Joshua Buatsi confident he and Anthony Yarde will collide as he plots patient approach to summit of boxing

Tony Mogan
Evening Standard
Buatsi eyeing a place among the light heavyweight elite... but he's in no rush: Getty Images
Buatsi eyeing a place among the light heavyweight elite... but he's in no rush: Getty Images

When discussing his trade, Joshua Buatsi insists boxing is one of those sports where you cannot afford to stick to one route - and where you can pay the price for looking too far down the line.

With the sport turned on its head due to the coronavirus outbreak, that philosophy is serving him well. Buatsi learned last Tuesday that his return to the ring, scheduled for the Saturday just gone at the O2 Arena, has been shelved, among the first fights on these shores to be postponed as the country battles an unprecedented pandemic.

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It was meant to be the start of a big year. The Croydon fighter enjoyed a superb 2019 that saw him fight on the Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz Jr undercard in New York and extend his professional record to 12-0 with victory over Ryan Ford. Illness forced him to withdraw from what would have been his fourth fight of the year in November.

Those performances helped enhance his reputation as one of the next truly great talents from these shores - one he has carried since leaving Rio with a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic Games.

Undefeated and moving into positions where world title opportunities will soon be within touching distance, he insists he will continue to listen to those around him and continue learning until those plans fall into place.

“I feel boxing is one of those sports where you can’t have one route that you are going to religiously stick to,” Buatsi told Standard Sport. “It’s all about keeping that record 100 per cent, keep winning and keep improving and learning so that when an opportunity does come that I and my team think I am ready for, then we will go for it.

“I don’t think it's all about sticking to a specific route, things happen in this game. But I'm healthy, I’m safe and I want to keep learning and keep winning so I am ready for when the opportunity comes.”

Buatsi is swiftly rising up the light heavyweight division and as of this month, holds a no.2 ranking with the WBA and no.3 with the IBF. A division overflowing with hugely competitive and compelling fights at the top end holds plenty of promise for the 27-year-old, but there is one name from a little closer to home that has UK fans most excited.

Anthony Yarde’s career had until last summer followed a somewhat similar trajectory to that of Buatsi - until the Hackney-born fighter stepped up to challenge former pound-for-pound great Sergey Kovalev for the WBO title in deepest darkest Russia last August.

Yarde was within one or two more punishing shots of dethroning the Russian before running out of steam, knocked out in the 11th round as a result.

Both Buatsi and Yarde, remain focused on their own respective journeys. But an all-London showdown at the top of the division seems inevitable.

Buatsi is 12-0 after three wins in 2019 Photo: Getty Images
Buatsi is 12-0 after three wins in 2019 Photo: Getty Images

“They say you need a dance partner. If there are two big names coming out from the same nation where there is mad interest and it is good for the fighters and the public, I guess so.”

Is that man Yarde? “I think so, I'm sure if I keep doing what I'm doing and he keeps doing what he's doing and at the right time, our paths will cross. Definitely.”

Buatsi is in no rush, however. He has been backed for greatness before he even flew out to Rio in 2016 and while he is still just three years into his professional career, managing expectation has become second nature.

"You have just got to listen to people that are closest to you. So in boxing it is whatever my trainer and my manager thinks, I'm trusting them to guide my career, giving me the right fights at the right time. I can't let it to get into my head too much, or take it too personally. There is expectation and pressure in this life. I don’t look to deep into it."

Buatsti vs Yarde remains a tantalising prospect Photo: Getty Images
Buatsti vs Yarde remains a tantalising prospect Photo: Getty Images

Religion plays a central role in the life of the Ghana-born fighter, who alongside the likes of Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha and grime king Stormzy, is part of a gifted generation of young Croydon men and women at the forefront of a wave of talent from the borough.

"I'm proudly from Croydon, I'm glad to be one of many coming from a place that is filled with talent. Zaha, Stormzy, the names speak for themselves so I am humbled to be on that list of people who are doing well and making a statement. There are many more out there and I hope they get the opportunity and the break they are looking for."

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