On Sunday 4 October, British light-heavyweight boxer Joshua Buatsi fought for the first time in 400 days. The 27-year old beat Croatian Marko Calic in seven rounds at The Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, retaining the WBA International Light-Heavyweight title.
But the biggest talking point happened before Buatsi even entered the ring, as he took the knee and raised his right fist. He spoke exclusively to the Sports Gazette about this powerful entrance and what it means to him.
“Solely me taking the knee was to get people to empathise with what is going on, not to sympathise. I don’t want people to feel sorry for the situation, I want to help people to understand what is going on and to raise awareness.”
Buatsi was born in the Ghanaian capital Accra, and moved with his family to England in 2002 when he was nine years old. His connection to his country of birth was shown on the shorts he wore in his fight against Calic.
In response to those who respond to such activism with All Lives Matter, Buatsi invokes the powerful ‘burning house’ analogy.
“If there are five houses and one is burning, when the fire brigade come are they going to water all five houses or are they going to focus on the one that is burning?
“That’s what it is, I’m not saying the other five are not houses, but currently one of them is burning and that’s the one that needs the water and attention.
“So we are not saying that other skin tones or races don’t matter – they do, what we are saying is that there has been an issue happening to a particular race for a long time, hence why this house [and this] race needs more attention and awareness.”
A Powerful Legacy
Boxing has always played a major role in speaking out against racism, from Muhammad Ali becoming a civil rights icon in the 1960s to Anthony Joshua speaking at a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020. Buatsi sees it as incumbent on him to carry on that work.
“From Jack Johnson to Ali’s times, and even Joe Louis had gone through issues, where he was unable to celebrate and lift up his hand in support for racial equality, their struggles have paved the way for Black boxers like myself to come through the profession.
“Football is a team sport so I feel like if the whole team isn’t on the same [page] it isn’t emphasised as much, whereas in boxing it’s individual and if you are a world champion it’s easier to spread the message.”
Whilst racism in professional sport is highly scrutinised by public, media and governing bodies alike, cases at amateur level are rife and are commonly overlooked.
“As a professional I have never faced racism in boxing. As an amateur boxer I did receive racist abuse, especially when I went abroad, I would get booed after winning a fight and I would say to my trainer, “I blatantly won the fight.” The judges – who were white – gave me the win but the crowd would still boo.”
Joshua Buatsi remains undefeated 13-0 in his professional boxing career with an 85% knockout rate. If this trajectory continues, you would not put it past him joining the boxing elite.