For many, California is the land of dreams, but Joshua Buatsi is struggling to see what all the fuss is. The Bay Area has been the light-heavyweight’s base since he teamed up with Virgil Hunter earlier this year, but while many have it as the place they would most like to live, Buatsi is missing south London.
Training camps are not supposed to be fun, but Buatsi has seen little apart from Hunter’s gym in Hayward and the apartment he is renting.
“I’m telling you there’s absolutely nothing to do in the Bay Area,” Buatsi said. “They keep saying it’s because of Covid but even if there wasn’t Covid there’s nothing to do.
“I try to catch up with people and that but the time difference makes that hard. I don’t mind, there’s a part of training and isolation that you learn. You learn about yourself and get on with it.”
Buatsi – who is ranked No 2 by the WBA, 3 by the IBF and 4 by the WBC returned to California just a week after his win over Daniel Dos Santos in Manchester in May, as he was keen to started working with Hunter as quickly as possible for his fight with Ricards Bolotniks at Fight Camp on August 14.
“The turnover was quick from my last fight to come out here,” he said. “Virgil was saying it’s good that you've come back straight away. I’ve got a good fight lined up so it's good to get back out here so quickly.
“I must be the star pupil, I knew it was best for me to be out here. I want to keep active and keep busy. There was no point hanging about in London.
“One thing I know is that I've made these sacrifices a normality. It's normal for me to be away from home, for some people it's not but I've made that normal.
“I can't see what there is to do. For me, training and isolation are part of it. You learn about yourself and you just get on with it.”
Bolotniks, from Latvia, has come to prominence in the past 18 months with wins over Steven Ward, Hosea Burton and Serge Michael that won him the MTK Golden Contract competition and also secured him top ten rankings with the IBF and WBO.
He is an aggressive and powerful and Buatsi knew the value of the win over Michel, as he had beaten the German on the way to qualifying for the Olympics in 2016.
“People might look at his record and think it’s not that clean but he's a good fighter,” Buatsi said. “I was there when he boxed Steven Ward. That was the only thing I’ve seen of him.
“He's dangerous but I feel I've got what it takes, I'm in no doubt about that. I'm no doubt I'm the man, I'm going to win.”
It is now five years since Buatsi boxed at the Olympics and some will feel he should have boxed for a world title by now. The 28-year-old is happy with the speed he is going, however.
“Some people want to have won it after X amount of time but I feel like I’m moving at the right pace, at the right time,” he said. “You can’t look at other fighters in other divisions and think you should be moving at their pace.
“If there was a light-heavy at the Olympics who won a world title then I could say 'He was in my category and my Olympic cycle and now he’s a world champion'. But even that, everyone is their own fighter, he may have been elite level as an amateur for ten years and good on him, but I boxed at elite level for only two years so the comparisons I don’t really do. It goes over my head.
“I would like to win a world title as quick as possible, but you want to hang on to it as long as possible.”
Buatsi’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, has been dangling the prospect of a fight with WBA champion Dmitry Bivol and while Hearn said he could have made the fight next, Hunter was keen to have another training camp with Buatsi first.
“I think there’s stuff to do but I feel like at some point you have to make the move,” Buatsi said. “As a student, I said to my coach ‘if you think this is the time then let’s go’.
“Fighters will say 'I'll box this guy and do that'. Like Virgil said in an interview, if the right money is provided to have the right camp, to spar the people we need to spar and have things done the right way then he was like ‘yeah, we will take it’ end of the year or early next year.
“I guess that’s what has been put out there and if it is available then my coach says ‘if we can have a good camp’, then yeah.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - 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.