Promoter Eddie Hearn believes that unbeaten contender Joshua Buatsi is ready to challenge for a world title in late 2021 against WBA light heavyweight champion Dimitry Bivol following his devastating fourth-round knockout victory over Daniel Blenda Dos Santos (15-1, 8 KOs) last Saturday night at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, UK.
The Matchroom Boxing promoter Hearn says he’d like to see the unbeaten Buatsi (14-0, 12 KOs) take on Bivol (18-0, 11 KOs) at the end of the year, but he’s not sure if his new trainer Virgil Hunter wants to step him up yet.
Buatsi, 28, and Hunter worked their first fight to get last Saturday night against French fighter Dos Santos, who he blew out in four rounds in a highlight reel stoppage.
Hearn thinks that Hunter will want several fights with Buatsi to gel before taking on WBA champ Bivol. Buatsi is about to turn 29, and he could be losing valuable time.
As we saw in Bivol’s last fight against Craig Richards (16-2-1, 9 KOs) on May 1st, he looks vulnerable and ready to be beaten.
Richards came close to defeating Bivol, losing by a narrow 12 round unanimous decision by the scores 115-114, 115-113, 117-111.
He would have beaten Bivol if he’d started fighting aggressively early on rather than waiting until the championship rounds to turn on the heat.
“Bad knockout,” said Hearn to iFL TV about Buatsi’s stoppage win over Dos Santos.
“I seen a few people [saying] ‘Dos Santos wasn’t great,’ probably the same kind of people that if Mauricio Lara got knocked out or if [Giovanni] Straffon got knocked out in a round, they would have said he wasn’t good enough either.
“He [Dos Santos] was 15-0; you saw how devastated he was by the defeat. He was awkward, he wasn’t at Joshua Buatsi’s level, and he got knocked out brutally.
“It was a good performance by JB [Joshua Buatsi], back from a long layoff, teaming up with Virgil Hunter now. Now we have to step up to a big fight this summer,” said Hearn.
Hearn isn’t saying who the 2016 Olympian Buatsi will be facing in the summer for his step-up fight. The thing is, Dos Santos was billed as a step-up fight for Buatsi, and he’s not even ranked in the top 15 by any of the four sanctioning bodies.
As such, Hearn saying Buatsi will be taking a step-up fight might not mean that he’s actually taking on a high-caliber fighter. It could be another primary-level opponent to give Buatsi more practice n knocking guys out.
With Buatsi’s Olympic experience his age, he can’t afford to spend too much time fighting guys like Dos Santos, Ryan Ford, and Marko Calic if he wants to get to Bivol while he’s still the WBA champion.
Buatsi is ranked #2 WBA, #3 IBF, #6 WBC, #7 WBO. His best bet to win a world title would be to take on Bivol rather than IBF/WBC champ Artur Beterbiev or WBO champion Joe Smith Jr.
“Yeah, he’s OK. You saw him walk out,” said Hearn when asked if Dos Santos was fine after being stopped by Buatsi. “It was a brutal knockout. He was devastated because he’s never lost because and he came here to win the fight.
“It’s going to take time,” said Hearn about Buatsi teaming up with American trainer Virgil Hunter. “JB has always been very technically sound.
“It’s going to take some time for him to gel with Virgil. I don’t want him to wait around too long because I feel like he can win a world title now.
“But they’re going to take some time to gel together. He’s [Buatsi] just to take a step up now from Dos Santos and a Dimitry Bivol.
“There are plenty of levels in between, and he’s got to choose one of them. Hopefully, as high as possible because I believe he’s good enough to do that.
“We know we represent Dimitry Bivol as well, and that’s a fight that can be made,” said Hearn.
Either Buatsi should fight Bivol or go down to 168 and go after a fight with Canelo Alvarez. Buatsi is small enough to make 168 easily, and he’d make a lot more money fighting Canelo than he would Bivol or any of the other champions at 175.
Buatsi’s formidable punching power would go further if he were to fight at 168, and he wouldn’t have to worry about fighting a dangerous Beterbiev or Joe Smith Jr. There’s no one at super middleweight with their kind of power.
“I think he [Buatsi] can beat him, but obviously, they’ll want him to be in the best possible place to beat him. But sometimes, you mustn’t wait around too long,” said Hearn.
The way that Buatsi has looked in his last two fights, he beats Bivol if that match happens now. Bivol has lost something from his game with his inactivity, and he never was a great champion, to begin with.
The 30-year-old Bivol lacks punching power, and he fights in an overly cautious manner that keeps him from letting his hands go to win rounds conclusively.
Hopefully, for Buatsi’s sake, he isn’t held back by his new trainer Virgil Hunter because he can’t afford to wait too long before fighting for a world title.
Bivol was already a world champion by the time he was 28, and he had a less impressive amateur background than Buatsi.
“I think he [Buatsi] could do it at the end of the year,” Hearn said about Buatsi being capable of facing Bivol in 2021. “But obviously, he’s got a new trainer now. He’s working with Virgil Hunter,” said Hearn.
You got to like Hearn’s risk-taking approach to his fighter’s careers. Unlike other promoters, Hearn doesn’t baby his fighters and hold them back from trying to accomplish big things with their careers.
If Buatsi can beat Bivol to take the WBA title, it’ll open up opportunities for bigger fights at 175 against the Beterbiev vs. Joe Smith Jr match-winner.
“They are going to want to have a few fights together, which is fine, as long as we step up appropriately for the next fight, and I think they’ll do that,” said Hearn about Buatsi.