Joshua Buatsi edged Craig Richards thriller but still has work to do if Dmitry Bivol is next
Joshua Buatsi showed enough class and resolve to get through a thrilling south London fight with Craig Richards, but if it’s Dmitry Bivol next, he still has work to do… the 175-pound behemoth would have punished similar lapses in concentration.
- Joshua Buatsi earned a unanimous decision victory against Craig Richards on Saturday
- The 29-year-old overcame a gripping fight with his rival from South London.
- Promoter Eddie Hearn insists a world title showdown could be next for him
- However, Buatsi still has some work to do if he is to topple WBA champion Dmitry Bivol.
- Richards stiffened his legs several times and gave him a lot of trouble.
- Bivol would have taken advantage of similar deficiencies and would have made him pay
It was Joshua Buatsi, whose hand went up as expected, but only at the end of an enthralling and rambunctious fight-fest with Craig Richards inside a bustling O2 Arena.
Buatsi, who has ambitions to move on and conquer the light heavyweight division, looked too quick and cunning for Richards early in this South London derby. His speed and timing were causing these latest problems and a possible exclusion was not beyond the realm of possibility.
That was before Richards turned the tables in the middle of the contest, derailing Buatsi’s momentum and at one point even knocking him to his feet after stiffening his legs with a series of accurate strikes. He served as a timely reminder to the pre-fight favorite that he still has a lot of work to do if he wants to mix it up with Dmitry Bivol and Artur Beterbiev, the top dogs in the division.
Joshua Buatsi earned a unanimous decision win against Craig Richards on Saturday night
Virgil Hunter, Buatsi’s esteemed American trainer, has plenty of positives to take away from the exhibition in what was arguably the toughest test of his career to date. Richards is as good as he comes, with a chin seemingly made of steel, and his points loss against Bivol last year is considerably more impressive now that the Russian has outclassed Canelo Alvarez.
Buatsi showed his quality on regular occasions, with a stick jab and some dizzying combinations that overwhelmed Richards at times. There is no doubt of the talent that he possesses.
However, for a fighter who has genuine goals of beating a Bivol or a Beterbiev in the not-too-distant future, he took too much punishment to go into one of those blockbuster bouts with realistic confidence of prevailing.
That’s not to say that he didn’t test his own heart and determination here. In the eighth round, Richards made his biggest breakthrough of the fight with a flurry of thuds, sending his destabilized and dazed opponent stumbling toward the ropes. Although Buatsi, unfazed by the onslaught of blows he took, kept coming closer, kept punching and kept believing he could turn the momentum in his favor. Finally, he did exactly that.
But Richards overworked him in a brilliant fight that lived up to the billing.
Buatsi was superb but also suffered from concentration failures that could cost him worldwide
He still has work to do if he wants to continue and topple Dmitry Bivol or Artur Beterbiev in the future.
Promoter Eddie Hearn says Bivol, who beat Canelo Alvarez this month, could be next
There is no doubt about his own offensive ability. Richards was often forced to bite into his mouthguard to survive attacks from his city nemesis. And it turned into a magnificent, relentless dogfight that was rightly heralded by many as a 50-50.
In the end, Buatsi made the decision to get through this WBA world title eliminator, and when all was said and done, he deserved it. But both he and Hunter would have hoped for an easier, risk-free night to match the ease with which Bivol cruised to victory against the same opposition.
The handful of lapses in concentration will serve as little concern if, as promoter Eddie Hearn has hinted, a showdown with WBA champion Bivol is on the cards next.
But after such a grueling fight with Richards, Buatsi will be a huge underdog in that fight.
The latter may lack one-punch knockout power, but he’s naturally robust and every bit as skilled as he looks. No doubt he would have made him pay for similar shortcomings.
A meeting with the aforementioned giant would be an important step for Buatsi, who it should be noted is still improving his skill set after just 16 career outings. However, to dethrone him, he must produce a perfect performance when that time comes.
Certain fighters are able to up their game and rise to the occasion when they dare to be great. Buatsi must do just that when his destination date finally arrives.