Buatsi and Azeez were scheduled to fight last October but the fight was cancelled on just days’ notice, but they finally met at Wembley Arena and it was.
Joshua Buatsi put himself himself in pole position for a world title shot by winning a back and forth fight against old pal Dan Azeez.
Close friends Buatsi and Azeez were no stranger to each other having sparred well over 1000 rounds and they were supposed to fight last October, but a back injury forced Azeez out of the clash just days before they were due to step in the ring. Tensions were high between the pair, with the winner of their fight being guaranteed a world title shot against Dmitry Bivol.
Buatsi started the fight by keeping Azeez at range with his jab and referee Bob Williams was quickly put to work as the old gym mates tried to get at each other whilst being told to break. They stared each other down as soon as the first round ended and Azeez drew a few grins from Buatsi in the second stanza by connecting with a couple of right hands.
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Azeez was starting to find his rhythm by closing the distance to land more power punches but Buatsi was countering well to the body and connecting with some uppercuts. Things were heating up the third round and Azeez’s trainer Buddy McGrit was pleading with his fighter to target the body, something Buatsi continued to do well.
Buatsi was pressuring his old mate well on the front-foot and Azeez seemed a bit tired whilst walking back to his corner at the end of the fifth round. Azeez was starting to fall behind on the scorecards but was still very much in the fight, although Buatsi was landing harder punches and more often. There was some confusion before the ninth round started as referee Williams had to wipe the canvas which led to some fans to believe the fight was over.
Buatsi continued to outland Azeez and the latter went down twice at the end of the eleventh round, both of which were scored as knockdowns but looked like slips because of the canvas that was soaked in sweat. Azeez was on unstable legs as Buatsi unloaded with a barrage of punches in the final round, but he was able to stay on his feet to reach the final bell.
The scorecards read 116-110, 117-109, 117-109 in favour of Buatsi after the final bell and the winner said: “I’ll have a few weeks off and be back in the gym. Iwant to put the spotlight on Dan, it was a great fight. Azeez said after his loss: “Josh was the better man tonight, I can’t say anything else. He is a great athlete in and outside of the ring, it was just business today.”
Adam Azim kept his unbeaten record intact and defended his European super-lightweight title by beating Enock Poulsen in the co-main event. Ben Whittaker entertained the London crowd and was warned by the referee on several occasions for showboating against Khalid Graidia, but eventually closed the show with a flurry of punches in the fifth round.
Caroline Dubois improved to 9-0 by winning every round against Miranda Reyes whilst Jeamie TKV and Kostiantyn Dovbyshchenko went to war in the only heavyweight fight in the evening, with Jeamie getting the nod on points. Francesca Hennessey put on an impressive display against Lauren Belen Valdebenito in the opening fight of the night.