HIGHLY rated light-heavyweight Joshua Buatsi is being lined up for a return to action on August 31 on the undercard of Vasyl Lomachenko and Luke Campbell’s world lightweight unification clash at the O2 Arena in London.
Buatsi, 11-0, with nine stoppages, last stepped between the ropes to dismantle Marco Antonio Periban in four rounds at Madison Square Garden in New York, on the same night as Anthony Joshua’s shock defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr back in June.
The Ghanaian born prospect has no opponent as of yet and is unsure whether he will be defending any of the titles currently in his possession.
He told Boxing News: “I’m in training now and although it’s not 100% confirmed, it’s very likely I’ll be back on the undercard of Vasyl Lomachenko and Luke Campbell’s fight on August 31. No opponent as of yet and I don’t know if I’m defending a belt or not, but regardless I’ll be ready for then.
“It was a great experience out in New York. Obviously fighting in a different country, in a new arena, but at the end of the day it’s a ring. Periban is someone who has mixed at world level, so it was a good test to see where I am. He hadn’t been active for two years, but in the ring you couldn’t tell, so all in all it was a good challenge and something that will be a big help going forward.”
Buatsi is close to Joshua, who had his WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titles ripped from his grasp on that stunning night. He admits that the loss did take away personally from his own win, but points to Joshua’s reaction to defeat as the measure of the man. The 26-year-old also admitted to being somewhat taken aback by the experience of fighting at “The Mecca of Boxing”. The Garden has been the chosen venue for numerous historical fights and Buatsi enjoyed every second of adding his name to the list who have fought there.
“When you’re there, it does hit you. There is a real aura around the place and I’ve watched many iconic fights and fighters who have fought at MSG, so to have now fought there myself is amazing. It lived up to all my expectations, not just on the night, but the build-up as well,” he said. “Seeing Anthony take his first loss did dent the vibes that I had after the fight, but seeing how he has responded after shows what sort of man he is. He’s taken it on the chin and knows what he has to do in the rematch. There haven’t been any excuses and he was the first to say that the best man won on the night.”
Buatsi turned pro in July 2017 and the Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist has raced to his unbeaten record in scintillating fashion. He claimed the revered Lonsdale belt in March, when he breezed past Liam Conroy inside three rounds in London.
He also holds the WBA’s International title, defending it three times since winning the belt last July, but remains determined to defend the British belt, discussing potential fights with Craig Richards, the mandatory challenger or possibly an intriguing clash with former world title challenger Callum Johnson.
“It was three good rounds, but I have to give lots of credit to Liam, as he did present a threat. He was so determined and despite going down, he was adamant he wanted to continue, however the referee, who was closest to him, saw it in his eyes and made the correct decision,” Buatsi said. “Everything was right for me and it showed on the night, as we left no stone unturned during preparations. It was a good way to win the British title and I’m looking forward to defending it. The fights are there to be made, although I’m not sure why they haven’t been made yet, as I really don’t think it’s the case that no one wants to fight me. I’ve made it clear to everyone. The title is here and if you want it, let’s fight for it.
“Craig is the mandatory and therefore I have to fight him. I’ve got full respect for him, he’s a cool guy, as are his family members and he has put himself in this position. I’d assume he wouldn’t have taken a fight to become mandatory if he had no intention of fighting for the belt in the end, so I know it has to happen so I’ll be prepared for it when the time comes.
“A fight with Johnson would get people talking. He vacated the British title to take other opportunities, so it’s not like he ever really lost it, so if he wants it back at some point, I’ll have it. If it makes sense for the public, then it should be made.
“We’re both with the same promoter, so it’s not rocket science to get it done. You can’t claim to be the best in your country and not want to take on someone else who is making the same claim. I’m prepared to do that, otherwise why would I have gone after the British title? He is perhaps a bit ahead of me, but I’m not too far away and I think it’s a great fight.”
He refuses to look too far into the future, but does maintain a major interest in the rest of the division, which is widely considered by those in the sport to be one of the toughest by far.
There hasn’t been a British light-heavyweight champion since Nathan Cleverly held the WBO strap back in 2013, although the Welshman did win the WBA’s secondary strap in 2016 when he got past Juergen Braehmer in Germany.
The man who took the title from Cleverly was Sergey Kovalev, who is once again the WBO’s champion and will defend his title on August 24th against Buatsi’s fellow Brit Anthony Yarde in Russia. Yarde is a divisive figure in British boxing circles, but Buatsi is confident that Yarde could pull off the upset against the odds.
He explained: “I actually saw Anthony a few days ago when I went to get my medicals done and he was in the same place. I’m not too sure how it will go out there in Russia, but if the timing is right he absolutely has a chance.
“Kovalev has all the experience, but there is no way Anthony would take this fight, especially out there, if he wasn’t confident of getting the win. He has got what it takes to pull it off and I wish him all the best. With Tunde Ajayi in the corner, you can guarantee he’ll be ready and say what you want about Tunde, but he backs his fighters [all the way] and I rate that.
“This division is an incredibly tough one to be a part of. I’m not just saying that because I’m in it but as someone who takes notice of the whole sport. I mean there was an upset last weekend, when Jean Pascal beat Marcus Browne. I haven’t watched the whole fight, but from the clips that I’ve seen, Browne looked in control, but Pascal kept landing with that big right hand. You can never rule Pascal out of any fight, as this is boxing and you just never know what is going to happen.
“It’s not totally wide open, but all the organisations have different champions. I’m still learning and improving, so I’ve still got to prove myself but I feel that when the time comes for me to step up, I’ll be more than ready to do so.
“I’ve heard that [Artur] Beterbiev and [Oleksandr] Gvozdyk have agreed to fight as well, so I’m going to make sure that I am out there watching at ringside. I’m not there yet, but there are fights to be made down the line and I have to make sure I’m fully prepared, so by being there at ringside, it will give me an important insight. But, also I’m still a fan at the end of the day, so it’s a fight I want to see regardless.”