Travel restrictions will put a damper on boxing for a while longer, even with the major league promoters all gearing up to return by the end of July, including Matchroom Boxing.
With promoters being unable to bring in fighters from foreign countries, the matchmaking is going to be very limited. Eddie Hearn has said he wants to come back with good fights, not just stay-busy bouts and tune-ups, but that’s going to be tougher to do for everyone, even if they want to do it.
One option Hearn admits could be on the table, though, is a light heavyweight showdown between former world title challenger Callum Johnson and top prospect Joshua Buatsi.
“It could be the way we end up going,” Hearn told Sky Sports. “I don’t really like making fights between two of our own guys. But I understand that Johnson vs Buatsi is a fantastic all-British fight. It could be for a world title. In the short-term it could be for a European title. I know Johnson and Buatsi like this fight.”
The 34-year-old Johnson (18-1, 13 KO) is a former British and Commonwealth champion who challenged Artur Beterbiev for the IBF title in Oct. 2018. Johnson, who fears nobody, went toe-to-toe with the fearsome Russian. He lost, getting stopped in the fourth round, but he also dropped Beterbiev and gave it a hell of a go.
The 27-year-old Buatsi (12-0, 10 KO), a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, won the vacant British title in Mar. 2019 with a domination of Liam Conroy, and has stopped veterans Marco Antonio Periban and Ryan Ford in his last two.
Johnson’s aggressive nature is always fun to watch, while Buatsi has power and still-developing skills in his game.
“It’s risky for both,” Hearn says. “Risky for Johnson because he’s looking for a world title shot and would be fighting an undefeated domestic contender. Risky for Buatsi because Johnson is world-level and he hasn’t boxed at that level yet.”
Hearn believes the fight could potentially be for the European light heavyweight title, which is currently vacant. Johnson was supposed to face Igor Mikhalkin (23-2, 10 KO) for the belt, but that fight was scrapped in the COVID-19 shutdown. Both Johnson and Mikhalkin are considered “mandatory challengers” for the title, while Buatsi is the No. 1 ranked contender otherwise. It could potentially be worked so that Mikhalkin “steps aside” to allow Johnson-Buatsi to happen, with a guarantee that he gets the next shot.