There might be no fans in attendance, but Joshua Buatsi will not be lacking inspiration when he steps into the ring for Sunday's bout with Croatia's Marko Calic in Milton Keynes.
From Bruce Lee to Black Lives Matter, Christianity to cycling, Buatsi — undefeated in 12 contests as a professional, and an Olympic bronze medal winner in 2016 — is a boxer of depth. Promoted by Eddie Hearn, who is quarantined this weekend due to a positive Covid-19 test, and managed by world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, Buatsi will need to be sharp against undefeated Calic (record 11-0) as his climb towards world light-heavyweight title glory in 2021 begins again.
Lockdown was quiet, contemplative, and Buatsi's religious gatherings were on zoom. He trained alone, read a lot, and says he became "one of those angry cyclists" on the road. The experience surprised him, so he read more of Bruce Lee.
“I can’t sum up what lockdown was like for me in a word. But within a sentence, it was a time when it was very important to know yourself. Bruce Lee said: 'Know yourself to know others'. You have to know what’s good for you mentally and what isn’t. If you can identify what makes you happy and what you feel you need to function, then find it. Keep good people around you. That helped me a lot.”
Buatsi is also aware of his social responsibilities through the Black Lives Matters movement. “I think about it [BLM] all the time," he explained, adding that he will take a knee in support and respect of the movement. "Fighting is fighting. But not everything in life is straightforward.
"Someone said to me: ‘All lives matter’. And they’re right, they do. But currently there needs to be an emphasis on black lives. I wake up every day and nothing happens to me and I think this is a simple easy life.
"But I think about other people, just and unjust situations. Imagine going to a protest today, thinking you’ll be home by midnight and then not returning for the next four months. You’re in prison, waiting. We’re saying all lives matter but we need to put emphasis on black lives. I look at myself and other black people and they’re going through it. We have to raise more awareness.”
Has he experienced racism in the fight world? “As a professional I haven’t experienced it. As an amateur, I did in another country. But I see the most innocent souls go to a boxing match and when it’s someone they know, they lose themselves.
"If you have an attachment to whoever is fighting you want them to win. You end up screaming all sorts of things. But on a deeper level I think boxing brings people together, all races, religions - in a good way.”
We turn to the 14-month hiatus from the ring. "This has been a long lay-off. But it’s only in my head. I accepted what the situation is. I’ve just dealt with it and moved forward. I just look at the positives. If you dwell on the negatives you’re going to get down. I’m fit and strong and my health is 100 so what can I really complain about? Nothing.
“It’s where boxing has helped me a lot. This industry is a lifestyle. Boxing is a lifestyle. Training, running, sparring - it’s all a lifestyle. It’s my life. The weather was great and I would cycle for hours. I went to places I’d never even driven to. Cycling isn’t something I ever used to - and I was even an angry cyclist once or twice..."
But tonight it is back to business. "I’m indifferent to no crowds. Calic is a very good amateur. Experienced. Boxed a lot of people. He’ll be well educated. Once I’m in there I will feel the danger, and look for the win. If I sense any vulnerability anywhere then ill take it. I think most important is to get out and fight. It's been a while and I want to impress. "
Joshua Buatsi vs Marko Calic is live on Sky Sports on Sunday from 7pm