Buatsi’s Quest for Olympic Gold

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     A spotlight on Great Britains Olympic Light Heavyweight Medallist Joshua Buatsi – At the age of 23 Joshua Buatsi has already cemented himself as one of British boxing’s hottest prospects following his endeavours in the Rio 2016 Olympics, as well as his championship honours in the English National Championships, his debut in the World Series of Boxing for the British Lionhearts in 2015 and winning the European Olympic Qualifying event in early 2016.

As a young amateur fighting in the English Youth National Championships, Buatsi was a regular 1st place winner from as young as 17 years of age and Runner up in the British Youth Championships the year after aged 18. His pedigree and experience as an amateur only grew with is participation in the World Series of Boxing going up against two of the some of toughest and most experienced Light Heavyweights in the non-professional ranks including Peter Mullenburg, the Dutch soldier, and Pavel Silyagin of Russia, a highly skilled Russian boxer who went onto win all of his 5 bouts in the WSB that year.

The same year he would face off against Peter Mullenberg for a second time, this time in the European Confederation Boxing Championships held in Bulgaria. He would go onto lose the bout however caught Mullenburg with a vicious uppercut that had his opponent stumbling around on weary legs trying to hold Buatsi for the remainder of the round.

Buatsi then began his Olympic campaign, travelling to Samsun, Turkey, for the European Olympic Qualifier. He would fight victoriosuly all the way to the final and come up against his foe whom he knows so well but had yet to beat officially in the ring, Peter Mullenberg. In the first round Buatsi boxed strongly on the front foot, exchanging straight shots with Mullenberg and landing several menacing hooks to the right side of the Dutchman’s body. The action heated up in the second and was punctuated by a hard right by Buatsi that sent Mullenberg stepping backwards. By the end of the third and final round Buatsi was confident he had done more than enough to secure himself victory by fighting toe to toe with his Dutch opponent and was not disappointed as the referee raised his hand in a uanimous decision victory.

His quest for the Olympic Gold continued taking him over 10,000 kilometres away in Rio De Janiero where he made his Olympic boxing debut vs Kennedy Katende of Uganda, whom was attending his second Olympics, also a WSB veteran of 10 bouts and a two time reigning Swedish champion.

Joshua started sharp, commanding from the centre of the ring and immediately landing heavy blows to the body of the Ugandan, who in return threw arching left hooks that caught Buatsi off guard with his right hand low early in the round. He intelligently picked up on his opponent’s intentions with the left hook and now had his own right and glued to his chin, whilst working the left hook to the body targetting below the right elbow of Katende. He started to force Katende into a corner and rocked his head with a straight right before unloading a right hook to the body that hurt his opponent. All three judges scored it 10-9 for Buatsi in the opener.

Buatsi applied more pressure in the second round and came out firing hard straight punches at Katende and catching him with a reverse 1-2 that sent him backwards onto the canvas. The referee from China ruled it a slip and action was resumed with Buatse landing a left uppercut to the head of the Ugandan. He did not let Kennedy dance too far away from him and kept him pinned to the ropes, before burying a right uppercut into the pit of Kennedy’s stomach that sent him into a shell and made him wilt into the ropes. More right hands swiftly followed through the high held guard and around the elbows as he picked his punches with accuracy and patience. The judges scored the second round in favour of Buatsi with two of the three scoring him 10-8 rounds all but assuring him a place in the next round.

In the final round Buatsi delivered several hard hooks to the battered body of the Ugandan veteran who began to throw less and less in return. Buatsi did not become over eager showing his pedigree and boxed sensibly behind his jab, still digging shots into the body. In the middle of the round Buatsi clubs Katende with a right hand onto the left side of the temple that forced him to take a knee and receive a count. As he stumbled to his corner his team threw in their towel to stop the bout and giving Joshua Buatsi a brilliant TKO victory.

Following his terrific performance, he was up against Elshod Rasulov of Uzbekistan, a highly skilled, durable and strong number 3 seed who was one of the favourites for the Gold Medal in his third Olympic games.

Round one started fast for South Londoner who landed several right hands on the front foot against the veteran southpaw. He kept up a high guard and edged his way forward as Rasulov danced on his toes and started to land quality leather of his own showing his class. Buatsi recovered and started firing back but could not land anything meaningful against his fleet footed opponent. The judges had it 2-1 in favour of the British boxer in a relatively even round.

Into the second round Buatsi started much like he did in the first, moving forward and throwing hard, hurtful punches at his opponent. He landed several good body shots to the body of Rasulov who started holding Buatsi until being pushed away by forcefully. A counter right hand late in the round staggered his opponent wearily across the ring and was quickly chased by Buatsi who throw several more before the bell rang. The judges scored it unanimously for Buatsi, who was now leading going into the final round.

The third and final round both boxers started to exchange hooks as Rasulov held his feet more. Buatsi kept up a high tempo and it paid dividends for him as he caught Rasulov squared up and sent him back into the canvas with a menacing right hand. Rasulov got to his feet looking glassy-eyed and did his best to hold onto Buatsi who injected an even greater pace in his boxing as Rasulov clumsily dropped to the canvas and took a second count from the referee before rising again. Joshua did not show mercy and pushed forward, intent on stopping the fight here, with a tremendous left hook right straight combination that dropped the Uzbek as fast as he had gotten up to end the bout scoring his second TKO of the tournament and moving into the Quarter Finals.

His Quarter final bout was versus experienced and skilled Algerian Abdelhafid Benchabla, a veteran who had fought in the WSB as well as being his nation’s flag bearer at the London 2012 games and the fourth ranked boxer in the world.

At the sound of the bell Buatsi offered no respect for the credentials of his opponent, throwing powerful hooks and straights which were skillfully evaded by his foe. Benchabla could not evade the leather for long and was caught by a left hook that made him dip at the knees that allowed Buatsi to work more shots at the Algerian. A quick combination to body and head by Buatsi caught Benchabla again and the referee intervened to issue a standing count. The opening round was all Buatsi and the judges scored it unanimously for him.

Round two Benchabla started briskly trying to force himself back in the contest but Buatsi was eagerly there with him. They exchanged left hooks which forced Benchabla backwards on his heels, before being hit by a right straight flush and causing him to reel further. Buatsi as he has shown capably used his instincts and gave no quarter to the Algerian by sending more shots to the midriff before the referee obliged to issue another standing count to Benchabla after only one minute twenty seconds of the round. By the end of the round Buatsi had left his mark on the ribcage and face of his foe with his powerful and accurate punching. The judges scored it unsuprisingly for Buatsi in the second who now had one foot in the Semi Finals.

The reigning two time African gold medallist continued to be run over by Buatsi’s inspired efforts in the third round. His confidence supreme now knowing bar a miraculous stoppage by his opponent he would be through and one step closer to the gold. He kept pummelling mercilessly at the rib cage of Benchabla, pounding away with hooks that were draining the tank of the Algerian, who’s punches at this stage had lost much of their pop. His courageousness was to be commended Benchabla, but he found himself in the corner again being hurt with every punch thrown by Buatsi. His jabs now not registering the guard of Benchabla piercing straight through, followed by uppercuts and straight punches. At the end of the round Buatsi raised his own gloves knowing he had secured his passage to the semi final. The judges agreed and gave him a wide unanimous decision victory.

His next fight will be against Adilbek Niyazmbetov of Kazakhstan in the semi final on Tuesday the 16th of August during the evening session of the Olympic Boxing.

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