Joking and laughing with friends in the changing room, then the call comes: ‘Joshua, you’re on in thirty minutes.’
The relaxed atmosphere goes quiet, the thudding and the pounding of the pads is the overwhelming noise coming out of Joshua Buatsi’s pre-fight environment. The switch has been flicked. No emotion, just blank.
“I start thinking. I’ve got someone warming up to hit me in the face,” said the 25-year-old describing what it is like to be in amongst it all moments before he goes to work.
Buatsi is a light heavyweight prospect filled with poise, accuracy and power. Three attributes that he has displayed in his seven professional fights to date and have him rightly regarded as one of the world’s hottest boxing talents. His eighth contest comes on October 13 in Newcastle against, he hoped when GiveMeSport spoke to him, a British opponent.
Buatsi the man is one of family, sticking to who you have always known and reminding himself to be grateful for what he has.
Having spent the first nine years of his life there, Buatsi would leave Ghana in August 2002 with his family to forge a life in England. English was already in his vocabulary, as was the ability to adapt.
“No matter where I’m put I know how to adapt to that way of life.”
The memories of Ghana for Buatsi are ones of sunny days, freedom, hanging about with his cousins, going to school but seeing life from a different angle.
“It’s not everyone who has everything that they want or that they need. It’s only when you go to a different part of the world that you crave more things and you claim that you may not be happy or content if you don’t have certain things but living and growing up there showed me that you have to deal with what you have.”
You could speak to Joshua Buatsi about his perspective on life as much as you could about boxing. His answers and his own philosophies are of a man who will not be seduced by the side of boxing that can swallow your career and bank balance before you’ve even had time to sit down and relax. His circle is close, it’s tight-knit and even contains a friend who once bashed him around in Croydon when they were kids. What followed was six weeks of training over the summer holidays and the rest is history.
“He’s still my best friend. He has to be. He introduced me to the sport.”
Buatsi is learning about boxing inside and outside the ring. “Learning on the job,” as he put it. The 2016 Olympic Bronze medallist has already recognised the fact that in boxing people sometimes put business over a friendship. It’s brutal in some respects but business is business, unfortunately, something that he accepts and moves on with.
Since signing a promotional deal with Eddie Hearn in June 2017, as well as a deal with Anthony Joshua’s AJ Boxing management team, the St Mary’s University graduate has been lighting up venues and gaining plaudits from fans and media with his performances.
His power, relaxed fighting style, and punch selection has, in particular, Hearn drooling each time he speaks about him, and you can see why. He may well be the future of the light heavyweight division but Buatsi remains grounded, level-headed and like any prospect says the right things about seeing what he needs to improve on rather than looking too far ahead of himself.
His Matchroom stable-mate Josh Kelly (welterweight), another Team GB 2016 Olympian, was stepped up in class significantly in his sixth fight back in March against the veteran and former world champion Carlos Molina. It was the right move at the right time. Many are calling for something similar for Buatsi sooner rather than later.
“Each weight class is different,” he began answering when GiveMeSport put that point to him.
“If you’re a welterweight you might look at it and think, actually the top 15 they’re not that good but for myself the light heavyweight division is strong nationally and internationally, so this is why I stay off from comparing myself to other people who certainly are doing well but are not in my weight category. That’s the stance I take it but ultimately everyone’s doing what they have to do but I’m aware that my division is a totally different ball game to most of these weight classes.”
While the 175lb world champions are, for the time being, a distant view for Buatsi from where he sits in the rankings there is a growing desire to see him face fellow unbeaten Brit Anthony Yarde.
Promoted by Frank Warren, Yarde is an integral part of BT Sport’s push to become the go-to broadcaster for boxing. Some verbal exchanges, via the media, between Warren and Hearn have intensified the want to see the fight. The likelihood is that the fight is as near to happening as Buatsi is to challenging the top dogs at light heavyweight but that doesn’t stop the question from having to be asked.
“Firstly, what it is people have to understand is that anyone in the division will fight anyone. In this instance, it just happens to be that is the name people want to see me box, so it’s probably addressed more. There’s no animosity, nothing personal or anything specifically directed at Yarde, just the fact that people want to see the fight. That’s it, there’s nothing wild about it."
"People think he’s good, people think I’m good, people are curious to see who would win. I’m taking the boxer’s stance because that’s what I am, and I think the person who would have the better answer would be Eddie in terms of when the fight would happen or if it would actually ever happen.”
Hearn has openly stated he would take the fight, Warren suggested that Buatsi should fight fellow Matchroom 175lbrs Frank Buglioni or Hosea Burton. Like any good old-fashioned British boxing rivalry this one will run and run.
“You can’t really get ahead of yourself just because you’re beating people that you’re supposed to. I’m just grateful for what’s happening, with what I’m doing so far, and I can’t let it get to my head because boxing is not everything.”