Manchester’s AO Arena plays host to a triple-header of European title fights on Saturday night with Joshua Buatsi nominally headlining in a WBA International contest.
Terri Harper’s unification contest with Hyun Mi Choi was scheduled for the show until Harper was forced to withdraw and undergo surgery on her hand. Stepping into the limelight will be Buatsi who looks to make it 14-0 against, unbeaten Frenchman, Daniel Blenda Dos Santos.
To say Dos Santos is an uninspiring opponent is to state the obvious but sometimes the obvious answer is the right one! When the card got announced, Joshua Buatsi was the only fighter without a named opponent prompting much skepticism and speculation on social media about potential foes.
Dos Santos was announced to little fanfare and there’s very little information available about him: except for a feature piece with France3 last year.
The biggest talking point to this fight is Buatsi’s link-up with Virgil Hunter and what differences to Buatsi we might spot now he’s based himself in California. What we can expect from Daniel Blenda Dos Santos is anyone’s guess but this really should be the last routine run-up for Buatsi before facing some stiffer opposition.
Tommy McCarthy defends his EBU cruiserweight title against Romanian contender Alexandru Jur. Having taken the Italian job – with wins over Francesco Cataldo and Fabio Turchi – since losing to Richard Riakporhe in 2019, McCarthy was rewarded with a European title shot last October.
The 30-year-old edged out Bilal Laggoune to secure the belt and proceeded to call out Mairis Briedis in the post-fight interview. That fight with Laggoune, a majority decision, proved a hard-fought contest but it was the middle rounds in which McCarthy stamped his authority and kept his nose ahead thereafter.
Jur, 36, is a man that seems to have been around for an age without bridging the gap to ‘the next level’. He’s been in with Dmitry Kudryashov and Krzysztof Wlodarczyk but consistently fallen short against the big names of the cruiserweight division.
At 168lbs Lerrone Richards faces former WBA ‘Regular’ titlist, Giovanni de Carolis for the vacant EBU super middleweight strap. Richards signed with Matchroom Boxing last year having captured British and Commonwealth titles under the guidance of Frank Warren.
The 28-year-old has grown a steady reputation domestically with wins over Tommy Langford and Lennox Clarke. Critics say he has a little over-easy style and is reluctant to step on the gas but, really, thus far he’s not been required to go particularly deep in order to win a fight. His last outing, an eight-rounder against Timo Laine, can best be described as an introductory bout for the Matchroom fanbase with very little learned on the night.
De Carolis is a former WBA ‘Regular’ though don’t let that count for too much with the Italian looking downright average in recent bouts. This really should be an opportunity for Lerrone Richards to showcase his flair, skill and explosiveness: the stoppage is on but don’t be surprised if Richards plays it breezy for twelve rounds.
European super bantamweight champion Gamal Yafai faces Jason Cunnigham in Yafai’s first defence of the title. Yafai, 18-1, has built his profile quietly since a sole career loss against Gavin McDonnell in March 2018. The Birmingham man had three routine victories – over Jose Aguilar, Brayan Mairena and Lee Clayton – before challenging Luca Rigoldi for the EBU title last December.
Yafai produced a classy twelve rounds to outbox his Italian opponent and take the belt away from him with relative ease. Jason Cunningham is a voluntary defense with The Iceman ranked 11th by the European Boxing Union. The former Commonwealth bantamweight champion has been an experienced contender across weight divisions: super fly, bantamweight, super bantamweight and featherweight,
His last notable victory was against Josh Kennedy back in May 2019; the 31-year-old has had two four-rounders and a single six-rounder since.
Perhaps the best fight on the card, though, is Dalton Smith vs Lee Appleyard for the vacant English super lightweight title. Smith, 7-0, has looked peach perfect since debuting in May 2019 with six stoppages earning him a prodigious reputation. Wins over Nathan Bennett and Ishmael Ellis have demonstrated the 24-year old’s early ambition with Lee Appleyard the next logical step.
Smith will have to be on top form if he’s going to look good against his 33-year-old opponent. Appleyeard is as experienced as they come with wins over Adam Hague, Steve Brogan and a comfortable out-pointing of Ben Fields in November 2019. The former English lightweight champion has demonstrated a weakness to the body, however, and that’s an area Smith could look to exploit.
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