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Joshua Buatsi looks to restart his momentum

Joshua Buatsi
Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing
Joshua Buatsi returns in Manchester with a new trainer, writes John Dennen

Buatsi vs Dos Santos
The quiet man of Britain’s thriving light-heavyweight scene, Joshua Buatsi returns to action behind closed doors at the Manchester Arena with a new trainer in his corner. Since a tougher-than-expected bout last time out against Marko Calic, the talented Olympic bronze medallist has linked up with Virgil Hunter as his coach.

This contest on Saturday (May 15) against France’s Daniel Blenda Dos Santos, more of a tune-up bout for Buatsi, is thrown into the spotlight after the excellent Terri Harper vs Hyun Mi Choi super-featherweight WBC/WBA title unification fight had to be cancelled after Harper broke her hand again, in just her last sparring session.

Buatsi can be expected to showcase some of what he’s been working on in Oakland with Hunter against Dos Santos. But he should be much too strong for the Frenchman.

Dos Santos has amassed a 15-0 (8) record but that was against modest opposition. He has only met two opponents before Buatsi who had winning records (and those only just, 7-2-4 and 2-1). Dos Santos will be fighting outside of France for the first time in his career and Buatsi is expected to end this inside the distance, probably early on as well.

“I think if someone’s undefeated and their record’s on the line, they’re going to come and give it everything to defend it and that’s enough for me to know,” Joshua said.

“That someone’s undefeated, they’re going to have ambition and want to keep an undefeated record. There’s a title on the line as well [a WBA International light-heavyweight strap], so that’s going to make him more hungry. So things like that are what I like to concentrate on, not reasons why the guy might not be up for it. He’s going to be up for it so that’s enough for me.”

The Londoner has long admired Andre Ward, whom Hunter is most famous for training. But don’t expect Buatsi to be boxing like Ward in his first outing with his new trainer.

“No, I’ve got my own style, the way I do things is very different, the way I think is very different. Even on the 15th my aim is just to win. Get the win move on to the next one. If I do just one thing of what I’ve been learning I’ve ticked the box,” he said.

“[Training with Hunter] is something if I add it to what I do know or what I’m good at, I can benefit from it a lot.

Joshua Buatsi
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

“Very out of my comfort zone but I’ve got one chance at this so wherever I need to be to learn, I’m prepared to do it.”

A knockout victory will help Buatsi restart his momentum but after this he will need rounds and more activity if he is to reach world level.

“May 15 is something I need to get out the way first but then we look to box again,” Joshua said.

“Literally activity is key.”

Yafai vs Cunningham
Gamal Yafai makes his first defence of the European super-bantamweight title.

The Birmingham man won the championship with a sterling effort against Luca Rigoldi in Italy in December. He goes up against Jason Cunningham, a familiar face who fought Gamal’s older brother Kal in 2015 and went 10 rounds with Irish star Michael Conlan in 2018.

As a southpaw and a seasoned campaigner Cunningham won’t be easy for Yafai to break down. But Gamal has rebuilt well since a heavy loss to Gavin McDonnell three years ago. He’s shown he has heart and the stamina to fight through 12 rounds.

“The Beast’s” explosive power should tell at times but he might have to go the distance to claim a points win.

McCarthy vs Jur
Another of three European championship fights on this bill. Belfast’s Tommy McCarthy has moved on from his 2019 stoppage loss to Richard Riakporhe. Racking up three wins after that, including two in Italy, he then beat Bilal Laggoune to win the vacant European cruiserweight crown in his only fight of last year. Now he defends against Alexandru Jur.

The Romanian is 19-4 (7). In 2019 he did manage to go 10 rounds with Krzysztof Wlodarczyk, a former WBC titlist, though one who is now 39 years old. Jur though is not the most resilient. Dmitry Kudryashov knocked him out in their first round. McCarthy might not do it that quickly, but if he injects spite into his work he should be able to finish this one inside the distance.

Richards vs De Carolis
Lerrone Richards had a low-key outing last year, in subdued form as he outpointed an unambitious Timo Laine over eight rounds.

But Richards is a talented, dangerous southpaw. In 2019 he outscored Tommy Langford and Lennox Clarke to win the Commonwealth then British super-middleweight titles. His win over the latter looks even better after Clarke’s stunning stoppage of Willy Hutchinson in March.
Now New Malden’s Richards is going for the vacant European 168lb title against Giovanni De Carolis.

The Italian’s 38-bout professional career is dotted with nine defeats but he has mixed in good company. He went the full 12 rounds with Arthur Abraham in 2013 and managed to hand Vincent Feigenbutz a defeat, as well as drawing with and losing to Tyron Zeuge in a busy 2016.
Richards should show the range of his ability and outclass De Carolis but may well be taken the distance again.

Smith vs Appleyard
Dalton Smith is one of Britain’s best prospects. The 7-0 Sheffield man gets his first title fight when he boxes Lee Appleyard for the vacant English super-lightweight belt.

Atif Shafiq dropped Appleyard three times when he halted him in 2018. Smith is a harder puncher and puts his combinations together well. He could impress and bag another stoppage win here.

Debut duo
Further down the card, two fighters are set to make their professional debuts in separate bouts. Six-foot five-inch heavyweight Solomon Dacres, of Warley, will be looking to make his mark, as will Coalville super-welterweight Ellis Hopkins.

Sky Sports and DAZN televise.

The Verdict The loss of Harper-Choi hurts the show but there’s still a treble bill of European title fights.

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