Boxing Social writers Craig Scott and John Angus MacDonald go head to head to debate tonight’s light-heavyweight showdown between Joshua Buatsi and Craig Richards.
Although Buatsi is a hot favourite in this battle of south London, many believe that Richards may have the skillset and desire to pull off the upset. Boxing Social pitted two of our top writers in a head to head to argue about the outcome.
Who will be proved correct? Only time will tell!
Craig Scott: Who’d be a bookmaker, eh? This weekend’s bout between Joshua Buatsi and Craig Richards seems a bit wider than general consensus. It could be argued the fight is a battle of the overrated (Buatsi, Olympic bronze medalist not yet reaching the heights perhaps expected of him), versus the underrated (Richards, a guy picked up and dropped, performing well when given hardly a hope, and looking to rise again).
While Buatsi has looked solid enough in recent outings, especially when dismantling Ricards Bolotniks in Eddie Hearn’s garden, there does seem to be an air of doubt hanging over his hopes as an elite, world title-winning fighter. When will it all click into place?
Richards, however, has been used to being the underdog. He’s been written off massively, especially when fighting recent Canelo-conqueror, Dmitry Bivol in a fight in which Richards ran him close. Far closer than anybody anticipated. Richards stood opposite Buatsi at Friday’s weigh-in and looked calm and composed. He also looked long, tall, lean, prepared.
There could be an argument that Richards has improved more than most of the active British fighters currently battling on larger scale promotions.
His run at super-middleweight was decent enough, but it’s been at 175lbs that he’s come into his own – despite initially suffering a defeat to former British champion Frank Buglioni when stepping up at short notice. Spider is accurate, punishing when establishing his range, and will look to beat Buatsi to the punch early on.
You wonder whether Buatsi working with Virgil Hunter will have added much to his arsenal. Hunter, a renowned defensive mind, is obviously proven, but Buatsi hasn’t ever suffered seriously due to defensive lapses, has he? He’s moved his camp thousands of miles from home, and while Hunter may have worked for Andre Ward, he also hasn’t been the catalyst for major change when linking up with other fighters, Amir Khan, for example.
Backing Richards this weekend comes more as an attack on the odds laid forth by the bookies. You can find him as wide as 6/1 to win on points, and I’ve odds as generous as 33/1 for Richards to prevail via split decision. I think he’s been waiting for this one. Nobody fancied him to beat Bivol, but even in losing, he beat many people’s expectations.
This is his night to prove that he should be the last man to make the walk, the biggest picture on the poster – and I just feel like with solid fundamentals and a few more “real” fights under his belt, it could be time for him to catch something tasty in his web this weekend.
John Angus MacDonald: Had this fight been made at the start of 2020, Buatsi would have been a heavier favourite than the 1/6 price he currently is.
The previous year, the 2016 Olympian halted Liam Conroy, Marco Antonio Periban and Ryan Ford. At that stage, Buatsi was widely regarded as one of, if not the best prospects in Britain.
During 2019, Richards stopped Jake Ball, a boxer whose ticket-selling prowess far surpassed his fighting ability, beat Andre Sterling in a fairly competitive bout and then had to settle for a draw against the unheralded Chad Sugden. Whereas Buatsi was seen as a world champion in waiting, the ‘Spider’ was believed to be a solid pro, who may go on to win a British title.
To give an indication of how low Richards’ stock was at the time, he was a 9/4 underdog against Shakan Pitters when he challenged for the British title. Of course, Richards went on to make a mockery of those odds, halting his rival in the ninth round.
What would once have been seen as a routine win for Buatsi is now believed to be a genuine test. So, what has changed the perception?
The answer is Dmitry Bivol and Marko Calic.
Richards put up a spirited display against the WBA light-heavyweight champion and his stock rose, even in defeat. Given what the Russian/ Moldovan/ Korean/ Kyrgyzstani (delete as applicable) went on to do against Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, Richards’ performance has become even more impressive with the passing of time.
Buatsi, on the other hand, endured the first mini-crisis of his career against the 6’3”, well-schooled Croatian. Calic was unbeaten, but hadn’t beaten anyone of note.
He had been a good, but not great, amateur and someone Buatsi was expected to handle with comparative ease. Instead, it became a much harder fight than anticipated and Buatsi looked in trouble in the early stages, before making the adjustments required to halt his opponent in the seventh round.
So Buatsi won, his stock fell. Richards lost, but was held in higher regard as a result. That’s boxing.
Was Buatsi overrated? Was Richards underrated? Is too much being read into two results?
Form is temporary, class is permanent. Richards is a better fighter than many believed, but is he as good as Buatsi? I don’t think so. It is likely Bivol underestimated Richards, so perhaps the the challenger’s showing flatters to deceive, somewhat.
I think Buatsi will win this fight far more comfortably than expected. After a cagey start, the Olympic bronze medalist will take over before stopping Richards in the mid-to-late rounds.
Then, Buatsi will go to back to being the next big thing and certain fans will claim that Richards was overrated. Don’t you just love boxing?