Dan Azeez and Joshua Buatsi are only days away from their WBA light heavyweight title eliminator. As well as having the chance to show himself worthy of a world title shot, Azeez also feels like he has something to prove to his South London friend and rival.
Five months after star amateur Buatsi (17-0, 13 KO’s) turned professional under the famous dome at the O2 Arena back in 2017, Azeez (20-0, 13 KO’s) made a much lower profile debut at the Brentwood Centre in Essex. Whilst the 2016 Olympic bronze medallist displayed his skill on DAZN, fighting on the grandest stages, Azeez plugged away from the spotlight, eventually earning a spot on Sky Sports.
There has been a definite shift in momentum.
Azeez has collected Area, English, British, Commonwealth and European titles and become a favorite due to his old fashioned approach. Buatsi’s star has dimmed slightly. His ability is still unquestioned, but he has been on the verge of fighting for a world title for some time and the same fans who have thrown their weight behind Azeez’s rapid rise now want to see Buatsi tested.
Feeling that he needed to re-inject some impetus into his career, Buatsi joined his former sparring partner and signed with Boxxer earlier this year, opening the way for two careers that deviated from the very start to converge this weekend.
Buatsi and Azeez are friends and Buatsi insists that he is only taking the fight because the potential world title shot on offer for the winner made it impossible to turn down.
“Obviously I’ve heard different from people in the industry as well as people who are around our circle. ‘This is the fight he wants’ and ‘Dan, you’re next,’” Azeez told Buatsi on Sky Sports’ Gloves Are Off preview show.
“I’ve been with Boxxer before him and we had our own trajectory we were going to go down. I'd just won the European title and I was going to fight another credible name. I had two or three pop up but then out of the blue, ‘Josh wants to fight you.’
“I didn’t get no phone call from him. I started to realize something’s up. It’s started already, there’s not really any talking, we’re about to fight.
“What upsets me - not upsets me but makes me feel a way - is that he’s ashamed to say he wanted to fight me like I’m not credible enough. Like I’ve not earned my stripes. That’s how I feel. Maybe he doesn’t want the public to think, ‘Why’s he going for the British champion?’
“I know, deep down, I’m a fighter. I’ve worked my way up. Nothing’s been given to me. He knows this from when I first turned pro. I’ve earned my stripes. The fact that he doesn’t want to admit that he wants to fight me rubs me the wrong way? Am I not credible enough to fight you, Buatsi?”