Joshua Buatsi beat Dan Azeez at Wembley’s OVO Arena over the distance to win the British and Commonwealth 175lbs belts and secure his WBA mandatory slot.
Having sparred in the past, neither man took the time to ease into the contest and the first two rounds saw front foot action from both. Buatsi had success to the body, his combinations working well but Azeez always ready to fire back with spite.
A gear change at the end of the third saw the pair trading in the middle of the ring. Buatsi continued to attack the body in the fourth with good success while Azeez was back behind his jab looking to set up his power shots but not finding a home for enough to disrupt Buatsi’s rhythm.
Azeez’ corner implored him to to go the body in the fifth, but before he had the chance Buatsi landed the shot of the fight so far in the form a solid left hook on the chin. Azeez fired back instinctively and managed to stay composed. Buatsi finished the round strongly and had the first sniff of properly hurting his opponent.
Round six served as a bit of a breather for both men. Azeez scored a nice straight right, but Buatsi looked comfortable in his game-plan and was on his way to a steady lead on the cards. Same jabs, combinations, and movement for Buatsi in the seventh, with Azeez having flashes of success here and there but not enough to throw the Olympic medalist off his rythym.
Azeez stepped on the gas and managed to force a faster pace for periods in the ninth and tenth. Buatsi scored two knockdowns in the eleventh – the first an obvious slip after a shot landed, the second a little less clear and looking more like a jump following a nice overhand from Buatsi.
Whatever happened, Azeez had a mountain to climb in the twelfth after being unable to push the pace and now suffering a 10-7 round. He needed a knockout, but it was Buatsi who came much closer to getting it. A powerful flurry almost won it in the last thirty seconds, but ‘JB’ backed off a little and took it by decision, ending the contest with a hug between old friends.