Matchroom: Buatsi vs Bolotniks Predictions
Time to light a candle. After Buatsi vs Bolotniks finishes on Saturday, it will mark the end of a wonderful three-week ride of fight camps. Stacked with meaningful fights and 50/50 affairs, the stacked calendar is the perfect return for Eddie after spending a little too long with his American endeavours. Having said that though, Eddie has managed to sneak a couple of lads over the Atlantic. Raymond Ford, in particular, is a fine young prospect to keep an eye on. A highly decorated amateur, securing two national Golden Gloves, Ford will be looking to find a highlight reel finish after an awkward split decision draw to Aaron Perez last time out.
Buatsi vs Bolotniks: Main Event
Joshua Buatsi (14-0, 12KO) vs Ricards Bolotniks (18-5-1, 8KO)
Light Heavyweight (175)
WBA International Light Heavyweight Title
Twenty-eight years old already, the Rio 2016 Olympian is primed to make his first baby step towards world level competition. Bolotniks may never have fought for a world title himself, but the Latvian has emerged as a European titan over the past couple of years. Light Heavyweight is a fairly barren division outside of the belt holders. It raises the question then, why isn’t Buatsi challenging his British counterparts? Bolotniks is a fine test, but the public wants to see Buatsi against Anthony Yarde, Lyndon Arthur, Callum Johnson and Craig Richards.
Again, it is understandable why Buatsi continues to climb the WBA rankings. Current WBA champ, Dmitry Bivol, looked thoroughly average in his last defence against Richards. Eddie knows that a fighter with a world title brings in more dollar bills, but in the process, it over matures domestic fights that have the potential to be Hall of Famers. Callum Johnson isn’t getting any younger, Yarde may well mentally implode under Tunji’s regime, and Arthur may have already secured the WBO by then.
Minor head-scratching aside, Joshua Buatsi is a loveable character to follow inside and outside the ring. In a sluggish performance against Marko Calic, Buatsi was at risk of losing his undefeated record. Calic, a fine amateur, out-manoeuvred a flat Buatsi who was peppered at range. Showing the heart of a champion, however, Buatsi forced his way inside Calic’s long limbs and broke the Croatian’s jaw. After such a scare, Buatsi looked like a fighter reborn against Daniel dos Santos. Despite occasions of static head movement at range, Buatsi was more far more active with his jab. Often just using his jab to tap an opponents guard, Buatsi prefers to commit to the body. Body jabs, straights and liver shots are utilised early, aiming to draw an opponents guard down, and leave their chin open later.
It is seemingly now or never for Ricards Bolotniks if he wants to climb towards a world title. After earning himself a fair bit of notoriety with a Golden Contract LHW tournament win, Bolotniks appears to have tightened his game over recent years. The Latvian may have his fair share of stoppage defeats, yet most occurred during his early career in difficult (likely too difficult) fights. Having trained with fellow countryman, Mairis Briedis, for the past couple of years – Bolotniks’ game has grown immensely.
Maintaining his aggressive, front-foot style, Bolotniks has refined his distance management and ring-cutting. Against Serge Michel in the Golden Contract LHW final, Bolotniks slipped almost every shot from Michel during the first two rounds through excellent positioning away. Standing just at the end of striking range, Bolotniks patiently waited for Michel to over-extend before pressuring his unbalanced opponent out of the centre. With Michel suffocated to the ropes, and the distance closed, Bolotniks opened up with long combinations – often starting with a digging uppercut. Despite a furious pace between both Bolotniks and Michel during the mid-rounds, the Latvian sustained his output.
Despite improvements to his counter-punching, it is still a laboured part of Bolotniks’ game. Buatsi possesses the strength to keep Bolotniks tied on his back-foot and unable to unleash his dangerous combinations on the inside. Micki Nielsen earned easy rounds against Bolotniks after the Latvian strangely attempted to stick and move. While Bolotniks will not make the same mistake again, Buatsi’s jab and educated feints may well prove too great a hurdle. Unlike Nielsen, Buatsi doesn’t linger watching his work – the only times that the Dane was hit cleanly.
Predicted Result: Buatsi TKO Round 8
Even with a career resurgence, Buatsi should prove to be a stylistic nightmare for the Latvian. Micki Nielsen was able to keep Bolotniks pinned on his back-foot with his straight shots. Buatsi’s probing jab, excellent feints and bodywork can keep Bolotniks unwilling to close the distance. Of course, since training with Mairis Briedis, Bolotniks’ distance management has improved immensely. Serge Michel was continually frustrated during the Golden Contract LHW final as he was unable to catch Bolotniks who was teasing just at the end of the German’s reach. Buatsi’s mastery of the jab, utilising it at times as a range-finder, will overcome this hurdle. Worse yet, Bolotniks’ defensive footwork is almost non-existent. While the head may be hard to touch, Buatsi’s tendency to target the body early will cause the Latvian huge troubles. For Bolotniks to win would require him to drag Buatsi into an ugly dog fight. Tangling limbs, standing on feet and using the head in the clinch – anything to stop Buatsi settling into a rhythm. Unfortunately for Bolotniks, he prefers a clean war on the inside, with a bit of breathing room to unleash his combinations.
