Virgil Hunter issued a note of caution after his charge Joshua Buatsi picked up perhaps the most strenuous win of his career.
The highly regarded, 29-year-old Buatsi outpointed British countryman Craig Richards, 32, in their hard-fought, 12-round light heavyweight bout Saturday night at the O2 Arena in London. All three judges had it for Buatsi, albeit by narrow margins: 116-112 and 115-113 twice.
Afterward, Hunter, the Oakland-based trainer who trains Buatsi and is best known for his work with Andre Ward, tried to pull in the reins on any talk that his charge would be immediately ready to face the likes of Canelo Alvarez and Dmitry Bivol.
Alvarez (57-2-2, 39 KOs), the undisputed champion at 168, fell short of earning another world title at 175, when he dropped a decision to WBA light heavyweight titlist Bivol (20-0, 11 KOs) earlier this month at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
“I can’t honestly say that right now,” Hunter said in the post-fight presser in response to a question concerning Buatsi’s readiness to face Alvarez or Bivol, “because being at the world title level there are just some things that I need to see, so I can’t honestly say that. But he (Buatsi) will always be in the fight. Trust me, he’ll always be there. I’m not saying that he would lose to Bivol or Canelo.
Hunter was confident, nonetheless, that Buatsi (16-0, 13 KOs) would be very competitive with Alvarez right now but was much more circumspect as it relates to Bivol.
“I think he give Canelo fits [and], on top of his physicality, would give Canelo fits and he would wear Caenlo down," Hunter said of Buatsi.
“Bivol does some things that I think that we should work on some more,” Hunter added.
Hunter said he wants to get Buatsi in position to make a real stand at the elite level of the light heavyweight division.
“[I want to make] him just complete and give him an opportunity to win a belt and keep a belt and not just fight for a belt and go back down,” Hunter said. “Win and get a belt and keep a belt.”
Suffice to say, Hunter has reservations about Buatsi facing some of the other dangerous titlists at 175 at the present moment.
When Buatsi’s promoter Eddie Hearn floated the idea of Buatsi facing IBF and WBC light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev, Hunter offered a flabbergasted stare at Hearn.
“Why you want to bring him down with you?” Hunter said.