Joshua Buatsi would relish fights with British rivals Anthony Yarde and Dan Azeez
30-year-old Joshua Buatsi says he can’t finish his career without fighting leading British light-heavyweights Anthony Yarde and Dan Azeez; but the Croydon boxer must get past the “dangerous, hungry” Pawel Stepien on Saturday in Birmingham to keep on course for a world title shot.Joshua Buatsi would relish fights with British rivals Anthony Yarde and Dan Azeez, but he is determined to force his way to a world title shot on his own terms.
He must get through dangerous Pole Pawel Stepien at the Resorts World Arena in Birmingham on Saturday, live on Sky Sports, to retain his No.1 ranking with the WBA and keep himself in the frame to challenge for major championships.
"I know he hasn't lost before, 18-0-1 with a good knockout percentage so a Polish fighter that's going to be hungry, that's going to fight, that's going to have the mentality of if I beat this guy who's highly ranked it puts him up there," Buatsi told Sky Sports. "That makes him a dangerous fighter."
Ghana-born Buatsi has been out of action for almost a year. In that time other London light-heavyweights have also risen to prominence. Anthony Yarde fought unified IBF, WBO and WBC 175lb champion Artur Beterbiev, while Dan Azeez won the European title in Paris.
They are opponents who would make exciting fights for Buatsi.
"These are fights that are available and possible," Buatsi said. "It would be good to really mix it with these other light-heavies from England.
"Of course, we're concentrating on world title honours but fortunately there's good fighters in England in my division and it would be nice for us to fight each other."
Azeez is someone Buatsi knows well. Both from south east London, they've been sparring partners for years. In sparring they don't hesitate to unleash their full arsenal on one another.
It would be, Buatsi said: "A very good fight. Sometimes [when sparring] I'm thinking, is this what we're doing for free? Why don't we do it and get paid for it? So people will be entertained. They will be.
"For free. And we're going all out in sparring – well I am, I don't know if Dan is – I'm going all out and doing that for free to being paid for it with an audience, why wouldn't we?
"The move coming to Sky wasn't to fight Dan Azeez. It's a fight that's available because yes, he is promoted by the same promoter but that wasn't a driving point.
"I don't think me coming to Sky means these fights can't happen, me and any of the other light-heavies."
Though they are friends, being ranked No 1 and No 2 with the WBA could put them on an unavoidable collision course. Buatsi is well aware that if the WBA belt became vacant, they could be ordered to fight one another.
"The person that barged through the door is Dan Azeez," he said. "He's part of the party now.
"He's won all the belts up to European level, he's number one in Europe. He is a good fighter. So I think when we mention Dan Azeez, whether other people want to give him credit or not he is a top 10 opponent."
Buatsi's great rival though is east London's Anthony Yarde. They have not fought yet but now could be the right time for that fight, with Yarde coming off a creditable performance against Beterbiev.
"He showed bags of heart, bags and bags of heart," Buatsi said of Yarde. "I'll only concentrate on the heart because I think he showed it in abundance. Because there were times when he was badly hurt but the guy wants to carry on and fair play to him. He fought back, he fought back, he tried.
"At the end of the day he has fought for a world title twice and I haven't. I know he was stopped in both of them but he gave a good account of himself.
"I'll always give you the respect you deserve," he added. "Maybe now is the time to get it, maybe in a month's time, two months whatever it is. I'm sure he has his views about it as well."
Buatsi doesn't want to finish his career without having had fights like this.
"I think to an extent if there wasn't a title on it, it would still be an interesting fight," he said. "They're good fighters that hopefully we can all sit back in our 40s and say that was a good scrap we had.
"So hopefully it can be something that actually happened."
His time on the sidelines has seen Buatsi subjected to unaccustomed criticism. But it hasn't shaken his confidence in what he's doing.
"Are those trolls or are those critics able to sleep? They probably are. Am I able to sleep? I definitely am. It comes with it. It's part of the sport," he said.
Almost one year on rom his last bout, "Just Business" will have to shake off 12 months of ring rust on May 6 against tricky opponent Stepien.
Buatsi vs Stepien will be broadcast live on Sky Sports Action from 7pm-11pm this Saturday.
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