Josh Buatsi batters Ricards Bolotniks, heads towards world title shot

Josh Buatsi

Mark Robinson

Josh Buatsi continued his march towards a World Title shot with a stunning 11th round knockout win over Ricards Bolotniks in their WBA Light-Heavyweight World Title Eliminator on the third and final week of Matchroom Fight Camp in Brentwood, Essex, live worldwide on DAZN.

Last year’s MTK Global Golden Contract winner represented the biggest test of Buatsi’s career, but the Croydon man passed the test impressively as he maintained his unbeaten record, progressing to 15-0 (13 KOs).

“Most importantly, I have to thank God for the victory. Different fighters have different things that work for them. I made it clear to you lot that that’s what works for me,” Buatsi told DAZN. “In my changing room, I don’t need to hear anything, don’t tell me what I did in camp, tell me Josh is written in the bible. That’s what gears me up when I walk down there, what’s written in the bible.

“I’m grateful, man. Bolotniks big credit to him. He pushed me. I think he said Josh hasn’t been past seven rounds before, so after seven, we’ll see. But I was there until 11 and landed a good shot. I worked every round, but I want to congratulate him – he’s a good champion.

“When I sat down, I said, ‘Buatsi who told you to empty the tank, you’ve got six left?’ but I’ve worked hard. You see, in camp, the sparring is hard, ma. Bigg credit to my sparring partners. They know who they are. I do a hard six-run, then a fresh one gets in, so into the second half, I said I’ve been here: I’ve done it before; I’ve been here many times in camp.

“I’ve got a great team, I’ve got a promoter that believes in me, he’s been pushing for fights like this because he knows I can do it. Tonight, I went out there and showed people I can do it. We build from here.

“We all make sacrifices. I don’t want to single myself out. Everyone sacrifices to be where they want to be in life. For me, yeah, I sacrificed. I’m always away from my family, and I truly miss them, but most importantly, I want to get to the top. I feel like I’m on the right team with the right people. I’ve got a great promoter who gives me the opportunities I need. I’ll keep sacrificing.”

Joe Cordina blew away Chicago’s Joshuah Hernandez inside the opening round to progress to 13-0 (8 KOs) and continue his pursuit of a World Title opportunity.

‘The Welsh Wizard’ was intent on causing damage from the opening bell, landing hurtful shots early on before dropping Hernandez with a stunning right hand that he never recovered from.

“Chris Colbert went eight rounds with Hernandez, and what I watched of it, it was quite a tough fight for him,” Cordina told Matchroom. “I watched that fight, and a couple of others of Hernadez and me and Tony came up with a game plan. We were going through in the changing rooms, and it came off a peach.

“I had to prove a point. In an interview earlier in the week, I said that I don’t criticize people I wouldn’t go to for advice. I don’t really value many people’s opinions, so yeah, it’s one of those things, you’re going to get people criticizing, and it’s whether you take it on board or not. A lot of people didn’t take into consideration that I’d been out of the ring for 16 months, had an operation on my hand. We proved the point tonight and got him out of there early on.

“I always look to get the win, box. If the knockout is there, I’ll take it. As soon as he threw his first jab, I knew he wasn’t going to catch me with that.

“My sharpness of feet and head movement would get me out of trouble. I started putting my lead hand downstairs and whipping the right hand over the top. But I caught him the first time. But I knew he was a little bit wobbly. I didn’t want to rush in and try and get him out of there straight away. But I knew if I could catch him twice with it, there’s going to be a third time.

“I did exactly that. We got him out of there in great fashion.

“I was watching Fight Camp last year, and there was no crowd, but even when there wasn’t a crowd, it felt like there was a massive atmosphere. When I saw the first Fight Camp week at home, I thought, ‘oh my god, I’m fighting there in two weeks, it’s going to be amazing. I’m glad that I’m able to tick it off my list now.

“Eddie watched me in York Hall in 2009 and said, ‘you’re going to be a World Champion.’ It’s nice to hear that, but I’ve got to keep improving, pushing on, and proving him right.

“I know I’ve got the ability to be a World Champion very soon, but I’ve just got to keep winning.

“I’ve got the ability to mix it with any of them, it’s just about taking those steps up the ladder to become a World Champion, and that’s what I plan on doing. Maybe have two weeks at home, go back to the gym and see what I want to do with Tony.

