Joshua Buatsi’s projected place in the sport of boxing hits a critical crossroad on May 15 for an obvious reason – he comes up against an equally hungry and undefeated opponent, in what could be his final eliminator for a major world title shot.

Buatsi, 28, has had a relatively long stint with the WBA International light heavyweight title which he puts up in this big clash with Frenchman Daniel Blenda Dos Santos. Buatsi will be defending this title a sixth time and his performance in this bout must be a reminder to the world about his presence, especially as he projects to be at the very top.

Anyone who gauges the hunger levels of the two boxers is likely to have similar measures. While the Ghanaian seems to be ahead of Dos Santos when it comes to the quality of opponents, the French man could bring a tough challenge.

Buatsi’s journey

The 28-year-old’s fortunes with the national team in his homeland, Ghana did not go as planned. “I was young and while I was looking for the opportunity, I realized that I wasn’t ready for it so we had to part ways. But eventually, I took a different path and made my mark there. So it’s all good, he said in an interview with Joy Sports.

Buatsi and former world champion Isaac Dogboe were amongst some young boxers who were lined up to be drafted into Ghana’s national team the Black Bombers between 2010 and 2011. This was part of a special programme for Ghanaian boxers domiciled or born abroad instituted by then President of Ghana’s amateur federation, Ambassador Ray Quarcoo.

Dogboe made it into the team but Buatsi didn’t. Dogboe went ahead to participate in the 2012 Olympics and eventually annexed the WBO super bantamweight title. Buatsi then returned to the UK and got selected into the UK team that featured in the Rio Olympic Games in 2016. He won a bronze medal after recording three wins out of four bouts.

He also recorded one win out of three fights in his brief stint with the world series of boxing put together by AIBA to have amateur boxers compete professionally while maintaining their status Olympic eligibility. His journey so far in the professional ranks has been an interesting one. Saidou Sall and Bartlomiej Grafka are the only two boxers who managed to stand his punch power for the full distance in his first 10 bouts.

Key days in his professional journey include the knockout win against Andrejs Pokumieko which won him the WBA International light heavyweight title. And after defending it twice, Buatsi repeated his doses against Liam Conroy to annex the British title in March 2019.

So far, Buatsi has defended the WBA International title six times, enough to earn him a major title shot. The Ghanaian has had a solid foundation and a well-calculated journey so far with some decent gains. He stands above Dos Santos in the pedigree conversation and now has to give further proof of it in the ring.

The bout will also mark a new trainer’s relationship between Buatsi and Virgil Hunter who achieved success with Andre Ward who retired undefeated after 32 fights with a number of titles in two weight classes.

Have Dos Santos’ opponents tested him enough?

Out of his 15 opponents, eight are journeymen and that could mean a lack of proper tests for the orthodox Frenchman. He is yet to annex any titles as well but nothing can be taken away from the 30-year-old.

The eight opponents who succumbed to him have an average of 19 to 20 losses on their respective records, making it slightly tough to rate the quality of his wins. His good reach, orthodox stance, and good pace could, however, be blended effectively to give Buatsi a run for his money on the day.

The bout will be televised on Sky Sport.