British champion Dan Azeez has lifted the lid on his month-long sparring experience with unified light-heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev.
The Russian is about to take on Azeez’s fellow Londoner Anthony Yarde at the Wembley Arena on Saturday night when he will put his IBF, WBC and WBO belts on the line.
And 33-year-old Azeez has opened up on his time inside the champion’s Montreal training camp last year.
He said: “I was there for a month when he was getting prepared for the Joe Smith fight. That was a brilliant experience. Who gets to train with the unified champion? It was good to see how he prepares because I’ve never been around someone at the top top level like he is.
“A lot of the sparring partners would just spar and then go back to their hotel but his team were kind enough to let me watch him do his S&C, pad work and just the stretching and everything else. I got to talk to him, he gave me advice and stuff like that.
“Overall it was funny because for my first spar, I got picked up and taken to the gym by another sparring partner, who was a cruiserweight.
"He turned up with a black eye, a bust lip and nose bent. Fresh injuries. I thought ‘what the hell?’ But I didn’t want to show that I was nervous about the spar but I asked him anyway: ‘who have you been sparring? Was it Beterbiev?’ He said ‘yeah’.
“I thought ‘bloody hell’ and asked him what it was like. He said ‘it was good, but the only advice I’ll give you is - keep your hands up!’
“But when we did spar it wasn’t that bad - I was prepared for the worst - so I was ready. We did a lot of tech sparring as well, just learning stuff. I was really pleased with it, it was a brilliant experience and I’m happy I went.”
Azeez, 18-0 (12), is the current British light heavyweight champion but he will take the next step towards world level on February 11 when he faces Thomas Faure for the European title.
And ‘Super’ Dan believes his experience rubbing shoulders and trading blows with Beterbiev will stand him in good stead.
“He’s so disciplined and very professional,” Azeez said. “You just watch it and see the things you need to implement. I was asking him how to make weight and he was telling me I just need to rest a bit. He was advising me about how many rounds of sparring I should be doing.
“My coach couldn’t go with me so I went by myself but his team took a liking to me. They weren’t just telling Beterbiev to do his thing they were kind of on my side and telling me stuff to try - Artur would be like: ‘why are you telling him this stuff!?’
“I don’t think I’ll ever forget that trip and the things I learned there.”