If you fly with the hype, Joshua Buatsi could have been boxing for a world title this year. Fortunately, the Londoner is not one for believing all the grand predictions that are made about him.
Buatsi has won all his 12 professional fights since claiming a light-heavyweight bronze medal at the Rio Olympics four years ago, claiming the British title and a minor WBA belt in the process. Eddie Hearn, the promoter, has even talked about Buatsi being at the forefront of a new generation of British stars.
But Buatsi is not about to be rushed. After all, he put off his professional debut for nearly a year so he could complete a degree and if you ask him honestly if he thinks he is ready for the likes of light-heavyweight world champions Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol, Buatsi would probably say no.
“They are very good fighters,” Buatsi told BoxingScene.com. “They will be a handful for anyone. They are all very dangerous. Beterbiev has got two of the belts, but Bivol is good as well. I will have to learn a lot and be a very good fighter in order to hang about with them.
“Looking at when people out of the Olympics normally get to fight for world titles, it is normally from their 16th fight onwards. Everyone’s different, but I have been getting good experience, and that chance may come sooner rather than later.
“I’ve just been learning to be more patient and understanding that the less you are getting hit the better it is for you going forward.”
Things have ground to a halt for the entire sport now, but it has been a quieter time for Buatsi than most as he has not boxed since August. He had been due to box in November, but fell ill and was scheduled to be in action in March, only for the show to be pulled because of the coronavirus pandemic. It has led to a situation that he has completed almost two full training camps with no fight at the end.
“This must be the longest break I have had from the ring and I have had a lot of weeks in camp,” Buatsi, 27, said. “I’m dwelling on the positives, I can’t look for anyone to blame, it is what it is and it’s a very unfortunate situation. It could have been worse, it just means I haven’t been active.
“Like most fighters, I am just trying to stay in decent shape so that when we get the call we can be ready in a few weeks. The lockdown has been OK. People are just finding things that they can enjoy. Anything that you can find that will keep you busy, why not? I haven’t really been in the gym, I have mostly been doing things outdoors.”
If Hearn’s plans for a series of summer shows on the lawn of Matchroom’s headquarters in Essex come to fruition, Buatsi is one boxer who would probably expect to be featured.
The British Boxing Board of Control has indicated that it would prefer to feature domestic matches, a position that seemed all the more likely on Friday when the UK Government announced plans to force any traveller to the UK after June 8 to self-isolate for 14 days.
Hearn has hinted at a clash between Buatsi and Callum Johnson, although Buatsi’s decision to vacate the British title have taken some options off the table. The vacant belt was to have been contested by Shakan Pitters and Chad Sugden in Coventry in March, with the winner ordered to face Craig Richards, but Buatsi wouldn’t mind fighting for the belt again.
“I vacated the belt but the guys that they nominated to fight for it haven’t boxed yet, so as far as I am concerned, I am still the champion,” Buatsi said. “I last boxed on August 31. So that is a lot of time out and that is without an injury, so no one could have foreseen that. Ideally for me it would be good just to get out.”
There are not too many professional boxers with a degree and Buatsi believes that his career has been helped by his decision to complete his studies in sports science and management studies.
“It has helped me think outside the box, to learn to articulate properly, whether it is public speaking or in front of the cameras, learning how to do research,” he said.
“I also have a bit of knowledge of what goes on outside the ring too, so when I got a contract, I can read through it and understand what it is. So I could spot a clause in there, which might sound good, but isn’t actually benefiting me.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for Boxing Scene. He worked for nearly two decades at The Times, where he was Boxing Correspondent - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.