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JEFF POWELL: An unblemished professional record should give Joshua Buatsi edge over Craig Richards

JEFF POWELL: Olympic bronze medalist Joshua Buatsi’s unblemished professional record should give him an edge over his less celebrated south London neighbor Craig Richards … and set up a shot at the light heavyweight world title.

  • Joshua Buatsi takes on fellow South Londoner Craig Richards at The O2 on Saturday
  • The 29-year-old, winner of an Olympic medal in Rio, is undefeated in his professional career.
  • He hopes the victory sets up a light heavyweight title fight with Dmitry Bivol.
  • But Richards, 32, believes Buatsi’s ego will be his undoing in the ring.

Joshua Buatsi, who harbored ambitions of becoming a world champion within four years of winning a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, is forced to unlock a shot at that dream by lifting the unofficial crown of light heavyweight from South London.

Buatsi puts his undefeated record on the line this spring Saturday night in 2022 against his less celebrated neighbor Craig Richards.

Local interest should ensure a sizable turnout at The O2, but both men are looking beyond this domestic feud. Everyone has their sights set on Dmitry Bivol, who inflicted a stunning defeat on boxing superstar Canelo Alvarez a fortnight ago.

Joshua Buatsi (above) takes on fellow South Londoner Craig Richards at The O2 on Saturday night.

Joshua Buatsi (above) takes on fellow South Londoner Craig Richards at The O2 on Saturday night.

Both men hope the win will set up a fight with Dmitry Bivol (left) who beat Canelo Alvarez

Both men hope the win will set up a fight with Dmitry Bivol (left) who beat Canelo Alvarez

Bivol’s immediate future is entangled in a rematch clause that Álvarez is expected to trigger next week and there is also clamor for the Mexican to wrap up a contentious trilogy with Gennady Golvokin before the year is out.

If Alvarez decides to take Golovkin first, in September, then Buatsi hopes the victory over Richards will help to impose a mandatory challenge for Bivol’s light heavyweight titles.

Richards, however, hopes the Buatsi loss will encourage Bivol into a rematch of their Manchester fight a year ago in which he took the now-lauded Russian the full distance of 12 rounds.

Buatsi is the big favorite in the bets on Saturday, so most of the speculation revolves around his future. His alternatives to Bivol include Alvarez and fellow Londoner Anthony Yards, who came close to defeating former world champion Sergey Kovalev.

Buatsi believes his Olympic medal and perfect professional record will give him the edge.

Buatsi believes his Olympic medal and perfect professional record will give him the edge.

But Richards (right) feels that Buatsi's ego and sense of superiority will prove to be his undoing.

But Richards (right) feels that Buatsi’s ego and sense of superiority will prove to be his undoing.

Charming and polite in his daily life, this sports science and management college graduate is relentless in the ring, saying, ‘Come fight, hit the switch, get nasty and go for the knockout I’m waiting for now.’

Richards believes that Buatsi’s sense of superiority will be “the ego that brings about his downfall against me.” He is also convinced that his experience in the loss to Bivol, the second loss of his career, strengthens his arsenal.

Buatsi refers this opponent to his Olympic bronze medal and unblemished record as a professional. And that likely gives him the upper hand in a battle between two men who have grown up in each other’s company as amateurs and in the gym.

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