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A month ago, Dmitry Bivol was little more to Craig Richards than the figure behind one of the two defeats on his record. Despite his status as WBA champion, there was little to suggest the Russian would soon be the man to beat at light-heavyweight.
Bivol’s extraordinary points victory over Canelo Alvarez has changed everything. This was a division ready to re-welcome the Mexican as king and despite his obvious disadvantages when it comes to size, few would have been confident of dethroning him.
Instead, it is Bivol that lies ahead for Richards and Saturday night’s opponent Joshua Buatsi. Many, including the Klitschkos, do not think Bivol should be allowed to fight at all while his country’s war in Ukraine continues. But both Buatsi and Richards inevitably think he is beatable, and hope he will face the winner of their all-British showdown on Saturday night.
Buatsi has an unbeaten record to defend (15-0). An Olympic bronze medallist, there has been huge excitement surrounding the 29-year-old, tempered by a feeling that he is running out of time to make a significant step up.
So this feels a real coming-of-age moment. Think Daniel Dubois vs Joe Joyce; a young, hyped-up fighter going toe-to-toe with a British rival to show how good he really is. Dubois unfortunately fell at that hurdle due to a nasty eye injury, but the big question mark against Buatsi is how he will fare if he doesn’t finish the job quickly.
He has only once gone beyond seven rounds, when it took him eleven to knock out Ricards Bolotniks. The addition of veteran trainer Virgil Hunter and their work together in the US has been timely nonetheless.
Richards has only lost twice in his career, once to Bivol and once to Frank Buglioni (and that was five years ago). He and Buatsi are both well-positioned enough that this fight could have fallen through; for all the intrigue, the hostility borne of a south London derby (Croydon meets Crystal Palace), the pair could have been too busy eyeing greater horizons – so promoter Eddie Hearn is delighted it has got over the line.
“This is a kind of fight that gets me excited, this is the kind of fight that seems so obvious,” he said. “Two brilliant domestic fighters but also two world class fighters as well.
Buatsi and Richards have shared a ring in sparring and actually faced one another as amateurs – the former coming out on top on points over three rounds, before he was selected to represent Team GB in Rio. Saturday night is about the future, though, and if it’s not Bivol lying in wait, it could be Anthony Yarde, who is likely to meet the winner of Artur Beterbiev vs Joe Smith Jr.
That makes it a hugely exciting time for British boxing at 175lbs with Callum Smith and Dan Azeez also in the mix, and the Buatsi fight will be a great advert for it.
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You can sign uphereto receive it straight to your inbox on Saturday mornings.Video: FULL FIGHT | Dmitry Bivol vs Craig Richards
Buatsi vs Richards details
- Date:Saturday 21 May
- Venue:The O2 Arena, London
- Fight time:Ring walks for the main event are expected around 10pm UK time
- TV/live stream:DAZN, with subscriptions from £7.99 a month
- Undercard highlights:In a perfect world, unified light-welterweightworld champion Chantelle Cameron would be taking on WBA and WBO champion Kali Reis in an undisputed showdown. Instead, she’s facing Victoria Bustos with that fight having fallen through but it will still be a huge chance for Cameron to make a statement – especially as she’s been joining calls for women’s boxing to switch to three-minute rounds this week, so she will want a dominant performance to back up those claims
- i predicts: Richards will be Buatsi’s toughest opponent yet but he’s still the favourite and while he might not be able to outbox him, we’re going for a Buatsi win by KO rounds 7-9
- Joshua Buatsi vs Craig Richards
- Alen Babic vs Adam Balski
- Robbie Davies Jr. vs Javier Molina
- Chantelle Cameron vs Victoria Bustos
- Ellie Scotney vs Maria Cecilia Roman
- Cheavon Clarke vs Pawel Martyniuk
- John Hedges vs Robert Balturu
- Shiloh Defreitas vs Iliyan Markov
- Cyrus Pattinson vs Dimitri Trenei
Mayweather vs Moore details
The unfortunately named “Showcase in the Skies of Dubai” is… no longer in the skies. It was supposed to take place on the roof of the iconic Burj Al Arab in Dubai, a bit like The Beatles. Now it’s at the Etihad (no, not that one, although there are only going to be a few hundred people there). What goes up must come down.
Originally scheduled for 14 May, Floyd Mayweather’s latest exhibition against Don Moore in the UAE had to be postponed following the death of President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan at the age of 73, which prompted a three-day suspension of work.
“I was able to leave boxing on my own terms and now the boxing critics are upset that I am still able to milk and finesse the sport of boxing by throwing exhibitions,” Mayweather says.
Should you be so inclined, at least it’s not on late. Coverage starts from 7pm in the UK.
- Date:Saturday 21 May
- Venue: Etihad Arena, Abu Dhabi, UAE
- Fight time:Ring walks for the main event are expected around 9pm UK time
- TV/live stream:The only way to watch it in the UK is by streaming via Frontrow and it costs $19.99 (£16)
- Undercard highlights:It seems pretty small fry for former two-weight world champion Badou Jack to be on the undercard of an event like this no matter how lucrative. He takes on Hany Atiyo
- i predicts: If we learned anything from Mayweather’s exhibition with Logan Paul it’s that he’d like it to go the distance for the extra PPV £££
- Anderson Silva vs Bruno Machado
- Delfine Persoon vs Maiva Hamadouche
- Badou Jack vs Hany Atiyo
Any other business
Claressa Shields has hit out at Savannah Marshall for pushing back their super-fight to September after arm surgery. “If I was the one injured, we’d be fighting 9 July or 30 July,” she tweeted. “[It] wouldn’t be ‘oh let me heal up and fight September'”.
Former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq, who was found to be a victim of “racial harassment and bullying” at the county last year, has criticised Amir Khan after comments he made about Asian athletes’ diets. “We’re not supposed to be good sportsmen and women,” Khan said. “Our diet is appalling. It’s curries.” In response, Rafiq told Sky News: “Khan’s comments reinforce lazy stereotypes about Asian athletes when there’s clear data out there to disprove that.”
Eddie Hearn also became embroiled in a row with Peter McCabe, chief executive of brain injury charity Headway, on Good Morning Britain. Hearn accused McCabe of being “naive” in a debate over the dangers of boxing. “It irritates me that this notion that the only way for working-class boys to get on is to take up boxing,” McCabe said. “And as somebody who grew up on a council estate in one of the most deprived areas of the country, there are so many sports that teach discipline and encourage kids to train and work and have ambition. And those sports don’t involve hitting somebody punching somebody in the head.”