Whether he is out for a run or on his bike Dan Azeez always tries to make time to watch Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns.
The 1985 three-round thriller still stands the test of time as one of the go-to fights for boxing fans whether they are dedicated followers or not. ‘The War’ still amazes us no matter how often we’ve watched it or for fighters it may act as a tool to fire up the engine during a build-up to a fight.
On Saturday, Azeez, who describes himself as “a big, big Hagler fan” will take on Hosea Burton for the vacant British light-heavyweight title and he told Boxing Social that using Hagler’s tactics has crossed his mind.
“I said to my coach, ‘You know what first round I’m just going to go for it, fuck it! Let’s just have it.’ My coach started laughing, ‘No don’t do that, don’t do that’.
His adoration for the fight continued: “Look at that fight it will be remembered forever. That first round, there’s not a better first round that I can think of through history. That round was menacing. I do think if I went out [and fought] like that would I even have breath for the next 11 or whatever rounds? I actually do think sometimes think fuck it let me just go out there and have it, let’s just have it.
“Me and Hosea have got the same kind of builds, that they two had, but at light-heavy. He can crack and could hurt me, and I can crack so I could hurt him. It would be mad. You never know.”
Azeez v Burton will answer some questions about where the future lies beyond Saturday night for both fighters. One is a first-time British title challenger (Azeez) and the other (Burton) has already established himself at domestic level having won the coveted Lonsdale belt in 2016. However, last year ‘The Hammer’ couldn’t finish off the job in the MTK Golden Contract Final against Ricards Bolotniks. The Latvian was too much for Joe Gallagher’s charge on the night and ran out a worthy winner in the end.
“When I watched the fight, I actually thought he [Burton] was doing alright in the early rounds and then Bolotniks built a bit of confidence,” said the unbeaten Azeez.
“That style [of his] as well, I think, is made for Hosea so I was a bit surprised especially in the later rounds when he got a couple of [standing eight] counts. Who knows what’s happening, sometimes you hear things and what not but I was quite surprised. I remember when they were picking each other for the tournament and Hosea was so confident. He was like, ‘I’ll beat everybody here’ and this and that, ‘Me and Bob Ajisafe we should be the finalists’. Bolotniks went under their radar. Looking at his record you thought he’s one of the guys that will get beaten in the first round. Even if I was in it, I would have probably picked Bolotniks first as well, but he really come through. I did still think Hosea was going to win it, but I was a bit surprised.”
A look at both of their fight records shows that Burton certainly has the edge on experience. The 33-year-old has fought double the bouts (26-2, 12 KOs) that 32-year-old Azeez (14-0, 9 KOs) has and holds wins over solid domestic talent such as Miles Shinkwin, Liam Conroy and former British 175lbs champion Bob Ajisafe. And who can forget his 2016 fight of the year contender with Frank Buglioni when Burton dropped the title after a dramatic final round conclusion. Azeez has a lot to prove and while his best wins over Charlie Schofield, Ricky Summers and Andre Sterling are not a million miles away from those of Burton’s foes he admits he will have to improve on those performances to beat Burton.
“I believe Ricky Summers was more experienced than me when we fought,” he said. “Andre Sterling was more experienced than me but every time I go into these fights, I take the experience that they’ve got and that just betters me for the next fight. But in terms of class, it’s all good for me to say, ‘Yeah, I think I’m there’ or not. It’s up to me to go out there and show you whether I’m on that level, or if I’m past it, or not. I’m fighting for the British title and I’m round about that level. I think everything’s coming at a good time and Hosea’s a very, very good opponent and fight for the British title. He’s a good fighter. He’s been there already. I would class him as fringe world level. I’ve been watching him as he’s been a professional. He can crack, he can box, he’s very experienced.
“When I get ready for this fight I will think of the best Hosea and building up for this fight I’m thinking what I’d be like if I was in his shoes. He’s coming down a step because he’s won the British already. Where would he go from here [if he lost] so he’s definitely going to come and bring his all so that’s the Hosea I’m preparing for. I like to hope that I can perform better than I did against Summers and Sterling. It’s all about what happens on the night. I’m looking forward to a really good fight. Our styles seem like they gel. He’s nice and long and he can crack. I like to mix it up, stay in there, I can crack a fair bit too. I think it’ll be a good fight.”
If you are reading this feature the Burton-Azeez fight week has come to an end and the hours are counting down until they fight. The scenes of a Monday to Friday are in front of us thanks to social media and YouTube. Interviews, workouts, more interviews, press conferences, face-to-face and the weigh in. It’s a demanding week that counts down to an event where violence brings success and glory. For Azeez he can’t enjoy any of it but his friend Richard Riakporhe, who headlines tonight’s card against Olanrewaju Durodola, has since gave him a book that may see Azeez begin to appreciate such moments in a career that can be cut short very quickly.
“A year or two ago Richard Riakporhe, who’s fighting on the same card, gave me a book called The Power of Now that’s about enjoying the time and everything. I was telling him there’s nothing enjoyable until my hand is raised, and he said, ‘Trust me you got to enjoy the interviews’ and this and that. He was the same as well until he read the book and he gave me the book and it gave me an insight into what he was talking about but I’m not where I want to be yet. I’m trying to enjoy it where I am but also keep the focus on where I want to be so that’s the struggle I have.
“I should enjoy it because it’s on Sky Sports and I went to one of their shows recently and the presentation was lovely. Even the Charlie Duffield fight I didn’t really let myself enjoy the experience and it was a brilliant one. But I’m always so tunnel vision and I need to get this job done. I wouldn’t say it’s pressure I put on myself but that’s just the main goal, the main thing in my mind. Everything else like the press conference, weigh-in, all that stuff I don’t really care. As long as I make the weight and he makes the weight and we’ve got a fight that’s all I’m interested in.”