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Boxing is coming from all angles this weekend: 2016 Olympic medallist Joshua Buatsi tests his metal against recent title challenger Craig Richards, and the undercard features veterans, prospects and even a world championship bout.
Over in the US, David Benavidez dukes it out with David Lemieux, and Brit abroad Danny Dignum has no holiday against potential superstar Zhanibek Alimkhanuly.
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This is a real fight and it’s a good’un. Buatsi, 29, came away from the Rio Olympics with a bronze medal and the reputation of the best prospect from the British squad, but his pro career has stalled and spluttered up to this point.
Fellow Brit Richards, 32, turned pro in 2015 to little fanfare, but he’s constantly improved and last May he pushed world champion Dmitry Bivol in a close decision loss – yes, that’s the same Russian light heavyweight Bivol who just comfortably out-pointed the great Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in Vegas.
In fairness, Richards hasn’t always shown that level of skill – he lost to Frank Buglioni in 2017 and drew with Chad Sugden in 2019, although he did win the British title in 2020 and beat several domestic prospects along the way.
On paper Buatsi’s career looks pretty perfect – he’s unbeaten after 15 fights and he’s stopped 13 opponents, but it’s slow progress for a man of his talents. The ex-amateur ace still hasn’t faced a world ranked 175-pounder or even a top British fighter.
Buatsi is considered the power puncher of the pair but ‘Spider’ Richards has knocked out or down seven of his last nine opponents. I can see either man hurting the other but I don’t see a finish, however if you fancy angling for massive odds have a look at Richards by KO.
Paddy thinks the Olympian is a massive favourite at the O2 in Greenwich this weekend but I’m not buying it – these two are evenly matched physically and there won’t be much to separate them. Buatsi has the edge in speed and power, but he’s stiffer and easier to hit – I’m backing Buatsi to win, but only just.
The main event in London is supported by three cracking contests. Unified world champion Chantelle Cameron defends her super lightweight straps against Victoria Noelia Bustos. If you want a tough opponent in the women’s game you go to Argentina, and Bustos is certainly cut from that cloth – back Cameron to win on points.
Rampaging Croatian cruiserweight/heavyweight Alen Babic is a fan favourite but this weekend he faces the toughest test of his career. Adam Balski is a decent cruiserweight – he might get caught and cleaned out, but if he’s sharp and elusive Balski can win on points and return big money.
Robbie Davies Jr v Javier Molina: Molina on points or decision
Robbie Davies Jr has stepped up three times and lost, and this weekend he has another tough, tricky task in front of him (8pm). Javier Molina has been in with good guys and never looked overmatched, and I fancy the Mexican super lightweight to get a decision win this Saturday.
Probably the best fight of the weekend will be the super middleweight scrap between David Benavidez and David Lemieux. The two dynamite Daves have a combined record of 58 KOs in 68 victories. Benavidez is eight years younger, bigger by a massive margin and the clear favourite, and Paddy gives as much a chance of an upset as when Goliath faced, well, David.
Canada’s Lemieux is experienced, tough and he’s in great shape, and I think he could take an early lead. But Benavidez gets stronger the longer the fight goes on and I am picking Benavidez to win in rounds 10-12.
TV: Sky Sports Arena
Zhanibek Alimkhanuly is a serious individual – he has skills, size, pedigree, and he’s a southpaw, in other words, he’s a nightmare opponent. The Kazakh middleweight is tipped for big things but he has to get past Essex’s Danny Dignum first.
Danny is up against it but he’s no mug – he was a successful amateur himself and he’s unbeaten in 15 as a pro. I wouldn’t advise against the huge price for the British fighter to win, but my bet is on the even bigger odds on the draw!
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