Eddie Hearn believes now more than ever that Joshua Buatsi can become a world champion.
Buatsi’s promoter also realizes it’s time for Buatsi to start boxing better competition. Hearn expects the light heavyweight contender from London to return to the ring in July against the type of opponent who will prove that the 28-year-old Buatsi is ready to fight for a 175-pound championship.
It's important, too, Hearn feels, to build off the momentum Buatsi established with his one-punch, fourth-round knockout of Daniel Blenda Dos Santos on Saturday night in Manchester, England. Buatsi knocked the previously undefeated Frenchman cold with a right hand to end their scheduled 12-round main event at AO Arena.
“What we must do is capitalize on the ability to gain momentum in Joshua Buatsi’s career,” Hearn told Sky Sports in a post-fight interview. “There’s been times before where, you know, maybe we haven’t got him out quick enough, or he’s popped off to a holiday, or he’s had a little injury. Now’s the time where we must gain momentum. So, July the 17th in America, or July 24th or 31st headlining a big fight at ‘Fight Camp.’ We’ve got to bridge that gap now. You know, we saw Dmitry Bivol here a couple of weeks ago against Craig Richards, who did a brilliant job.
“Bivol is the level of the guys that he needs to beat to become world champion. I believe he can beat Dmitry Bivol, but we need to find that middle ground between Dos Santos and Dmitry Bivol. And that’s down to the matchmaking of [trainer] Virgil [Hunter] and 258 [Management] and the team. But the next one has to be a step up. He’s ready for those kind of step ups.”
His victory over Dos Santos marked Buatsi’s debut with Hunter, an American trainer most known for his work with Andre Ward, in his corner. Though undefeated before battling Buatsi (14-0, 12 KOs), Dos Santos (15-1, 8 KOs) had built his unblemished record almost entirely against opponents with losing records.
Buatsi’s impressive victory occurred seven months after the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist had some difficulty before he stopped Croatia’s Marko Calic (11-1, 6 KOs) in the seventh round October 4 at Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, England.
Hearn mentioned London’s Richards (16-2-1, 9 KOs) as a potential opponent for Buatsi. Richards was very competitive in losing a 12-round unanimous decision to Russia’s Bivol (18-0, 11 KOs), the WBA light heavyweight champion, on May 1 in Manchester.
“Yeah, that’s a fight,” Hearn said. “We’re all quite friendly. At the end of the day, people like to see domestic fights. Craig Richards just put in a great performance against Dmitry Bivol. I think if he believed in himself, maybe he could’ve even won that fight. And he might even kick himself. But, you know, Joshua Buatsi’s gotta look at the opponents. Craig Richards, if that’s the fight that can be made, that’s one that certainly can get done as well.
“You know, but I think we need to find that next level now. But we must keep the momentum. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be boxing three times this year. Tonight was the first one on that list. July next and, you know, he can go straight back into the gym with Virgil and keep learning, keep improving. Don’t forget, he’s been out of the ring for seven, nearly eight months, and he’s got a new trainer tonight. So, that was a big box ticked, to say he’s back, he’s sharp, brutal knockout, on to the next one.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.