Joshua Buatsi (16-0, 13 KOs) dug down to stamp his light heavyweight passport with a decision win over his British domestic rival Craig Richards (17-3-1, 10 KOs). Scorecards read 116-112 ad 115-113 X 2.
Buatsi, a native of Ghana and the British Olympic bronze medalist in 2016, put a beat down on a brave but ultimately outgunned Richards. Fan anticipate grew as the matchup appeared more competitive given Richards’ strong performance against WBA champion Dmitry Bivol. Bivol’s win over Canelo Alvarez two weeks ago put a different spin on Richards’ performance.
Buatsi said before the fight, it made no impact on him, but he needed extra determination to fend off Richards, making for a terrifically entertaining fight.
Buatsi had the upper hand in the first four rounds, landing hard shots which rocked his previous opponents. But not Richards, who showed his toughness while working to find his range against the busier Buatsi.
In the fifth round, Buatsi pressed the action, landing multiple shots early in the round. Richards stayed on his feet, drew a breath, and fired back. On the scorecards, he’d dug himself a reasonably big hole.
Slowly and steadily, Richards started digging out. Richards hit pay dirt by the eighth round and hurt Buatsi with right hooks to the head. Richards poured on the offense, but Buatsi survived the round. Moving to the ninth round, Richards exuded more confidence, looking for a finishing shot behind a busy jab. Richards continued to land his right hand over the top successfully. He knew the only sure path to a win was a stoppage.
Buatsi dug down with Richards mustering his energy to survive the championship rounds, thrilling the crowd at the O2 Arena. Richards had left his exceptional effort too late in the fight to turn it his way on the scorecards by the final bell.
“I thought I’d done enough. It was a big disappointment,” said Richards. “Josh got the nod today. I can only congratulate him. It was a hell of a fight; I think today the fans are the winners.”
“Spider, I didn’t expect competition like that. He gave me 12 hard rounds,” admitted Buatsi. “Maximum respect to him.”
With promoter Eddie Hearn joining him in the ring, Buatsi made his intentions to seek a world title in the light heavyweight division clear. “Everyone knows what it is. We’re ready, man.”
After praising the effort by Richards, Hearn said there’s not much left for Buatsi except opponents at the top of a highly competitive division. But he’ll need to get in line. Hearn said Buatsi’s options wouldn’t become apparent until Canelo Alvarez decides whether he wants to exercise a rematch clause with Dmitry Bivol or face Gennadiy Golovkin at super middleweight in a third bout.
“I’d love to bring Bivol vs. Buatsi to the O2,” said Hearn. “I don’t think there’s any more steps.”
The question remains unanswered whether Bivol had a lackluster day against Richards or continues to conserve his effort against opponents who don’t challenge him. Facing Buatsi will take a back seat for Bivol. He’d rather take the risk against an opponent with a title to unify the division – the winner of the upcoming bout between Artur Beterbiev and Joe Smith Jr. scheduled on June 18. Bivol would be the favorite should Smith Jr. win since Bivol has already defeated him once, and we’d make him the favorite against Beterbiev based on the strength of his win against Alvarez. Buatsi will need to be patient.
Bonkers Bridgerweight Battle Goes to Babic
Bonkers, wild, brutal: all fitting descriptions for the ring insanity known as Alen “Savage” Babic of Croatia, who found himself in a serious battle against Adam Balski of Warsaw (16-2, 9 KOs). Babic survived a first-round knockdown and got buzzed by multiple hard shots while dishing out the punishment himself to survive and score a decision win. Scores were 97-91 X 2 and 95-93. Babic went the 10-round distance with Balski for the first time. He wins the WBC Silver Bridgerweight title, which means he’s likely to score a title fight against current champion Oscar Rivas.
Babic fights like a predator being tossed raw meat. He’s got power but very little craft behind it. Babic’s stamina and tough chin allow him to survive his mistakes, and he made plenty against an equally durable Balski. His shortcomings mean nothing to the fans who love Babic’s go for broke personality. He’ll continue to fight in front of big crowds as a people’s champion for as long as he keeps up the show.
Cameron Cruises to Win Over Bustos
The co-main was a showcase bout for WBC/IBF Super Lightweight champion Chantelle Cameron of Northampton, England (16-0, 8 KOs). Cameron put in ten solid rounds of rock against former champion Victoria Bustos of Argentina (23-7). Scores were all 100-90 for the unanimous decision. “She was tough in the ring. She wasn’t going anywhere,” said Cameron of her opponent, calling her “frustrating” but also a learning experience.
Cameron has a solid foundation with excellent footwork and movement in the ring. She has enough power to be dangerous to any opponent. Cameron hopes to unify titles, and she will have to face American Kali Reis to do it. Promoter Eddie Hearn said he hopes the Reis fight will be next.
Scotney and Davies Jr. Score Decision Wins
Ellie Scotney of London (5-0) defended her minor WBA super bantamweight belt over Maria Cecelia Roman of Argentina (16-7-1). The scorecards reflected the strong performance from Scotney: 100-90 and 99-91 X 2.
Super lightweight Robertson Davies Jr. of Merseyside (23-3, 15 KOs) got a questionable split decision win over Javier Molina of Norwalk, Califonia (22-5, 9 KOs). Molina hurt Davies Jr. several times but failed to close the deal, and it left Molina high and dry with the judges. Scores were 96-94 X 2 for Davies and 97-94 for Molina. Molina’s trainer Joseph Diaz yelled, “C’mon, man!” when the results were read. It seemed a poor decision, but if Molina could have stayed busier, he might have flown back to California with a win.