Joshua Buatsi sends message to Anthony Yarde over long-awaited showdown

Joshua Buatsi is confident his clash against Craig Richards will be the first of many all-British light-heavyweight showdowns to take place soon with a meeting with Anthony Yarde still in his sights.

Buatsi and Richards meet in what should be an enthralling south east London derby at the O2 Arena on Saturday night which will leave the winner within touching distance of a world title shot.

They are two among a pack of British fighters pushing for gold at 175lbs including former super-middleweight champion Callum Smith, former title challenger Callum Johnson and British and Commonwealth champion Dan Azeez.

Yarde is also firmly in that picture, expected to be next in line to fight the winner of IBF and WBC champion Artur Beterbiev against WBO king Joe Smith Jr, who will meet in their unification clash in June.

Earlier this year, Buatsi’s promoter Eddie Hearn revealed an offer had been made for the Croydon fighter to fight Yarde in a bout that has been eagerly talked up over the years. While that wait goes on, Buatsi insists the big names in the division can’t allow those fights to fall by the wayside.

Asked whether his bout with Yarde may have to wait until both are champions, Buatsi told Metro.co.uk: ‘Ideally that would be it. But everyone in the division seems to be busy. So are we going to wait until we are old or are we going to get it on?

‘We will see. Hopefully it gets to the point [where we fight] quickly. We have great light-heavyweights in this country so it would be a shame for us all to retire and none of that happens.’

Yarde has not fought since his revenge victory over Lyndon Arthur last December with Frank Warren opting against having his fighter compete on the Tyson Fury vs Dillian Whyte undercard in April.

While Hearn slammed the decision to effectively leave Yarde on the shelf, Buatsi, who won Olympic bronze in 2016, believes the promise of a shot at three world titles against the winner of Beterbiev vs Smith could be worth the wait.

‘How he and his team handles things is none of my business,’ Buatsi said.

‘But the plus side here is if he waits for his shot he has got a shot at three of them, so why not? One would say keep busy but then again if you have the opportunity, why put it at risk?

‘Everyone has got different approaches and opinions. Whatever he does, I hope it goes well and we can still mix it up at some point.’

Saturday’s bout against Crystal Palace fighter Richards also serves as an eliminator for the WBA title – the belt Dmitry Bivol defended in extraordinary fashion against Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez earlier this month.

With Canelo hopeful of securing a rematch against the undefeated Russian, the winner of Buatsi and Richards may have to wait for their shot.

‘I’m not worrying about what happens with Canelo and the rematch, it’s not going to benefit me,’ Buatsi said.

‘I have been preparing for Craig all year, I would not want to waste time or energy thinking about anything else, everything other than this fight has been very irrelevant to me. That is because I need to get 21 May out of the way then my life can carry on.’

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