Joshua Buatsi returns to the ring on Saturday night when he defends his WBA International light-heavyweight title against unbeaten Frenchman Daniel Blenda Dos Santos at the AO Arena in Manchester, and the 2016 Olympic bronze medallist says he can’t wait to showcase the improvements he's made under his new trainer Virgil Hunter.
"I met Virgil Hunter at the first Joshua vs. Ruiz fight in New York in 2019,” said Buatsi.
“I went over to him to introduce myself and he told me he knew who I was. I told him I was going to come and train with him one day, and he said the door to his gym was open whenever I was ready. After my last fight in October I said, ‘I’m out of here’. I’ve come out here to learn more and add things to my game.
"It’s totally different living out here. It’s great, it’s nice and the views are amazing, I’ve never seen anything like it, but I’m here just for boxing. The main goal is purely to come out here to gain experience and learn as much as I can. It's going really well so far."
Hunter has worked with a number of famous faces working as a trainer, from Amir Khan to Nicola Adams, but he is most famous for overseeing Andre Ward’s glittering career, which saw the two-weight world champion retire undefeated (32-0), and it’s from watching the American boxer as a youngster that made Buatsi dream of one day working with the legendary trainer.
"I wasn’t really watching a lot of professional boxing in the amateurs. I started to watch it when I was about 17 or 18. I came across Andre Ward and started watching his fights, listening out for what he was being told in the corner and stuff like that,” Buatsi explained.
“I knew then Virgil was a good trainer. I said at the time I’d love to be trained by Virgil, but I didn’t ever think in a million years I’d be in the States training with him."
Ahead of another tough test for the 28-year-old, who will be looking to extend his professional record to 14-0, Buatsi says that the key to victory will be listening to his new trainer’s sage advice.
"Sometimes in the corner, it’s not really even boxing advice that he’s giving me, it’s just something totally different. It’s linked to boxing, so I’ll do it and I’ll be like, ‘cool, that worked’. It’s a whole different spin and approach from him but I’m really enjoying it.
"As always, I look to go in there, and I look to handle business. I don’t really go too much into reading about opponents and their previous fights, because how they boxed someone else is not how they’re going to box me. I’ll be there listening to the instructions that Virgil is going to give me. I’m very excited. I’m looking forward to showing people what I’ve been learning out here.
"Ultimately, I’m fighting to win. However it looks, my primary goal is to always win. We’ll be stepping up. Whoever they put in front of me, I’ll look to get rid of them and to keep building and learning. I’ve got older heads around me to guide what I’m doing. You have to consider what they’ve got to say because they’ve been there and done it.”