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Buatsi Vs Richards Big Fight Preview

BUATSI RICHARDS

Will Saturday night’s light-heavyweight showdown at the O2 between Joshua Buatsi and Craig Richards ignite the 2016 Olympian’s pro career, or can ‘Spider’ pull off the upset? Luke G. Williams previews the action…

Bursting with talent and potentially compelling rivalries, the British light-heavyweight scene has the potential to entertain and enthral like almost no other domestic weight class.

One would like to think that both the victor and the vanquished from Saturday night’s tantalising showdown between Joshua Buatsi (15-0, 13 KOs) and Craig Richards (17-2-1, 10 KOs) might be persuaded to engage in further domestic engagements and dust-ups against fellow top ten British light heavies.

The possibilities are almost endless. Buatsi vs Callum Smith? Richards vs Anthony Yarde? Buatsi vs Yarde? Richards vs Smith? Any of the above vs Callum Johnson, Lyndon Arthur or Dan Azeez?

Of course, boxing being boxing, we will be lucky to see many – if any – combinations of the above fighters facing each other. Cast your eyes down Boxing Social’s top six light heavies (Buatsi, Smith, Yarde, Johnson, Arthur and Richards) and the only two to have met thus far are Yarde and Arthur – with one win apiece from their two fights – although Buatsi and Richards are now also clashing in what represents a truly intriguing prize fight.

Both men are fairly quiet characters, understated even, which may account for why the fight does not seem to have ignited at the box office and in promotional terms, despite its well-matched nature.

“The switch hasn’t flicked yet,” Buatsi said at the pre-fight press conference this week. “We are two or three days away and the switch will definitely flick.”

Such a comment might raise eyebrows among those who contend that Buatsi is too reserved a character to ascend to the higher echelons of professional boxing, although the Croydon boxer has also insisted that his preparation for the fight has been on-point.

“I know how I want to perform on Saturday,” he said. “And it’s time to show it because camp was very hard. And I’ve paid the price but someone else has got to pay it now. I’m going to bring it and I’m in it to win it. There’s no other way.”

Buatsi enters Saturday’s showdown at the O2 Arena as a clear favourite (around 2/9 with most bookies), although he owes this position more to his stellar amateur career than anything he has achieved thus far in a frustratingly stop-start spell in the paid ranks.

A bronze medallist at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Buatsi is yet to be really tested as a pro, although – concerningly – the limited Croatian Marko Calic did cause the Ghana-born pugilist problems in their October 2020 showdown, before Buatsi secured a seventh-round stoppage.

The 29-year-old Buatsi’s best win since turning over in 2017 was probably his August 2021 eleventh-round TKO of tough gatekeeper Ricards Bolotniks, although let’s not forget that the Latvian had also been stopped in three of the five defeats he had suffered prior to meeting Buatsi.

As a professional, Richards has undeniably mixed in higher company than Buatsi, principally in May last year when he extended the technically gifted Dmitry Bivol the full distance, winning some rounds but not the fight. Given Bivol’s victory against Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez earlier this month, Richards’ performance is one that looks even better in retrospect, but mixing in high class is one thing, winning in such company is something else altogether.

Richards seems to recognise this, and has insisted that this Saturday he will put all the pieces together and produce a winning performance, rather than just a competitive one.

“I believe all the fights that I’ve taken have put me in good stead,” he said this week. “It’s not personal to Josh, I just believe that I’m the best in the division. I’m very good at adapting to fighters. I’ve got a very good IQ and it just depends on what I want to bring and what I’ve got in the toolbox that night. And I believe I’ve got the tools to get the job done on Saturday night.”

Richards has a good jab and when on form controls the distance well and has a decent dig, however, the suspicion remains that Buatsi possesses levels and skills that exceed those of his south London rival.

If Buatsi is focused and starts fast and aggressively, then he is likely to outland and outpunch the ‘Spider’ en route to a clear points victory or late stoppage.

However, if Buatsi has underestimated Richards then he could be in for a surprise. Richards often starts slow, but if he does find his rhythm early on and can discomfort his more heralded opponent then he could well spring an upset, most likely via a close points decision.

Of the two scenarios, a Buatsi victory on points is my tentative pick, most likely in a cagey and cautious affair that only ignites late on, this being a fight that both men can ill afford to lose.