The only thing that Joshua Buatsi can do is be a professional about the situation.
That is all that he plans to be, even if asked to play any other role during this promotion.
Fortunately, nothing else was asked of the 2016 Olympic Bronze medalist but to play up the friendship angle headed into his battle with longtime friend and former stablemate Dan Azeez. The pair of unbeaten light heavyweights will meet in a twelve-round WBA title eliminator this Saturday on Sky Sports and Peacock TV from The O2 in London.
“Dan is a good competitor” Buatsi said during the most recent ‘The Gloves Are Off’ installment to promote the fight. “I won’t fake anything to say I don’t like him or I want to do this or that.
“The main game plan here is we know what’s at stake. He knows what’s at stake. It’s no beef or anything. He’s just someone that I have to fight. Someone that I’m cool with.”
The winner of this weekend’s main event will become the mandatory challenger to WBA light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol (21-0, 11KOs).
Weirdly, Buatsi could (17-0, 13KOs) could have taken another angle to fight for the title. He was offered the opportunity on two different occasions. The team surrounding the 30-year-old Ghana-born Londoner opted to instead travel the path that led to fighting Azeez (20-0, 13KOs). The fight became more likely after Buatsi left Matchroom Boxing to sign with BOXXER earlier this spring.
All that his team wanted at the time was a bit more seasoning and activity, which has come from his current promotional deal. Buatsi debuted under promoter Ben Shalom’s banner with a ten-round win over Pawel Stepien on May 6 in Birmingham, England. With a win on Saturday, Buatsi can expect to immediately enter his first career title fight. Having to beat a longtime friend in order to get there is simply an occupational hazard.
“There’s places I want to get to in life. There are goals that I have set, goals that I have,” noted Buatsi. “What’s been presented right now is Dan. It’s very simple. Everything is at stake.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox