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Fights are falling off the calendar left, right and centre, but the last dance at Matchroom’s Fight Camp is still set for this Saturday and there’s a parade of top boxing action from the US over the weekend.
2016 Olympic medallist Joshua Buatsi faces a tough test from Latvia’s Ricards Bolotniks in the headliner in Eddie Hearn’s backyard, while the devastating John Riel Casimero defends his world title against veteran double gold medallist Guillermo Rigondeaux in the main event Stateside.
No champion is going to box Buatsi out of choice, so the Croydon light heavyweight needs to knock off all the other contenders until he gets a mandatory shot at one of the titles. This weekend, Josh faces the humble, friendly and unspectacularly excellent Bolotniks. After taking bronze at the Rio Olympics, Buatsi was one of the hottest prospects in boxing but his progress in the pro game, like many others, has been side-tracked by the pandemic.
Buatsi is fast, accurate and ferocious, and there’s no doubt he’s already one of the best in Britain – if not the world. There is serious clamour to see him mix it with the likes of Callum Johnson, Anthony Yarde and Lyndon Arthur, but first he has to get past a very difficult dance partner.
In the blue corner on Saturday night, Bolotniks has the sort of record you might expect from an Eastern European journeyman – five losses (three of them stoppages) in 24 bouts – but dig a little deeper and you find out that a few years ago Bolotniks joined world champion Mairis Briedis’ camp and he’s on a seven-fight win streak.
On that recent run of form, the Latvian ‘Lion’ has taken apart two unbeaten boxers and he schooled British 175-pound stalwart Hosea Burton. In his most recent contest, Bolotniks took out classy German Serge Michel in the 10th round and secured himself a juicy contract with MTK promotions.
This is the toughest fight of Buatsi’s career, and Bolotniks is a massive price in a two-horse race. I don’t believe it will happen, I hope it doesn’t happen, but the upset has caught my eye and some of my loose change might go behind Bolotniks.
Buatsi moved to the US last year to team up with Virgil Hunter, the trainer of former pound-for-pound star Andre Ward. The work Josh will get in California will definitely improve him and at 28-years-old he’s the right age to add the finishing touches to his repertoire.
I am expecting high quality leather to be thrown in both directions and I’d be surprised if both men aren’t wobbled at one point. However, I reckon the class will come through and Buatsi will find a finish in the middle rounds.
The undercard in Essex features some pretty lopsided matchmaking, but one fight we can get stuck into is Michael McKinson against Przemyslaw Runowski. Portsmouth’s McKinson is clever and slick, but Runowski will not turn up to be given the runaround – the Pole is humongous odds to win and I reckon he can do it.
John Riel Casimero has been bantamweight champion for two years and he’s looking to get a big name on his record by beating former boxing superstar Guillermo Rigondeaux in Carson, California in the early hours of Sunday morning. The pocket-sized puncher has stopped his last six opponents and he looks like he’s just reaching his peak.
Cuba’s 2000 and 2004 Olympic champ “Rigo” showed he still has skills and heart when last fought, but he’s been inactive for 16 months and he turns 41 in September. Rigondeaux can win the first couple of rounds, but he’ll start to get caught and hold his feet soon after that – Casimero can get the stoppage in rounds 5-8.
Over in Oklahoma, Joshua Franco and Andrew Moloney complete their fight trilogy for a super flyweight strap. Moloney was robbed by ridiculous officiating in their last bout in November and I’ll be backing the Australian to get the win he deserved last time out.
Finally, the fight of the weekend is the non-title scrap between one of the biggest talents in boxing without a title Vergil Ortiz and ‘Mean Machine’ Egidijus Kavaliauskas. Kavaliauskas has come up short against the very best in the welterweight division and Ortiz, 23, isn’t far off that level already – Vergil to win in rounds 5-8 is the bet in this one.
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