Danny Flexen scans the latest big four world rankings and finds Joshua Buatsi edging ever closer to a shot at the IBF light-heavyweight title, currently held by Artur Beterbiev
The prospect of formidable Russian Artur Beterbiev, 15-0 (15), defending his WBC and IBF light-heavyweight titles against Joshua Buatsi – at 26, one of the most exciting unbeaten contenders in any division – is a mouth-watering one, and it may be only a year or less away. The latest IBF rankings have removed previous No. 3 Dominic Boesel, due to his winning the WBA Interim belt last month. This elevated Londoner 12-0 (10) Buatsi, a former GB amateur star, to third place in the list, behind China’s Fanlong Meng and a vacant second spot.
Beterbiev is being lined up to meet Meng in February, which should make Buatsi, unless he decides to vie for another organisation’s belt, the next IBF mandatory challenger, in time. It is therefore vital that Buatsi, last seen stopping Ryan Ford in August, makes a step up into genuine world class in 2020, as Beterbiev may prove something of a leap should he not.
Another undefeated fighter with a world No. 3 ranking, but one who may well get his shot in the near future, is Woodville, Derbyshire’s Zach Parker. The 18-0 (12) Sauerland-promoted super-middle has been inactive since May, largely due to waiting for a final WBO eliminator against Aussie Rohan Murdock (rated No. 2), who has not fought for even longer, to be confirmed. Purse bids were ordered due to the WBO No. 1 Erik Bazinyan being injured and were quickly postponed as the parties came to an agreement. It now appears likely the contest will go ahead on January 18.
With the WBO indicating a mandatory defence for their 168lb champion Billy Joe Saunders will soon be called, the Parker-Murdock victor should get their opportunity by summer 2020.
Add that Chris Eubank Jr is being lined up for WBC middleweight king Jermall Charlo, Carl Frampton will bid to become Ireland’s first three-weight champ against WBO super-feather supremo Jamel Herring, Lawrence Okolie should dispute the vacant WBO cruiser prize with Krzysztof Glowacki and unified 140lb boss Jose Ramirez must face Jack Catterall next to keep his WBO belt, and UK boxers could enjoy a very fruitful new year. Not to mention Lee Selby, ex-IBF featherweight champion and WBO No. 1 lightweight in a division where unified titlist Vasyl Lomachenko may soon vacate all his straps to move down in weight. That would leave Selby, also IBF No. 4, to meet Ghana’s Emmanuel Tagoe in a seemingly winnable fixture for his second world title. Expect Selby back out in February or March.