Olympian Buatsi steps up against world title contender Richards
WBA #3 Joshua Buatsi (21-1-3, 6KOs) and WBA #7 Craig Richards (14-0, 7KOs) clash on May 21 at the O2 Arena in North Greenwich in a huge domestic 12-round contest to determine who is Britain’s No.1 light-heavyweight.
The winner will be in pole position to challenge for world honours next. Everyone would love to Dmitry Bivol vs Craig Richards 2, and if Buatsi can do a number on Richards, then fans would be very excited to see how he handles a world title shot next.
It’s an intriguing fight for so many reasons. Richards has done himself proud at world level, recently being credited as performing better than Canelo Alvarez, whereas Buatsi is an unbeaten, exciting, rising prospect who looks certain to become a world champion.
Olympic bronze medallist Buatsi has a great skillset with a swift and solid jab, great feet, strength and power, commands the ring well, and can really put his punches together.
He doesn’t mind being dragged into a war either. Ricards Bolotniks engaged him in a firefight a few times during their August 2021 fight and Buatsi gladly participated.
He also possesses a killer instinct, when his opponent his hurt, he senses blood and goes in for the kill. You could say he’s a little too aggressive and has been penalised for foul play a few times before. However, he can exact patience and keep a cool head too. He had Bolotniks hurt a few times in his last bout, but when he couldn’t quite find the fight-ending punch, he took his time and eventually decked him again in the 11th round to finish him off.
Richards has proven he is a world-level fighter with his stellar performance against Dmitry Bivol, who has famously just beaten the World’s No.1 pound for pound fighter, Canelo.
Against Shakan Pitters, Richards proved that experience and skill was key. Birmingham’s Pitters had looked almost invincible up to that fight, but Richards taught him a tough lesson, flooring the home fighter twice to stop him in the ninth round.
The 32-year-old from Crystal Palace jumped straight from winning the British light-heavyweight title to a WBA World title challenge to Bivol, where he was outgunned early but came back into the contest late on. One ringside judge scored it just a round apart, another saw Bivol retaining his title by only two rounds. Bivol is a busy boxer and threw a lot of punches but Craig is very good at making his opponents miss and caught and countered a lot, but his lower workrate is what cost him the decision.
The south Londoner is an intelligent fighter, a pure boxer who can turn contests into a chess match. He can box on the front foot and the back foot, he has great discipline, patience, and can follow a game plan to the letter. He is also sharp, with a good jab, good defence, a master at judging distance, and is an excellent counterpuncher.
He is also underrated for his power. He has a healthy 10 KOs from 17 victories, and he has stopped both his opponents in his last two championship fights.
I believe Richards has a good chance of winning if he can use his jab effectively and spring in and out of range with his attacks whenever the opportunity presents itself. If he can establish his range early on then he can use his quick reflexes to successfully make Buatsi miss and take advantage with counters. When he presses the action, he can really dominate his opponents and land heavy shots, but he often likes to stay in range to use his clever head movement and counters, which means he sits back to wait for his opponent’s move first.
The stronger man, Buatsi, will be looking to command the centre of the ring and force his man backwards right from the start. Richards likes to stand at mid-range so he can block and counter, so Buatsi will have to be very aware of what’s coming back at him, and is bound to be caught a few times, as he can be guilty of not moving his head enough.
This is a step up for Buatsi but Richards has operated at a higher lever so the confidence should be with the ‘Spider’. That said, Buatsi has the confidence of an unbeaten fighter with an outstanding amateur pedigree behind him.
Out of the two, it’s got to be said that aggression and nastiness goes to Joshua; Craig has even been accused of being too nice in fights, so could that give ‘JB’ the edge?
This is certainly Buatsi’s hardest, most skilled opponent yet, but the same can’t be said for Richards, having had 12 hard rounds with WBA World light-heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol.
KO Ratio: 86.67%
Height: 6ft 2in
Reach: 74 ½in
KO Ratio: 50%
Height: 6ft 1in
Buatsi: WBC #4 / WBA #3 / IBF #2 / WBO #6 / TBRB #5 / Ring #9 / BoxRec #8
Richards: WBC #14 / WBA #7 / BoxRec #12
Buatsi is the favourite at 1/6 with Betway, while Richards is in the familiar position of the underdog once more at 4/1, and the odds for a draw currently placed at 20/1.
This is one of the hardest fights to call so far this year, in my view. Buatsi has power on his side, but no one has been able to stop Richards yet.
You could argue that these two are evenly matched in skill, so a draw could certainly be possible.
I would lean towards a Buatsi win, but if it goes to points, which I think it quite possible will, then Richards stands a very good chance of getting the decision.