JOSH BUATSI came through the eye of the storm to keep his light-heavyweight world title dreams alive.
After almost 400 days out of the ring the Croydon 27-year-old leaped in against undefeated Croatian Marko Calic and suffered a horrible battering around his left eye before a blinding round-seven stoppage.
The Anthony Joshua-managed ace – nicknamed Just Business – came through the scariest rounds of his now 13-0 career before shaking off the ringrust with a ruthless stoppage worthy of his heavyweight mentor.
The wounded ace said: “In the third round I felt my swelling. I thought ‘damn!’ But you have to do what you’ve got to do.
“This guy said he was coming to burst the Buatsi bubble. I was here to defend it.
“It was a hard fight but I learned. I couldn’t see his right hands, I adapted. I dealt with it.
“If the world title fight in 2021 opportunity is presented, and I’ve had the right fights, then absolutely I will take it.”
Buatsi ascended into the Marshall Arena, in the bowels of Stadium MK in Milton Keynes, taking a knee for Black Lives Matter surrounded by indoor fireworks.
And the Ghana-born ace took the gunpowder into the ring with a brilliant fire fight that had his backers worried during some hairy moments that will now stand him in good stead.
The second round was the hardest round of Buatsi’s young career with Calic finding a home for his punches too many times on the Brit’s freshly shaved face.
Ringside trainers Mark Gillespie and Rob McCracken tried to help their charge rediscover his rhythm after 14 months off the dancefloor.
In the third Buatsi roared back to his old form with a cannon of a long straight right that would usually fold a man in two but Calic did more than survive.
The 33-year-old underdog battered his way back into the round and left Buatsi with damage around his left eye.
But the brilliant 2016 Olympic bronze medal winner kept his cool, recaptured his ferocious power and a trademark right hand robbed Calic of all of his senses before his corner hurled the towel in to save him.