Joshua Buatsi has the chance to fight his way to a light-heavyweight title this weekend when he takes on Craig Richards in a national high-profile showdown at The O2.
The 29-year-old is an Olympic bronze medalist who has gone 15-0 so far in his professional career with 13 knockouts.
On May 21, Buatsi and Richards fought for the right to potentially face a world champion later this year.
Originally it was thought that Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez would fight in London in December and the winner of that fight may well be his opponent, but his loss to Dmitry Bivol made that idea dependent on the contracted rematch, whatever be the time.
The unbeaten star was born in Ghana and moved to Croydon, London when he was nine years old. He made waves with his performance at the Rio Olympics in 2016 and Floyd Mayweather attempted to sign him to his promotional arm, Mayweather Promotions.
Instead, he opted to partner with a fellow Brit who has risen to the top – signing to Anthony Joshua’s 258 Management team.
“At the Olympics, Mayweather gave me a number and said ‘if you want to make more money, call this number.’ At that time I was thinking, let me win the medal first,” Buatsi told Sky Sports.
“I will call this number, but not yet. I came back to England, finished my degree and Joshua’s management team, we contacted each other and I liked their subject.
“A very small team, but an effective team. They did a very good job with myself, Lawrence Okolie, Ramla Ali, Souleymane Cissokho from France; they do a good job with all of us.
“I’m happy where I am with them. In this aspect, Joshua has put together a team that manages us. My relationship with Josh [AJ], it’s like a phone call. ‘Bro, that’s the situation I’m in. What would you do? What do you think about it?’
“I’ll see what he does and then I’ll say, ‘OK, explain to me why it works or why you made that decision or didn’t make it.’
“There are things that we also talk about in private that are not related to boxing. It’s always good to have advice, but it’s better to have people who have been there and done it.
Still, catching the eye of one of boxing’s all-time greats, a multi-weight world champion in Mayweather, was a thrill for Buatsi. But the timing was wrong.
“Nothing came of it,” Buatsi told ESPN of the conversation with Mayweather. “They phoned me two weeks after the Olympics and I said I had to go back to college and finish my degree, and that’s where it stopped. They never answered me and I wasn’t going to chase him away.
“To be honest, I always planned to stay in England. I spoke to Floyd Mayweather’s team several times, but nothing more. Floyd said some very nice things and it was great. The Money Man calling me a future world champion and coming to watch me was awesome and I never thought it would happen to me.
Buatsi won bronze at the Olympics and turned professional in the summer of 2017. He is now five years into his career, but injuries have kept him from fighting more.
A move to America to train with Virgil Hunter after beating Marko Calic in 2020 has once again accelerated his hopes of becoming world champion.
“After this fight [with Marko Calic] I went straight to the United States two weeks later,” Buatsi said.
“This fight made me think about some things and I think the American decision was good for me. I appreciate it and I’m confident that on May 21 we’ll see some snippets of what I learned.
“I said a long time ago as an amateur that I would like to train with this guy one day. Over time, from amateur to my professional career, there is a guy in my team who works with Virgil, so it was easy for them to facilitate it.
“After the Calic fight, I said I can’t leave every fight with a swollen face, so I have to go to defensive genius,” he added.
Under the banner of two-time world heavyweight champion Joshua, Buatsi believes bonding with another Olympian was key to his journey.
“I missed the first prize at the Olympics and to become a professional is to become a world champion,” he said.
“I can’t say how long it will take me to get there, but that’s the goal. For Anthony Joshua, it came at the right time and he did it in less than four years.
“I chose AJ and his team to coach me because he comes from the same Olympic background and has done very well since then. They will know how to move commercially through the professional ranks and will have learned how to deal with an Olympic medalist.
Joshua says Buatsi offers him advice inside the ring as much as he offers his fellow Olympian and believes light heavyweight faith is an important part of his desire for glory.
“Buatsi contacts me before my fights and also gives me advice,” AJ explained.
“With Buatsi, why he will do great things in boxing is because of his belief in God, he has a reason.
“His reason is bigger than boxing. What I believe is through boxing he will use his platform to go on and do great things after. This tough side only serves to fulfill his destiny and purpose and he has to do it by fighting.
So far so good for Buatsi but Richards presents arguably the toughest test of his career so far this weekend. If he wins, the prospects on the other side of the fight look enticing.