Joshua Buatsi takes on Dan Azeez this weekend in a battle of unbeaten light heavyweight Brits. The British and Commonwealth 175-pound titles will be on the line, but in truth this Wembley Arena headliner has more to do with world-level progression.
Every major sanctioning body has the pair in their world rankings. Intriguingly, three of the four actually have Buatsi and Azeez next to each other in their lists. They are third and fourth for the IBF, second and third for the WBC and first and second for the WBA. The only outlier is the WBO, which has fellow Brit Callum Smith second between first-placed Buatsi and Azeez in third.
This fight will put the winner on the cusp of a title shot. The victor will effectively be the number-one contender for either the WBA or WBO belts with a very favourable ranking elsewhere too. Considering the fact Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol are currently negotiating a fight to crown an undisputed champion at the weight, the winner of this London derby is almost certain to be the victor’s first challenger.
So how do these two potential future world champions stack up? Let’s look at the Tale of the Tape.
Place Of Birth: Accra, Ghana
Residence: Croydon, London, UK
Alias: Just Business
Record: 17-0 (13 KOs)
Last Fight: Won UD10 vs Pawel Stepien (May 2023)
Place Of Birth: Lewisham, London, UK
Residence: Lewisham, London, UK
Record: 20-0 (13 KOs)
Last Fight: Won PTS8 Khalid Graidia (July 2023)
The Rio 2016 bronze medalist has long been tipped for professional stardom. The big-punching ‘Just Business’ has been moved carefully, perhaps even a little too carefully. In 2018 he belted Renold Quinlan in one round, looking every inch the future star in doing so. The Australian had beaten former world champion Daniel Geale and taken Chris Eubank Jr 10 rounds. Buatsi battering him in short order looked like the perfect momentum-builder for a move up in levels.
That didn’t quite happen, with Buatsi winning the British title next time out before settling at a rather middling level of competition. There was nothing wrong with knockout wins over the likes of Marco Antonio Periban or Ryan Ford. It was just that watching him knock out guys who had always lost against name fighters in a series of foregone conclusions was a waste of his obvious talents.
The 30-year-old has mixed in slightly choppier waters recently. Ricards Bolotniks had credibility as an experienced European campaigner. Craig Richards had proven himself with a great performance over 12 rounds against Bivol. Buatsi matched the WBA king and beat ‘Spider’ by decision, proving his world level credentials. Pawel Stepien last May was a pronounced warm-up, though. Fine if it comes during a period of frequent activity, but unforgivable when it was his only fight in 12 months.
Another lay-off since that May 2023 bout won’t help Buatsi. Luckily for him, Azeez has only stepped through the ropes once in that time, in July of last year. Still, at 30 years of age, Buatsi can’t afford to hang about. He must do everything in his power to make sure the Azeez outing isn’t his only fight of 2024. The Bivol-Beterbiev clash and its possible rematch might complicate this, but activity needs to be the focus for ‘Just Business’.
Dan Azeez isn’t used to being the underdog. The 34-year-old has collected British, Commonwealth and European titles in a relatively trouble-free career. Like Buatsi, his resume is light on earth-shattering names. The best of the bunch is former WBA champion Rocky Fielding, who Azeez wiped out in eight rounds in December 2022.
The man they call ‘Super’ is certainly proven domestically. Hosea Burton was knocked out in seven rounds in Azeez’s maiden British title win. Shakan Pitters was outscored too, another quality British-level operator. Having dominated competition domestically and continentally, Azeez looks ready for the step-up.
Despite his underdog status, the Lewisham man is well-set here. He can match Buatsi for power and has mixed at about the same level. Buatsi has that amateur pedigree, peaking with an Olympic medal. But in the pros, these two are very closely matched in most departments.
For Azeez, you’d think this is his last roll of the dice when it comes to world honours. At the age of 34, a loss here would possibly see him relegated into the role of “opponent” for anyone who covets his world ranking. But with punch power and a style that lends itself to dominance of the action, don’t count Azeez out just yet.
How To Watch
Date: Saturday February 3rd
Time: 8pm UK time, 3pm ET
Ring Walk (approx): 11pm UK, 6pm ET
TV Channel: Sky Sports (UK), Peacock (US)
Joshua Buatsi vs. Dan Azeez
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