Joshua Buatsi and Dan Azeez will put their friendship aside this Saturday night when they battle at Wembley Arena, London in a WBA world title eliminator.
When Buatsi left Eddie Hearn and DAZN to sign with Boxxer and Sky Sports in March 2023, a fight against Azeez down the line was always a strong possibility.
But it turned out to be a faster development than many expected as Buatsi agreed to fight Azeez on October 21st at O2 Arena before the bout was postponed due to an injury sustained by Azeez in camp.
As reported by both, the two British light heavyweights have done countless rounds of sparring together and have even claimed to know each other outside of the ring.
Yet boxing is a business and whoever emerges on top this weekend will put themselves in a good position to fight for the WBA Light Heavyweight Championship.
However, the undisputed matchup between Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol is being planned for June 1st in Saudi Arabia, so the winner of Buatsi-Azeez is unlikely to get a title shot until the latter stages of 2024 or 2025.
Despite winning a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics, Buatsi aka ‘Just Business’ has struggled to hit the heights in the pro ranks.
Ironically, the Croydon-based boxer’s best win came against another South Londoner in Craig Richards back in March 2022, who he narrowly outpointed on all three judges' scorecards.
Plus, unlike his light-heavyweight rivals on the domestic scene such as Anthony Yarde, Callum Smith, and even Richards, Buatsi has never fought for a world title, famously turning down a seven-figure deal to fight Bivol to secure a move away from Matchroom.
And in his most recent contest headlining against Pawel Stepien in Birmingham around ten months ago, Buatsi produced an underwhelming performance in his Boxxer debut where his usual in-ring aggression was absent.
Meanwhile, in contrast to Buatsi, ‘Super’ Dan Azeez has exceeded expectations in the professional game, especially due to his less impressive amateur pedigree.
Since turning professional in 2017, Azeez has captured the British, Commonwealth, and European titles, beating opponents like Ricky Summers, Hosea Burton, and Rocky Fielding.
Furthermore, in his last two fights against Thomas Faure and Khalid Graidia, Azeez showed he has no issues getting the job done on foreign soil, albeit against less-than-stellar opposition.
Now 34 years old, Azeez is no spring chicken but with just 20 bouts on his resume, 13 knockouts, and no losses, the boxer from Lewisham has not experienced much punishment in his career.
In a nutshell, Buatsi and Azeez have had opposite experiences in boxing.
As an Olympic medallist, Buatsi was given the platform to shine ever since making his debut in 2017 whereas Azeez rose up the ranks by fighting on small hall shows and claiming upset victories.
Regardless, now both are at similar stages, just a contest away from life-changing amounts of money and the chance to reach the pinnacle of the sport.
Joshua Buatsi vs Dan Azeez Prediction
Even though Azeez is arguably the man with more momentum, he is likely to suffer the first loss of his professional career to Buatsi.
You can expect Azeez to come forward from the opening bell in his pressure fighter style, trying to force Buatsi on the back foot and unload bombs when his rival is against the ropes.
Unfortunately for Azeez, Buatsi will be the most talented fighter that he has shared the ring with and the former Olympian will use his better boxing experience to nullify Azeez’s attacks and pick his punches.
Neither boxer has been dropped in their career so far but both are likely to have their chins tested in this spectacle as we can expect an all-action contest or a ‘War’ like Azeez predicted in the build-up.
Azeez, the shorter man at 5'10, will have no choice but to engage the 6'2 Buatsi at close range to land his punches, which should make for a fascinating contest between a boxer and a brawler.
Still, on such a big occasion with bragging rights on the line, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Buatsi fight with more aggression and go for the knockout if Azeez is hurt.
Overall, both boxers will have moments of success due to knowing each other so well, though the more clean and effective punches may come from Buatsi which should allow him to get the win on points or via late stoppage.
On the other hand, Azeez is a warrior and if he does win, it wouldn’t be the first time he has caused a major upset.