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Craig Richards: Joshua Buatsi has played it safe, the safety cap is off now

Craig Richards will be an underdog again when he faces Joshua Buatsi, but believes he has the skills to win.

Craig Richards believes he’s proven more than Joshua Buatsi to date
Craig Richards believes he’s proven more than Joshua Buatsi to date
Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing

Craig Richards will be an underdog on Saturday against top light heavyweight prospect/emerging contender Joshua Buatsi, but feels he’s got a clear experience edge and will be able to ask questions of the younger fighter in their DAZN main event.

“It’s an exciting fight,” said Richards. “He’s been talked about as being ‘the guy’ in the division but I believe I’ve earned my place as ‘the guy’ in the division. People base that for him off speculation and for me off my wins, the talking is over now, and we’ll see who is number one.

“He did well as an amateur around the world and in the Olympics, you can’t argue with that. Are those skills transferable to the pros? He was tipped to be one of the fighters from that crop of Olympians to do big things. As a professional I’ve jumped into deep waters and proved myself, I’ve been the underdog time and time again.

“We’re yet to see that from Josh, there hasn’t been a fight he’s been in that anyone has said, ‘This is a 50-50 fight, I think Josh could lose this fight.’ Talking about who has the better CV, he’s unbeaten but I’ve had the hard fights. He’s had that amateur pedigree and has been guided into a safer journey. He’s earned that right, of course, but with me I have had to jump in, sink or swim, and he’s played it safe, but the safety cap is off now.”

On paper, in all honesty, it’s a somewhat questionable claim to say the 32-year-old Richards (17-2-1, 10 KO) has done anything particularly more notable than the 29-year-old Buatsi (15-0, 13 KO). His best wins have come at domestic level against fighters like Andre Sterling and Shakan Pitters, and he did hold the British title briefly (never defending it).

Richards’ most noteworthy fight is a loss, to Dmitry Bivol just about a year ago. The score cards in that fight — with Richards losing 115-113 and 115-114 on two of them, but 118-110 on the other — look even better now that Bivol has beaten Canelo Alvarez. But the question then, and I think it’s a fair one if you watch the fight, is whether Bivol was trying to do much in the last third of the bout, or if he was simply cruising, feeling he had it locked up.

Richards, of course, feels that widespread belief is unfair — and may be exactly right to think so.

“If you see the performance I put in against Bivol against the performance Canelo put in, our fight was closer,” said Richards. “If I had started a bit quicker, I could have won the fight and I gave him problems. I had to go through negative commentary, people pushing this agenda that ‘Bivol had an off-night.’ Every time I beat someone, they have an off-night. How come it can’t be that I am good, and I am making these fighters look not as good as people say because of my skill?

“Bivol said of me that my IQ was good, it was a thinking fight and that I was setting traps for him and was reading what I was going to do. He even said to Eddie afterwards backstage, ‘Where the fuck did you find this guy?’ He was impressed with me and said I was good. We both knew the fight was close and he got the nod, but he knew I did well.

“Saturday is what matters. Getting credit now or then, it doesn’t really change anything. If I don’t go and perform, everything I’ve done is dead and buried. I’ve dealt with a lot of negatives around my performances and my career, I think that the Bivol performance and then his win over Canelo is going to increase the attention and that people will see I gave him a harder fight and that might change people’s opinions of this fight.”

For whatever it’s worth, Bad Left Hook had Bivol winning the first eight rounds of the bout before he took his foot off the gas, with Richards winning the last four for a 116-112 Bivol card.

This, however, is a big opportunity for Richards again, and one where he might have better odds in reality than he does on the sportsbooks. Buatsi, also a former British champ who didn’t defend the belt at all, has had some fights where he didn’t look as great as might have been expected to look, and Richards is a crafty fighter who can nick rounds.

“Joshua believes in himself, and he just wants to execute the plan in his head, he won’t be thinking of me,” Richards said. “I’ve been the underdog many times and it never bothers me; it doesn’t change the outcome for me. You still have to do the work in there.”

Bad Left Hook will have live coverage for Buatsi vs Richards on Saturday, May 21, starting at 2 pm ET.