Buatsi Beats Richards on Points
It was for local bragging rights and so much more. Two domestic light-heavyweight contenders who could have gone in another safer direction, fought each other to see who would move on to challenge for a world title. A good old-fashioned eliminator in the purest sense.
Joseph Buatsi just about got home, in a tight tense affair last night at the O2 Arena in London. Craig Richards lost by a unanimous decision to scores of 116-112, 115-113 and a repeat scorecard of 115-113. It was close, and Richards wouldn’t have looked out of place if he was given the benefit of the doubt in the rounds that could have gone either way. Tony Bellew scoring the fight for DAZN had Buatsi 7 up after seven rounds, which wasn’t subjective, it was just wrong.
I had Richards winning 115-113, but I sensed he wasn’t quite doing enough to convince the judges. Even though you are winning the rounds, sometimes you have to do a little more. A lot of the good work Richards was doing got lost against an opponent who just about threw enough eye-catching combinations to edge the rounds.
This was one of those fights. Richards needed another gear or a little more belief. Make no mistake, it was a fight he could have won. Despite my scorecard, an admittedly minority viewpoint, Richards can have no complaints. As he said himself, he let it slip.
Buatsi looked on the verge of defeat in a dramatic 8th round, but Richards didn’t go for broke. If he had the story might have been very different. He just seems like a fighter who just fights within himself. Often the difference between winning and losing. Buatsi survived some tough moments, a lesser fighter would have broken, and he would have learned plenty about himself on a night where it could have gone badly wrong for the former Olympic medallist.
There was something quite gripping about the fight, a taste of the unexpected throughout. Sadly in a sport of avoidance and manipulation, we don’t get fights like this often enough. Both Buatsi and Richards deserve credit for what they agreed to and served up.
Buatsi moves to 16-0 and his immediate future will largely depend on what Canelo Alvarez does next. If Alvarez decides to swerve an immediate rematch with Dmitry Bivol, Buatsi will get his chance for the WBA light-heavyweight title later this year. An easy fight to make. A far harder one to win. On the evidence of last night, Bivol might be a little too much for a fighter who still didn’t quite convince he is as good as some will let you believe. But Buatsi has earned his opportunity, and the right to try and bridge the gap between a good fighter and a great one. Buatsi had a good night, against Bivol, he will need a better one.
Photo Credit: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing