Joshua Buatsi Digs Down To Stop Ricards Bolotniks
It seems like WBA #2, WBC #4, WBO #7 and IBF #3 light heavyweight contender Joshua Buatsi has been moved like a prospect longer than expected. Although he enters the ring against #WBA #3, WBO #5 and IBF #6 Latvian contender Ricards “”The Lion” Bolotniks, it isn’t quite the notable name of a match-up fans worldwide expected for the British contender.
JOSHUA BUATSI (15-0, 13KO)
Buatsi has captivated boxing fans with his knockout power and boxing ability since turning pro in July 2017 after capturing a bronze medal in the 2016 Olympics. Things were expected to kick off for him at the world level when he dusted respected journeyman Marco Antonio Periban in four rounds back in 2019. After that win, fans were sure the Ghanaian born fighter from London would take on a top level light heavyweight. This evident by continued rumblings of boxing supporters wanting to see him in with another top level Brit in Anthony Yarde.
RICARDS BOLOTNIKS (18-6-1, 8KO)
While Bolotniks is ranked in the top five in three major sanctioning bodies, he just doesn’t have the name recognition. This in part because the 31 year-old has fought most of his eight-year career in his native country of Latvia and other neighboring European countries. Furthermore, he has already been stopped three times against other unknown contenders outside of current WBC #1 ranked cruiserweight contender Thabiso Mchunu. Although he has turned in impressive performances against unranked but respectable contenders like Steven Ward, Hosea Burton and Serge Michel, The Lion was expected to be another victim lying in the “KO” column on Buatsi’s resume.
A SURPRISE EARLY
This fight was an unexpected chess match in the early rounds. Bolotniks entered looking to show more than what he looked to be on paper. He did a good job of using feints before jabbing and attempting sneaky hooks from either hand while inside of Buatsi’s range that seemed to stun the British fighter early on. While Buatsi clearly got the better of his opponent at this time, the first three rounds were no “cakewalks” for the favorite.
Then the separation of skill became evident in the fourth round. Buatsi had the idea of putting Bolotniks on his back-foot from the opening round but now started incorporating different techniques to open the Latvian up. He started utilizing angles to setup a lead left hook, put more work into his opponent’s body and baited Bolotniks in as he tried to time a counter uppercut.
A BATTLE OF INTELLIGENCE
The game-plan played a toll on the Latvian. The hard shots he took to the head and the body work started to wear him down as the sixth round was underway. Not much feinting and educated punching came from Bolotniks. At this point, he is doing what he can just to get inside and land something that would take Buatsi off his game-plan.
In the middle of the round, an exchange ended with the underdog on the seat of his shorts after catching a big left hook from the favorite. The Lion beat the count but was in retreat for the duration of the round as he took a series of big shots that had him getting knocked all over the ring. There was a point where the referee could have stopped the fight but suddenly, Buatsi took his foot off the gas. It looked as if he had punched himself out and this eventually saved Bolotniks’ night from ending early.
From this point of the fight, the only war Buatsi was really in was one with his stamina. The energy he exerted trying to get the physically bigger opponent out of there in the sixth round seemed regenerate slowly over the next few rounds. This resulted in Buatsi taking his foot off the gas which lowered his output. This would make sense as he has never been passed the seventh round in his pro career. Although his volume decreased, the favorite was still dominating his opponent as Bolotniks was twice as fatigued.
GRINDING TO THE FINISH
Energy surges came again starting in the tenth round. Several big shots had the Latvian hurt and in retreat mode again. However this time, the favorite did not go in for the kill right away. Instead he conserved the little energy he had and applied smart aggression.
This would pay off as he carried the extra energy over to the eleventh round. Bolotniks’ gas tank was arguably on ‘E’ and he looked to be trying to survive. As he was once again in retreat after catching a jab, right hook combination to the body, he caught a straight right hand that he didn’t see! The punch immediately dropped the underdog and he looked completely out of it. The referee didn’t even administer a count as he quickly called the fight off.
Buatsi immediately dropped to his knees in exhaustion after the referee waived off the bout. His opponents up to this point typically wilt under the pressure or become punching bags in the ring. In both cases, Buatsi has not needed to exert so much energy.
Unfortunately in the post fight interview, while promoter Eddie Hearn was excited to put his charge in the ring with a top level opponent, Buatsi was more focused on taking a break than talking about fighting top level contenders next. This can be taken as a positive or a negative but the truth is, Buatsi is ready for a top level fight next.
By: EJ Williams