“I know people say it, but if you speak to my S&C coach and Tony, this was probably one of the best camps I’ve ever had. That’s with the boxing, plus my S&C. Everything just came together. Don’t get me wrong, I had to be at home for my newborn son, but everything’s coming together now. I’m glad I got the win tonight in great fashion, and now it’s time to build on it.”

Michael McKinson avoided a potential banana skin in Przemyslaw Runowski as he outpointed the brave Pole after ten rounds of skillful boxing from the Portsmouth man.

‘The Problem,’ now 21-0 (2 KOs), dominated on the cards to maintain his unbeaten record.

“I’m happy. That was easier than I thought it would be. I didn’t really get out of first gear,” McKinson told Matchroom. “But I visibly hurt him a few times. I boxed to instructions and got the win. I didn’t think he won a round against me, but he was a tough guy. He and his team were very confident beforehand. I liked the energy they brought all week, but I just had to show I was a level above, and I was a few levels above – I’m happy.

“They keep giving me harder opposition. They keep telling me it’s a step up, and I’m making it look easier and easier. People forget that I’m learning every day on the job; I’m developing, and who knows where I can be in a year or two. I’m in a position where many boxers dream of being in, all I can do is stay focused, keep learning, and keep working my way to the top.

“First time on the A-side, you know, not many people can say they’ve boxed in Gibraltar, and not many people can say they’ve boxed in Eddie’s back garden and done both this year. I can’t moan or complain. I’m really happy and blessed.

“2021, and my career has just started, 21-0 and making it look easy. I really want to keep stepping up, keep challenging myself, keep having more and more tests. I’m still learning, but I’m learning quickly and finding it easy now. I want opponents that will make me step through the gears. A few times, I hurt him there like I can punch, I don’t need to, I boxed to instructions. I didn’t really get out of first gear.

“But I believe I’m the best 147 pounders in the country. I like Conor, I get on well with him, but if he can’t get the two guys, the Brooks or the Khans, I’m always here. I’ll fight whoever they give me, I’ve never turned down a fight, and that’s a fact – I don’t plan on turning down fights. I really do believe in myself, and I believe in my development as well. I’m going to be going to the top, I promise you.

“I’m really happy for Liam Taylor because he never really gets a fair ranking, and he’s a good fighter, so I’m happy he’s got that opportunity. But I’m not far behind, I’d like the winner, but I’ll fight whoever makes sense and whoever my management team wants to get me next – the answer is always yes. That guy there I just beat took Josh Taylor to points on short notice. He had a full camp against me. His team was so confident talking to me in the hotel.

“As I said, I make their confidence fade round by round. They don’t call me ‘The Problem’ for no reason. I will be a problem as I step through the levels as the opposition gets better, trust me.

“Josh Kelly has got a lot of ability. He’s a skillful fighter. I like Josh – even after the Avanesyan defeat, I still think he’s a top fighter. Florian Marku talks a lot, doesn’t he? He didn’t know who I was a few months ago on social media in an interview. He said he didn’t know who I was.

“At least they’re talking about me now. Let him prove himself because I don’t think he’s proved himself at a decent level yet, not saying he’s not a good fighter, but he does need to prove himself as a fighter to be respected. Good luck to all of them. I wish nothing but the best for all my rivals, you know I’m here, and I’ll fight anybody.

“Even when we go back to proper arenas and stuff, wait till we get hundreds and hundreds of Portsmouth fans loud and proud. I’ve got great support, and it’s always growing; I know there’s a lot of people that didn’t come today, but when they’re allowed, everyone will see the Portsmouth fans.”

Hopey Price continued his ring education with a solid six-round points win over Claudio Grande. The 21-year-old from Leeds was in control throughout, and his dominance showed in the final round when he floored the Italian with the last punch of the fight. Grande made it to his feet but was defeated 58-55 on the referee’s card.

Price’s fifth win in the pro ranks sets up a showdown with Leeds rival Zahid Hussain (16-1, 2 KOs) on the huge Mauricio Lara vs. Josh Warrington 2 show at the Emerald Headingley Stadium on September 4.

