head on. She wasn’t professional enough to make the weight, but I knew no matter what I was becoming champion,” Chantelle said. “This is just the start.”

Luton’s Linus Udofia defended his English middleweight title from John Harding Jnr. The two began with cautious jabs but quickly their contest came to life. Udofia landed the greater weight of punches, showing better variety as he directed his attacks to the body and the head. Harding let his fists fly in bursts when he caught the champion. But his breathing grew heavier and he began to fade. Udofia clipped him with a greater frequency until, in the ninth round, he slammed a hard right hook into the side of Harding’s head. It sent the Londoner tumbling to the canvas. Referee Latham waved the bout off at 2-07. Despite the protestations of John’s corner, it looked like a good stoppage.

John Hedges, only 18 years old, is part of the wave of young boxers turning professional with no senior amateur experience. That’s understandable when, at present, there is no senior, or junior, competition [see pages 38-41]. But it is forgoing valuable, arguably necessary experience. Even being an outstanding junior is different to fighting men. Takeley’s Hedges in this instance was fortunate to get through his four-round debut with a win over Jan Ardon. He was too open to the Mancunian’s harder punching, but referee John-Lewis handed Hedges a 39-37 decision.

Freely swinging heavyweight Alen Babic winged hooks into Ireland’s Niall Kennedy. The latter reared back but let too many of his left hooks through. Kennedy sank to the canvas in the second round. The Croatian attacked him along the ropes to start the third, dropping him again and obliging referee John-Lewis to end it 34 seconds into the round.

Despite his high work rate, Birmingham’s Kane Baker could not derail Oldham’s Aqib Fiaz, who picked his punches and used his footwork to take a clear points win after eight rounds, 77-75 for Mr John-Lewis.

The Verdict Buatsi takes the next step in his development as a professional fighter.

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