Dan Azeez already had a burning desire to prove he belonged with the very best in Britain at light-heavyweight before his fight against Hosea Burton earlier this month.
Within 60 seconds of round 1 of their bout for the vacant Lonsdale belt Azeez proved his hunger was instead an appetite for destruction. The unbeaten Londoner sprung and stunned Burton with a right hand that had the former champion on the ropes. Having had twice as many fights as Azeez the experience and frame of Burton tied up the early threat, but it was a pivotal moment.
The well-placed jabs of Azeez had already made their mark just prior. Nicknamed ‘The Hammer’ Burton soon tried to put a nail in the hopes of the challenger but on the night Azeez was made of materials that could not be penetrated. Those few seconds laid down a pattern that repeated itself until referee John Latham saved Burton from further punishment that came when a grandstand attack ended matters in round 7.
“It still feels like a dream,” said Azeez who was speaking to Boxing Social not long after finishing a weekly boxing class he teaches.
While the performance of the new champion was ‘Super’ just like his ring moniker Burton appeared out of sorts and unsettled by the gameplan that powered towards at him every opportunity. We asked Azeez if he was surprised by Burton’s display.
“I was and I wasn’t,” he answered.
“If you look at his fight [against Ricards Bolotniks] he was very tentative on the back foot even though he pressed a bit more. I’m quite a decent pressure fighter, I like to think I’m a decent pressure fighter anyway. My pressure and my thing is I’m in there to create hell for you but intellectually. I’m not just going to go in there like a bull in a china shop and get cracked and then I’m on the floor. I’m doing it in a way that’s making you think whoa what’s going on. So, I think that surprised him.
“When you look on TV and watch me fight you might think he’s quite basic, you might even think I’m a plodder but there’s little things I’m doing that offset what you’re doing, and you won’t be able to throw [your shots]. I heard that in his corner they said, ‘You’re scared of what’s coming back’ and I know what I’m doing to make him feel like that.”
The 15th win of Azeez’s unbeaten career, which has included Southern Area and English title wins, was played out on Sky Sports, a platform he has fought on before but this time in a slot with a sizeable number of people watching on. New doors are about to open for the new British light-heavyweight champion. A title held by the likes of Chris Finnegan, John Conteh, Clinton Woods and Tony Bellew who went on to face some of the sport’s very best fighters.
Enjoying the moment is certainly something Azeez is doing but as he spoke about in a recent Boxing Socialinterview the experience of what goes on before that first bell is still something he is trying to get to grips with. And it was no different before he was in the ring against Burton.
“The bit I actually enjoyed was the actual fight,” he said.
“I was actually enjoying the fight. But to be fair leading up to it I couldn’t really enjoy it. Again, I was in that mindset that I’ve got a job to do. If I’m honest this fight was very important for me because if I lose, where do I go from there? He [Burton] lost the British title in 2016 and it’s taken him 4-5 years to have a shot at regaining it. I don’t want to be in that position. I’ve not even got time on my hands to do that. It meant so much and that’s why you saw such savagery. I was really passionate in that fight, it meant so much. Hopefully I can push on and it can open up bigger and better doors but I’m well pleased. I’m enjoying it now.”
As is the tradition after a big fight finishes on Sky Sports the victor sits down to answer questions about what just went down. What can follow has proven in the past to be a mix of euphoria, professionalism, or drama. The release of emotion Azeez as he sunk to his knees in celebration in the ring carried on to the interview ringside. And in doing so, his humility in answering the questions posed likely won him more fans.
“I might not be the best. I might not have the fastest jab. I might not be the smartest, but I’ll give it a go and I’ll do it to my last breath.”
Azeez smiled when he was taken back to that adrenaline-filled few minutes where he sat with the Southern Area, English and British light-heavyweight titles across his lap.
“When I watched it back, I was like why did I say that,” he joked.
“It’s been a long hard road. I felt like I’ve always been in the back seat, while they’re mentioning this name and that name and I’m thinking I’m just as good if not better and I never got a mention.
“I win credible titles, I fight credible people, but I never got mentioned with the top boys and that was my coming out party to say look, don’t deny me. I can’t be denied, I’m here, I’m one of the best in the country and if they want to mix it with anyone else at the top then I’m there too. I’m willing to fight these guys that they keep claiming are the best.
“Like I said in my interview you win some, you lose some and you roll with the punches. As long as you’re putting on great fights and entertaining the fans you can’t lose. I’m up for that. I’m not thinking I’ve got the British title now, let me go off and fight some European who may be ranked higher, but he’s shit. I’ll fight the boys here that everyone knows. Let’s mix it up. If I win, I win. If I lose, I lose. I’ll move on to the next one. There are loads of us that can fight so let’s do it.”
Two of the ‘top boys’ he alluded to fight this weekend in a rematch of their December 2020 meeting. It’s a case of unfinished business for Anthony Yarde this Saturday night when he tries to defeat Lyndon Arthur at the second time of asking. A year ago, Arthur got the better of the former world title challenger much to the anger and frustration of Yarde and his team who believed they had done enough to secure victory. The winner, and current WBO number one contender, successfully made the first defence of his Commonwealth title, a title which Azeez would like to add to his collection.
“I’d love to say I’m the British and Commonwealth light-heavyweight champion. Obviously, the holder of the Commonwealth is Lyndon Arthur so maybe after his fight maybe we can get it on. I’m up for whatever but I do want to keep progressing and climbing the ladder and giving good fights. I want the domestic dust ups. It’s about legacy for me so I want to keep winning belts.”
We then asked the new British champion for a prediction on Arthur-Yarde 2.“I’m leaning towards Yarde because I think he’s going to come and try and finish off from the 12th round. In my fight everyone was saying you know what you’ve got to do with Hosea, you’ve got to stick it on him, you’ve got to rough him up but that wasn’t the be all and end all of me beating him. I was out-jabbing him; I was boxing him from distance so I wouldn’t be surprised if Yarde goes in an boxes Arthur and wins. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lyndon gives him a tear-up and beats Yarde. For me, it’s a real 50-50.”