“It was a good performance, considering I had six months outside the ring, which for a young prospect like me isn’t ideal,” Price told Matchroom. “You can spar as much as you want, but it’s not the same feeling as when you’re under the lights. Now looking forward, I’ve got Leeds in three weeks, that’s put me in very good stead – you’ll see the best of me in three weeks.

“I remember Dave [Coldwell] shouting at me finish strong, finish strong, and he was coming in – what we’ve been working on in the gym – I felt like I was catching him with that shot all fight, and he just walked onto it lovely at the end, and he was gone.

“I’m not fighting these journeymen and people with losing records. That’s a proper fight. He’s 5-0, three knockouts. I’m sure he wanted to be a star over there in Italy. He was coming to win and was defeated. I put a stop to that and gave him his first loss.

“You began to see it, it’s been coming slowly but surely, now over the next year or so, you’ll see the best of me.

“I feel like I’m developing more like a fighter under Dave and more as a man – big thanks to Danny Wilson at Boxing Science, he’s making me a lot stronger, and I think you saw it there in the last ten seconds. I’m not just a young kid that people can walkthrough.

“I want to go right to the top. I don’t want to be a World Champion. Soon, I want to be a pound-for-pound star, and Dave’s the man to take me there. I’ll keep listening, learning, developing, and I promise you I will get there one day.

“I think fighting in Leeds on September 4 shows the confidence and ability – and the confidence my team has in me – to take a fight like that three weeks before and coming through with flying colors, no injuries. I’m ready to go to my hometown in front of 20,00 fans. I’ll steal the show there 100%.

“I’m ready for Zahid Hussain, 100%, I was ready for it back in September, and the magic man didn’t turn up. So, we’ll see this time if he comes, and if he does, I promise Hopey Price will come out the victor.

“I said it from my second pro fight, I believe there are levels to boxing, and my boxing brain is one of the best in Britain. I believe I’m levels above Zahid Hussain.”

Kash Farooq showed off his wide repertoire of skills to better Luis Gerardo Castillo and picked up the vacant WBC International Bantamweight Title.

The Mexican fighter never stopped coming forward, but he had no answer for Farooq’s frequent bursts. Scores from the ringside judges were 100-90 x 2 and 100-91.

“I boxed to the game plan, that was it, you want to get in there and always entertain, but I followed the game plan that was it,” Farooq told Matchroom. “I listened to my trainer, and he just told me to box. You couldn’t get any footage of him, so I didn’t know what he was about. I adapted on the night and did what I had to do.

“I showed tonight the other side of me that can box as well. He’s not world-class, but it’s a different side of my boxing that I showed. He was tough and game. We didn’t know what we were up against.

“If you let anybody hit you, they can punch. He had a bit of sting to his punches, but the game’s name is hit and doesn’t get hit, and that’s what I did in this fight.

“He [Gerardo] can’t speak and can’t hear, so it’s something different, people were saying he’s come to win, and this was going to change his life, these types of boys want to win, but he was up against me so – I wanted to win as much as he did.

“These boys are coming from nothing, some of them grew up in poverty, and it’s a different lifestyle in Mexico – they fight for a living to make their lives better. It’s either him or me, and it wasn’t going to be me today.

“It was another learning fight for me, and I’ll progress again. It’s something I picked up – for me. It’s just about developing and getting better. This is just another clinical performance by me.

“My job is to fight, and they tell me what route they’re going to go through. If I had a choice, I’d fight [McGregor], but it’s down to them, and they’ll make the right decision for me.

“He wants to fight as I do, but he’s got managers telling him what the best options are like I do as well. In the next few weeks, my managers will sit down with Eddie and discuss the best options and what route to go down – if it’s that one next, I’m more than happy to take it.

“It is a big fight for Scotland. Lee and I can sell out the SSE Hydro; if it’s the right time and has a good build, we can do it. It’s just him and me boxing each other.

“For me, I’ll take a few days off, but it’s back to training. When I really take some time off is when I call it a day and retire. Now I’ve still got levels to progress, go back to the gym, and work on things. It’s a lifestyle in boxing and a short career. You don’t know when retirement is coming. For me, I’m going to put everything into boxing for the next few years of my life.”

Raymond Ford earned his first title in the pro ranks by stopping Reece Bellotti in three rounds to capture the vacant WBA Continental Featherweight crown.