Result: Buatsi def. Bolotniks // TKO Round 11 2:08
Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ❌
Buatsi vs Bolotniks: Co-Main Event
Michael McKinson (20-0, 2KO) vs Przemyslaw Runowski (19-1, 5KO)
WBO Global Welterweight Title
The Pompey feather-duster shocked a few folks when he decisively beat Chris Kongo last time out. The power puncher was left swinging at thin air, as McKinson masterfully boxed off the back-foot like a seasoned professional. Understandable, when you consider McKinson has climbed into the spotlight the hard way. Years of hard training camps, 50/50 fights and small hall shows involved McKinson beating a string of undefeated fighters and hot prospects. The Portsmouth clearly holds decent power belying his two KO victories, evidenced by his first-round knockdown against Kongo. McKinson’s preference to stick and move or stick and clinch means he rarely sits down on his shots, however. With slick head movement, it’ll only be against a fighter willing to crack the body that unravels McKinson. Of course, an opponent who maintains a very high pace and volume has a realistic chance of winning based on activity. Whether McKinson can rise to match a fierce twelve round pace is yet to be seen.
Runowski has ventured out of his native Poland only once. Considering that his only defeat occurred abroad, it doesn’t inspire much hope in his return trip to the UK. Nevertheless, Runowski has rebuilt after a decision loss to the slick Josh Kelly, claiming stoppage victories over the padded, Serhii Molchanov, and hardy, Michal Syrowatka. Unlike Kelly, who dominated off of the front-foot when he wasn’t showboating, Runowski will be allowed to lead the pace of the fight. Runowski’s straight shots are sharp and accurate, never really overextending and chasing opponents. Without any intricacy to the shots or footwork, however, Runowski’s telegraphed technique will not trouble McKinson. The best opportunities for Runowski to land will be exiting any clinches, regularly landing his short left hook on Josh Kelly while exiting the pocket.
Predicted Result: McKinson Decision
The Pompey feather-duster shocked a few folks when he decisively beat Chris Kongo last time out. A masterful back-foot boxer, McKinson’s preference to stick and move or stick and clinch explains his lowly KO%. Runowski, a limited fighter as seen against Josh Kelly back in 2019, will be allowed to dictate the pace on his return trip to the UK. Runowski’s straight shots are sharp and accurate, never really overextending and chasing opponents. Without any intricacy to the shots or footwork, however, Runowski’s telegraphed technique will not trouble McKinson. Runowski could trouble McKinson with a short left hook when exiting the pocket, but it is unlikely he will land often at range.
Result: McKinson def. Runowski // Decision (unanimous – 98-92, 99-91, 99-91)
Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️
Buatsi vs Bolotniks: Rest of the Card
Ukashir Farooq (15-1, 6KO) vs Luis Gerardo Castillo (28-2, 18KO)
vacant WBC International Bantamweight Title
Since the disputed split decision loss to fellow hot prospect, Lee McGregor, Farooq has sky-rocketed in competition quality. Dominating Angel Aviles and Alexander Espinoza, Farooq’s inside work is equal parts effective and entertaining. There are still questions left over Farooq’s ability to deal with the uglier sides of the sport – losing to McGregor largely due to his naivety in the clinch. Utilising the shoulder push-off in his last two fights seem to have papered over the biggest hole in Farooq’s game. Moreover, the spearing body jab against Espinoza was a fantastic shot to keep busy at range.
Luis Gerardo Castillo
Is this yet another time an unknown Mexican leaves his home country for the first time and stops a UK prospect dead in their tracks? Boasting an impressive stoppage record over a mixed bag of opponents, Castillo is an interesting character. Born deaf, Castillo’s impoverished background meant he was never able to learn formal sign language – leaving him speechless to the greater part of the world. After developing a personal relationship and communication with trainer, Adalberto Sanchez, the pair have had a successful run over the last twelve years. I really struggled to find any meaningful tape on Castillo, so it is pretty much guesswork I’m afraid.
Predicted Result: Farooq Decision
Since the disputed split decision loss to fellow hot prospect, Lee McGregor, Farooq has sky-rocketed in competition quality. Utilising the shoulder push-off in his last two fights seem to have papered over Farooq’s weakness in the clinch. Moreover, the spearing body jab against Espinoza is an excellent new weapon to keep busy at range. Boasting an impressive stoppage record over a mixed bag of opponents, Castillo is an interesting character. Born deaf, Castillo’s impoverished background meant he was never able to learn formal sign language. I really struggled to find any meaningful tape on Castillo, so it is pretty much guesswork I’m afraid. Farooq is a quality operator that isn’t far off making the step towards the world level. It would have to take a special performance from another unknown Mexican fighting away from the home to halt Farooq’s rise.
