Ricards Bolotniks, despite what you saw on Saturday night, is no mug. The WBO European Light Heavy Champ has bulldozed his way past a number of creditable challengers and came to Matchroom HQ with genuine hopes for a world title fight. With one booming overhand right Joshua Buatsi ended those aspirations.
Joshua Buatsi is good, we’ve known that for a long time. You don’t win an Olympic medal without pedigree and you don’t have the backing of Matchroom without realistic ambitions for the top. But for Buatsi Bolotniks was the first acid test, the first indication of just how far the light-heavyweight can go.
Buatsi found his range early but it was not till the fourth round that he truly hurt Bolotniks. A clubbing left hand smashing the temple of the Latvian, one that would have sent many a fighter down. And from there he grew, regrouping in the fifth before sending his opponent down one round later. Again a left hand which had the Latvian rocking.
Any criticism of Buatsi comes from the fact that as he went for the finish he failed to find it. A minute of searching for that knockout blow meant for a couple of rounds he faded. Yes Buatsi got hit but the fact those hits rarely troubled him is reassurance enough. How easy he was to find either is a warning sign when he does make the step up or merely indicative of the respect, or lack of it, he had for Bolotniks’ power.Embed from Getty Images
Buatsi makes his mark
As the rounds wore on both fighters tired but Buatsi retained control. The left eye of Bolotniks slowly ballooning. Onwards they threw before Buatsi found his mark. An overhand right finding that same eye and sending the Latvian crashing against the ropes. A conclusive ending to a performance that deserved such a finish.
After Bolotniks, who is next for Joshua Buatsi?
With Saturday’s victory many options lie open. Buatsi came into the fight ranked 4th in the WBC, 2nd in the WBA, 3rd in the IBF and 7th in the WBO. Artur Beterbiev holds the WBC and IBF belts, Dmitry Bivol the WBA and Joe Smith Jr the WBO. Beterbiev and Joe Smith Jr look set to square off this autumn meaning Bivol may be Buatsi’s best bet.
The Russian worked with Eddie Hearn to make the Craig Richards fight, one Bivol won relatively narrowly. Bivol isn’t quite the same draw as his compatriot Artur Beterbiev so doing a deal looks possible. Hearn sees one more fight, possibly in the States between now and then for Buatsi so it could be spring 2021. The O2 looks likely.
Buatsi’s victory means moves him one step closer to boxing’s top table. There will be tougher prospects than Ricards Bolotniks but he has passed all tests so far. 15-0, ten knockouts in a row and an Olympic bronze medal, Buatsi will be on the hunt for a first world title.
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