The New Jersey youngster promised to steal the show ahead of his second fight in the UK and went some way to backing up his pre-fight prediction by turning in a savage performance.

The 22-year-old demonstrated why he is regarded as one of the hottest prospects in US boxing as he took out Watford’s Bellotti with a quality attack in the third.

“In the third round, I was going to start to box and slow it down because I was throwing too many fast, hard shots to hurt him early,” Ford told Matchroom.

“My team told me to settle down because we had ten rounds to go, and when he came on and ran into the shot. I knew if I didn’t get him out of there when I had him hurt, he would be tough and keep coming forward. When I hit my shot, I had to get him out of there.

“It feels great, one of my dreams that came true, the real dream and goal are to get to these World Championship titles.

“I knew that he [Bellotti] was kind of the bully and everything, so I wanted to beat the bully in the fight. I heard a lot about his power, guys saying his power was up there at the top, I just wanted to show I can be a bigger bully, and that’s what I did.

“But I said yesterday that I was going to handle the pressure. I was starting to warm up and settle in. But the more the fight would have gone, the more you would have seen me relaxed and be sharper. I was getting hit by some dumb shots, but that was because I was warming up and getting a feel of everything – being back after five months.

“I love it in the UK. People have been showing me love all week, so I want to come back and fight here again. I want to be one the greatest to ever do it, not just in my division. I want to be the best and go down as a legend.

“It’s important to be patient, but I feel like I have the skills, and I was blessed with the talents I have where I can fight these top guys at a young age. I want to keep stepping up and get these tougher fights.”

Zelfa Barrett stopped Romania’s Viorel Simion in four rounds to potentially set up a rematch with Kiko Martinez later this year. The Manchester man dominated from the opening bell, forcing Simion back with hurtful shots landing at will.

“It was good to get back out there, a long layoff since February, an active fighter is a good fighter,” Barrett told Matchroom. “As you guys know, my mum passed away in June, so we’ve had a lot going on. I wanted to go in there and tear him apart professionally, but they put the reigns on me.

“Sometimes I was eager to go and wanted to unload on him, but my uncle is the greatest coach. I just listened to what he was saying. He was taking punishment, and he didn’t continue the fight. I was putting more pressure on and letting my hands go.

“It’s a thing of believing in yourself, I know I’ve got the punching power, and when you hit correctly, it hurts anybody. We were working on it with the body pad before we came out, and the shots just landed, and he went down. The right body shot would hurt any man, so it was about following what I’ve been practicing in the changing rooms – good performance after a long layoff.

“There are some good fighters on this card. I believe I’m one of the best fighters in Britain aside from your World Champions, I believe it, and I believe in myself; otherwise, I wouldn’t be here. That fight had to finish like that. If it went 8 rounds, I’d have to be questioning myself as a fighter that will be world champion.

“He wasn’t able to continue. He quit, no disrespect to him, but he quit. Making a man quit is better than any knockout because his brain hasn’t shut down, the ref hasn’t jumped in, he’s physically quit. Good little fight, good little stoppage.

“I’m doing it for myself because I want to be a successful man. That’s all I want to be, I believe in God, and God will make that happen. I’ve got more motivation, my beautiful daughter Amelia and my beautiful mum on me, my brother, and my cousin Wayne. I’ve got three angels watching me onto the next one now, and thanks to everyone for watching.

“It was better than nothing. I would love to be on about 8 o’clock just looking out. It just brings something out of a fighter that you didn’t think you had. I don’t know, I love it, you can’t buy that feeling that you get, that’s when I’ve had my best performances when there are crowds, and I can feel their energy.

“I’d love that fight [Kiko] in Manchester. I respect Kiko as a person. He’s a cool guy. He believed he won. I know I won. The judges thought I won. We can run it again because I want to, not because anyone else wants to, but because I want to. We can run that again, and I’ll look good doing it.

“I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing, don’t get me wrong, the European Titles out there I’d love to get because you know you’re ready for that jump. We can’t cherry-pick, Eddie’s a man who gives you opportunities, and you’ve got to be ready. I’d love a shot at the European, but now I’m just going to rest, spend time with my beautiful daughter. Daddy’s a champ, and I’m her champ, on to the next.”

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