Result: Farooq def. Castillo // Decision (unanimous – 100-91, 100-90, 100-90)
Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️
Raymond Ford (8-0-1, 4KO) vs Reece Bellotti (14-4, 12KO)
vacant WBA Continental Featherweight Title
Raymond Ford is a spicy prospect to watch despite falling to a split decision draw over Aaron Perez. Pushed perhaps a little hard in his young career, Ford takes a forward step after failing to maintain to his 100% professional win record. A bold piece of match-making but Bellotti isn’t the same fighter he was back in 2018. Perez exposed the American’s limited defensive footwork when he refused to respect Ford’s power. If Ford is granted the distance, his jab will clock up regular rounds. No doubt Ford has taken the necessary steps to hone his counter-punching. A major red flag, if not, is Ford’s tendency to walk himself into corners, suffocating the space needed for his jab. By taking away Ford’s jab, he is unable to muster any meaningful offence.
After a couple of years of pretty tedious fights, it seems like Eddie’s patience has run out in regards to pushing Bellotti. Gill is a decent boxer, but his vulnerability to body shots has been known for some time. Bellotti’s awful game plan to engage in a jabbing war with Gill led to a boring yet inevitable loss against a naturally faster fighter. The same tactics against Raymond Ford may leave Bellotti unable to reach the final bell. A fluid mover, Bellotti is at his best when he is allowed to circle opponents and tap away with his straight shots. Unfortunately for Bellotti, he too easily creates scenarios to engage in extended exchanges on the inside. Outworked by power against Ryan Doyle, outworked by speed against Jordan Gill and Ryan Walsh. Even if Bellotti’s level peaks at Commonwealth, it would still be nice to see him find his power again and have a couple more memorable nights.
Predicted Result: Ford Decision
A bold piece of match-making but Bellotti isn’t the same fighter he was back in 2018. Aaron Perez exposed Ford’s limited defensive footwork when he refused to respect Ford’s power. If Ford is granted the distance, his jab will clock up regular rounds. If Bellotti can lay down a strong pace in a similar manner to the Jason Cunningham and Ben Jones fights, then he can expose Ford’s tendency to walk himself into corners. Suffocating Ford’s space takes away the American’s jab, the key tool behind all of Ford’s meaningful offence. Bellotti’s tendency to find himself on extended exchanges on the inside may benefit him in this one, but it seems his better days are past him.
Result: Ford def. Bellotti // TKO Round 3 0:39
Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Joe Cordina (12-0, 7KO) vs Joshuah Hernandez (10-3, 8KO)
Super Featherweight (130)
Doubts are beginning to creep in whether Cordina has the natural athleticism to take himself to the top. Since moving beyond domestic competition and taking on mediocre international competition, Cordina has struggled to impose himself physically. Although the majority decision against Faroukh Kourbanov was a bit of a shock, the fight itself was far more comfortable than the cards suggested. Sharp, snappy combinations lack a pep in the punch but remains classy aesthetic work. The Welsh Wizard is vulnerable to eating shots after slipping the initial handful, but he has shown a strong enough chin to justify his hands low style. With a long gas tank and the ability to craft six-punch combinations on the spot, Cordina is now arguably underrated by fans.
Fighting out of the USA for the first time, Joshuah Hernandez faces his biggest test to date. Outside of a surprise first-round TKO to Gavino Guaman, quickly rectified with his own stoppage victory just three months later, Hernandez is a ridiculously tough, durable front-foot fighter. Aiming to swarm opponents, he was able to launch decent work against Chris Colbert against the ropes. Cordina can be backed up at times and Hernandez will need to unload everything when the opportunity arises.
Predicted Result: Cordina Decision
Doubts are beginning to creep in whether Cordina has the natural athleticism to take himself to the top. The Welsh Wizard is vulnerable to eating shots after slipping the initial handful, but he has shown a strong enough chin to justify his hands low style. With a long gas tank and the ability to craft six-punch combinations on the spot, Cordina can still be comfortably backed. Fighting out of the USA for the first time, Hernandez is a ridiculously tough, durable front-foot fighter. Aiming to swarm opponents, he was able to launch decent work against Chris Colbert against the ropes. Cordina can be backed up at times and Hernandez will need to unload everything when the opportunity arises.
Result: Cordina def. Hernandez // KO Round 1 0:53
Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Buatsi vs Bolotniks
2021 Boxing Season
Takeaway comments: Farooq oozes class, we just gotta pray they schedule the McGregor rematch!
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