By Craig Daly: Joshua Buatsi (16-0, 13 KOs) outworked Craig Richards (17-3-1, 10 KOs) in winning a 12-round unanimous decision in a WBA light heavyweight title eliminator at the O2 Arena in London, England. The scores were 116-112, 115-113, and 115-113.
Buatsi was hurt in the eighth round after getting nailed by a big right uppercut. However, he recovered well and came back to dominate rounds nine through twelve.
In the tenth round, the 2016 Olympian Buatsi unloaded with a flurry of headshots after getting his gumshield knocked out by a heavy shot from Richards.
With the with, Buatsi is now the mandatory challenger for WBA 175-lb champion Dmitry Bivol. Promoter Eddie Hearn is hoping it’ll happen next.
Buatsi will need to raise his punch output for him to have a chance of beating Bivol because his single punch style is similar to Canelo Alvarez.
Alen ‘The Savage’ Babic (11-0, 10 KOs) overcame an early knockdown to come back to defeat Adam Balski (16-1, 9 KOs) by a 10 round unanimous decision to win the vacant WBC bridgerweight silver title. The scores were 97-91, 97-91, and 95-93. Boxing News 24 had it 95-93 for Babic. Balski was penalized one point for hitting after the bell in the ninth round. The shot had Babic out on his feet. However, Balski failed to take advantage of the situation by not jumping on Babic early in the tenth. Instead of going after him, Balski got on his bike and wasted valuable time. Babic had Balski hurt in rounds seven and eight with his nonstop punching.
WBA Continental light welterweight Robbie Davies Jr. (23-3, 15 KOs) labored to a narrow 10-round split decision over the game veteran Javier Molina (22-5, 9 KO). The judges scored it 96-94, 96-94 for Davies Jr, and 97-94 for Molina. It was an entertaining fight with a lot of back & fourth action.
“I think he should have been a bit more active. Earlier in his career, the thing with Joshua is he’s a bit of a perfectionist,” said Eddie Hearn to Boxing Social about Joshua Buatsi’s career not professing as rapidly as many had hoped since he turned professional in 2016.
“After a fight, he would want to go on holiday, and then he would want to do his eight-week camp,” Hearn continued.
“I’m talking about when he began to get up to 10-rounders, and there were a couple of times where I would say to him, ‘There’s a fight in four or five weeks. You should jump on that.’ ‘No, I want to get my holiday and rest.’
“Obviously, from the Vlasov fight in December that he had to pull out with injury. So he’s lost a little bit of momentum, but I think he’s been guided the right way. The match-making has pretty much has been spot on, particularly when you talk about Bolotniks and now Richards.
“Now it’s down to where he has the ability to go and win a world title. If he doesn’t beat Craig Richards, then he’s not going to go and beat Beterbiev, Bivol, and those kinds of people as well. So this is a good market to see where Buatsi is at.
“I think Craig Richards has evolved as a fighter and has grown in confidence. He’ll come in and give him a great challenge. People talk about it being a chess match early. I disagree.
“I think Craig Richards will be sharp with a jab and be a little bit tentative early on. I think Buatsi will be aggressive.
“I don’t believe Buatsi’s statements that he’s not affected by Craig Richards’ comments during their face to face. I think Joshua Buatsi wants to do a job on him in all honesty.
“I think he’ll start fast and will look to cut down the distance, get inside, work the body, and trade up with Craig Richards. Craig Richards looks like he can really punch.
“In watching him at the workout the other day, I don’t think you want to be trading up. I don’t think either guy wants to trade up in this fight because it’ll be very explosive.
“I don’t think the fight will go the distance,” said Hearn.
“In boxing, a lot of people see this fight as a 50-50 fight, but outside of boxing, because of the hype machine because of the job we do for blue-chip prospects, people feel that Joshua Buatsi is a big favorite in the fight,” said Hearn to iFL TV.
“There are unanswered questions about Joshua Buatsi. There are questions that Craig Richards has had to answer. I feel that coming off the back of a Dmitry Bivol performance; more people are championing Craig Richards after that performance.
“I feel like it is a 50-50 fight, I do, and I can’t wait. If you’ve seen the head-to-head, it got a little bit spicy, and we want it to. These two don’t dislike each other, but their credentials have been brought into question.
“I think it’s given Craig Richards’ performance against Bivol a lot more credibility,” said Hearn about Dmitry Bivol having soundly beaten Canelo Alvarez recently on May 7th.
“You have to understand, these two people have had very different paths in the pro game, and the reason for that path is because of their amateur credentials. Joshua Buatsi was a brilliant amateur. I remember watching him in Rio and saying, ‘Jesus, this kid can really fight.’
“We signed him; he got a great deal and got to box on all the shows. Craig Richards, on the other hand, had to box on smaller hall shows. He had to box Frank Buglioni for the British title on one week’s notice.
“He had to jump in with Dmitry Bivol probably when he wasn’t ready for Dmitry Bivol and had to do it a different way. Joshua earned that right to get that contract because of his performances in the amateurs.
“Craig is questioning that about Joshua Buatsi. You’ve seen that in the head-to-head. ‘Have you been fed your opponents? Have you had to show any steel in those fights?’ That’s what I think Buatsi didn’t like in those head-to-heads.
“There are two sides to Joshua Buatsi. There’s a very nice, respectful, humble man, and there’s a horrible piece of work that comes out just before the ring walk. He also came out at the head-to-head.
“In Craig Richards’ performance against Bivol, he lost the fight by two rounds, three rounds max, and could have done more. Sometimes, you never know the level a fighter has inside him.
“Again, that goes for Dmitry Bivol two weeks ago. Who knew he could put in a performance like that? Some people.
Maybe his past performances, maybe against Craig, and certainly before that in his defense before that, showed that maybe people underestimated him? I think people are underestimating Craig Richards in this fight as well.
“It’s a very good fight. [Adam] Balski is very well respected,” Hearn said of Alen Babic’s opponent Adam Balski.
“I guess the jury is a little bit out on Alen Babic off the back of his last performance, and he has been fighting huge heavyweights, so he’s had a massive disadvantage.
“Now, he’s fighting a guy his same size. Balski looks big as well. So this is going to be really interesting to see what Alen Babic has at bridgerweight.
“In my opinion, I don’t think Alen Babic is going to win world titles at heavyweight. He can win a world title at bridgerweight, but he’s got to beat Oscar Rivas.
“That’s a really dangerous fight, and he’s really a heavyweight anyway. So we’ll see. It’s a really, really tough fight,” said Hearn.
Joshua Buatsi (15-0, 13 KOs) and Craig Richards (17-2-1, 10 KOs) meet tonight in a 12-round bout in a WBA light heavyweight title eliminator to determine the mandatory for champion Dmitry Bivol at the O2 Arena in London, England.
DAZN will be showing the Buatsi vs. Richards fight live starting at 2:00 p.m. ET.