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Fight Camp results and highlights: Joshua Buatsi stops Ricards Bolotniks to win WBA eliminator

The prospect didn’t have it all his way, but came through in a good main event.

Ian Walton/Matchroom Boxing
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Joshua Buatsi was said to be going into his toughest pro test to date, and Ricards Bolotniks gave him just that, battling until Buatsi finished things with an 11th round TKO.

Buatsi (15-0, 13 KO) started pretty well in the first half of the fight, using his jab as a key weapon and keeping Bolotniks (18-6-1, 8 KO) at bay enough, though the rugged Latvian certainly landed his share of good shots along the way.

Buatsi put Bolotniks down in the sixth round, and it’s a credit to Bolotniks that he got up and continued. But he not only did that, he battled back to do well in the seventh and eighth rounds, and Buatsi was also docked a point in the eighth for repeated low blows, a fair penalty from referee Howard Foster.

Bolotniks continued to hang tough in the fight, but then with about a minute left in the 11th round, he was nailed with a hard right hand that put him down and forced Foster to stop the fight.

“Big credit to him, he pushed me,” Buatsi said. “I worked every round, but I want to give credit to him, he’s a great champion.”

Buatsi gave special credit to his sparring partners and the team behind him for preparing him for a hard fight.

“Unbelievable performance,” promoter Eddie Hearn said. “I don’t know what Bolotniks is made of, I thought he was unbreakable. But that’s what you need (if you’re Buatsi), you need someone who doesn’t stop. Tonight, he showed he’s ready. You can’t go from knocking people out for fun to in with Bivol and Beterbiev and Joe Smith.”

Asked what’s next for Buatsi, Hearn replied, “Possibly a fight in America next. I like December. You’ve got Dmitry Bivol, you’ve got Joe Smith, you’ve got Beterbiev. There’s no easy route to a world championship and there shouldn’t be. I see (Buatsi) having one more Stateside, probably November, December, and then that’s it. Joshua Buatsi against Dmitry Bivol at the O2 (in London), that’s the fight that can make him a star.”

Undercard Results

  • Joe Cordina TKO-1 Joshuah Hernandez: This is not to say Hernandez (10-4, 8 KO) should have been considered any threat to Cordina (13-0, 8 KO), but this was much more like the Joe Cordina who had people — including me — excited about his future a couple of years ago. His last couple of performances weren’t great, and he also had a hand injury that set him back pretty big, too. Here, he showed he’s no longer got any fear of throwing that hand, because he drilled Hernandez and finished this in 53 seconds. Maybe start considering Cordina back in action at 130/135 if you’d cooled on him. At 29, it’s time to get moving if he’s confident about where he is.

“That’s what people want to see,” promoter Eddie Hearn said. “People want to see explosive performances. People will be talking about Joe Cordina.” Hearn said he’d like to get Cordina back out before the end of the year, and then move into a world title eliminator, probably early next year.

  • Michael McKinson UD-10 Przemyslaw Runowski: McKinson (21-0, 2 KO) routed Runowski (19-2, 5 KO) in this one. I had him winning a shutout, 100-90, but the judges were a bit more kind to the Polish fighter, scoring it 98-92, 99-91, and 99-91. McKinson’s jab was the real weapon, and he wobbled Runowski a couple times, too. Runowski just couldn’t get anything going here, same as when Eddie Hearn brought him over to fight Josh Kelly in 2019. McKinson retains the WBO “Global” welterweight title, which itself means absolutely nothing no matter how hard David Diamante tried to make it sound like it does, but it does mean a high ranking with the sanctioning body.
  • Hopey Price PTS-6 Claudio Grande: The 21-year-old Price goes to 5-0 (1 KO) with a 58-55 points win here over Grande (5-1, 3 KO), a 26-year-old Italian who came in, not really a prospect, but certainly not an incompetent, and gave Price some decent work. The current plan is for Price to return on Matchroom’s Sept. 4 card under the Lara-Warrington rematch in Leeds, in a 10-round bout against Zahid Hussain (16-1, 2 KO), a local club fighter. Price’s best moment here came just before the final bell in the sixth round, a cracking shot that put Grande on the canvas.
  • Kash Farooq UD-10 Gerardo Castillo: Farooq (16-1, 6 KO) seemed to be experimenting some in this fight, working to get better off the back foot, which isn’t a bad idea at all. He’s not some big puncher and his pressure isn’t so great that he’ll want to rely on only that. So he didn’t pressure as much here, but his hand speed advantage made this one clear, as hard as Castillo (28-3, 18 KO) tried, and Castillo did land a few shots along the way in his first bout outside of Mexico. The British Boxing Board of Control did just order a rematch between Farooq and Lee McGregor, so that could be next, but it depends on whether or not McGregor actually wants to do it. He could just vacate his British title, as he also has the European belt and may be looking at bigger fights. But I wouldn’t count out the chance of it happening, either.
  • Raymond Ford TKO-3 Reece Bellotti: This was just the type of showing Ford needed after an iffy outing in March, where he got a draw with Aaron Perez in Texas. Ford (9-0-1, 5 KO) was in sort of sink-or-swim mode here as far as how much his prospect push was going to continue. A tough outing here, even if he’d won, might have told Matchroom to lay off some. Instead, Ford was sharp for two rounds, then hurt Bellotti (14-5, 12 KO) early in the third, and just kept throwing until referee Michael Alexander stopped it. Bellotti looked confused about the stoppage, but then he looked confused in general, legs were shaky and he was definitely rocked. Bellotti’s hope here was to pressure and get to Ford with some power, but it just didn’t happen for him, the American had the right plan and executed. At 22, a little reality check like Ford got with Perez isn’t the worst thing; if it tells him he has more to learn and he accepts that, it could make him a better fighter, and he took a good first step back here.
  • Zelfa Barrett RTD-4 Viorel Simion: Probably about time to say the squeeze has no more juice when it comes to booking the 39-year-old Simion (22-7, 9 KO), who has lost six of seven and hasn’t beaten someone with a winning record in five years. Over that time he’s lost to Scott Quigg, Shakur Stevenson, Denys Berinchyk, Samuel Molina, Gary Cully, and now Barrett. Barrett (26-1, 16 KO) dropped Simion in the first round on a body shot, but the Romanian vet did fight on, though without any success of note. The corner stopped it after four, more a mercy stoppage than anything.

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