News Premium

When Buatsi met Yarde

Joshua Buatsi
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Joshua Buatsi on sitting down with his London rival and his own return to action. He speaks to John Dennen

JOSHUA BUATSI’S life over the last 12 months has been a constant, rolling training camp. He was due to box in November but illness forced him out of that bout. The show he would have appeared on in March was cancelled due to the coronavirus lockdown. He’s had a couple of potential dates in September pushed back as well but on Sunday (October 4) he’ll headline on a behind closed doors show in Milton Keynes, taking on unbeaten Croatian Marko Calic.

“It’s happened to a lot of fighters so it’s nothing unusual, it’s just it’s the first time it’s happening to me,” Buatsi tells Boxing News. “Which is good and bad. Good because then you’re in shape, bad because you have to work out when you peak and when you don’t peak.

“I think all the foundation has been done now in terms of being fit and that so it’s just staying sharp and just making sure again you peak at the right time. Regardless of it I’ll be good to go.

“My aim is to not come out and for it to look like this is someone who hasn’t boxed for a year. That’s not my aim at all. So hopefully I can come out there and box and look good.”

But the Olympic bronze medallist hasn’t lost any of his motivation. “I don’t think my situation is bad at all,” he said. “That’s what I always think about things, I’m not in a bad situation at all no matter what the circumstances.”

“I’m still motivated, still want to fight, still want to box. There’s nothing for me to be discouraged about. Age is on my side. I’m very positive. The negatives are there [but] training during quarantine was really good for me,” he continued. “If you make the mistakes, it meant you could take your time to better it.

“Mistakes are mistakes, we all make them. We just hope that on fight night, you don’t make them as much.”

So far in his professional career Buatsi has made few of them. He conducts himself well outside of the ropes too. “I do feel like there’s an expectation,” he says. “I’m from London, in South London you do what you have to do to get by. It just is what it is, I’m not saying you should do bad things but we’ve all grown up in an environment and in a situation where we’re all trying to do better. Everyone’s always trying to do better and that’s just how life is. So we’re always trying to do better. I wouldn’t say a pressure. I think there’s an expectation. I do want to do things, where you can [say], ‘He was as normal as you are and he was able to make something out of his life, out of the sport that he was in. So he done it, so you can do it too.’ You want people to think, ‘Oh this guy is a normal geezer, he was able to do it. He’s done it so I can do it too.’

“All that expectation is there. I wouldn’t call it pressure, it just is what it is. If I mess up, I mess up. If I don’t, I don’t.”

He has a ready-made rival east London’s Anthony Yarde, who challenged Sergey Kovalev for the WBO light-heavyweight world title last year. The two, who do have different promoters, are often linked but neither has indulged themselves particularly in lobbing barbs or trading trashtalk with the other. The two in fact met recently. “We literally spoke about the current issues that’s been going on, that are still going on, about the Black Lives Matter situations, that have happened and are still happening to this day. Mainly it came up because a lot of people kept asking to do an interview with myself and him about it. So I hit him up, I said we don’t need to have a middleman. I know you anyway, you know me, so why do we need a mediator? We kind of met up, discussed it. It was quite straightforward, there was no mediator. It was a good meeting actually. Inevitably we did speak about fighting. If I haven’t been told I’m boxing you within two months, I can meet you, we can go eat if you want, I don’t really care. If I know that I’m definitely boxing you in two months then that’s cool, I’m not going to invite you to KFC,” Buatsi said. “I think I can be normal with anyone on this planet. It’s only going to change when we have a date that we’re going to fight. Until then I don’t care. I will talk to you. I will help you. If I know I’m boxing you in two months’ time, then it may be a bit different but until then, and I’m not even boxing him next, so why should I have something against him? That’s how I see it.”

Both are aware of the social issues beyond their sport. “Just like the instances that happened, our experiences with racism, how we think it can be dealt with. We then spoke about the coronavirus, how it’s affected us as individuals and our families. As we know on his side it was quite heavy, he lost a grandparent and his dad in the space of two weeks. So I messaged him and a few days later I had to message him again,” Joshua said. “That was one thing we spoke about as well. Just our views about this whole virus, the incidents that’s happening in America but also to say that these things happen in England, maybe not in that same format but they do happen in this country and what we think about it. Could it be solved? Could it be solved in this generation, in this life time of ours?

“The assumption’s that those things are happening in America and it doesn’t happen here. But it happens here, like I said, just not in the same format.”

“It was good and positive to see people peacefully protesting. Going about things peacefully,” he continued. “Peacefully saying this is the issue, we’re making noise about it and we want to be heard.

“I’ve experienced racism, I’ve experienced it before… For me I treat everyone the same, whatever colour you are, it doesn’t matter to me. I don’t think anyone is superior to anyone.”

Joshua Buatsi

Of course the prospect of boxing came up. “We said the fight’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of when,” Buatsi explained. “People want to see it, which is good, but there’s so much talk about it, you’d think we’d signed to fight each other in 2022 already but we haven’t. No one’s put pen to paper, nothing’s been said about it. So it’s good that there’s interest and if it does happen, it’s a win-win. But I’m not too caught up in this thing. If it happens great, good news, if it doesn’t happen, my career carries on, so does his.”

Yarde looks to be on course to fight Lyndon Arthur next. The Mancunian is an opponent Buatsi knows well; they fought one other as amateurs in the final of the ABA championships. “It was a good fight, exciting, high pace, back and forth, a good competitive fight,” the Londoner recalled. “It was back and forth. It wasn’t like a one sided thing, it was a back and forth fight. I guess that night, that time I came out on top.

“I noticed with Lyndon and that style the odd punch wasn’t going to work, because he’s clever. He’s tricky. I was like no, doing this one punch thing won’t work. It was exciting, a good fight.”

“Lyndon’s a very good boxer. He’s someone that I felt had a pro style already in the amateurs so it’ll be interesting. He had that low guard and that pace where he would slow it down,” he added. “I’ve always said he’s got a good pro style already. Them two fighters stylistically will be a good fight because I feel Lyndon will try to keep it long and Yarde again will try to close him down and work at closer range so that will be interesting. It will be very interesting.”

Buatsi wants to move up the world rankings, though in Britain his targets would be Anthony Yarde and Callum Johnson. He had intended to box Johnson this year. Even that could be difficult to make. “That was the plan but as we know, 2020’s taken everybody by surprise,” Buatsi said. “Everyone’s taking different paths. I won’t sit here and say I’m getting to world level because I don’t think I’ve boxed anyone that is world level. So I can’t say anything. I’ve boxed people that have boxed world level opponents, I don’t think that would give me the token to say I’m world level. That’s not to say I don’t think I’m good enough for world level but I’m just being very honest about it. Ryan Ford has boxed some good guys, he’s boxed some good people and a few other names, [Marco Antonio] Periban was inactive for two years and bit old but he fought for a world title before. It depends how you look at it but I wouldn’t sit here and be like, yeah I’m world level based on who I’ve boxed. In terms of ability – that’s a different question.”

We’ll see the beginnings of an answer to that question on Sunday against Marko Calic.

Boxing news – Newsletter

Current Issue