Joshua Buatsi vs Dan Azeez fight breakdown
‘Just Business’ vs ‘Super’
On October 21, 2023, at the O2 Arena in Greenwich, friends turned foes Joshua Buatsi (17-0, 13KO) and Dan Azeez (20-0, 13KO) headline a packed BOXXER show, live on Sky Sports.
This pair started out at the same amateur boxing club together, but it was Ghanaian-born Buatsi who had reached the heights of a being a national champion and earning a place on the Team GB squad that went to the Rio 2016 Olympics, where he won a bronze medal.
Azeez’s successes were lesser, only boxing competitively while he was at university, but was crowned South of England champion three times and won the prestigious Haringey Box Cup in 2013.
Despite ‘JB’ being the favoured fighter, it’s ‘Super’ Azeez who is ranked No.1 light-heavyweight in the UK, due to being the reigning British, Commonwealth and European champion. Joshua’s inactivity has meant his position is second place after just one fight in 2022.
Buatsi was a British champion himself, over four years ago now, and is currently the WBA and WBO No.1 contender.
It’s a fantastic reflection on British boxing that the WBC top four light-heavyweights are all British – #1 Callum Smith, #2 Joshua Buatsi, #3 Dan Azeez, #4 Anthony Yarde.
30-year-old Buatsi’s status as an Olympian meant he was promptly signed by Matchroom and made his pro debut at The O2, and has fought at the storied 20,000 capacity venue five times within his first nine fights, instantly becoming at home on the biggest stage, which has since included fighting at Madison Square Garden.
Azeez’s inauguration to the paid ranks was starkly different, fighting at the 2,000 capacity Brentwood Centre in his first three fights, also appearing at the York Hall five times within his first 10 bouts.
Now 34, he won his first light-heavyweight title – the Southern Area – in his ninth fight at The O2, then won every single BBBofC belt – English and British – as well as Commonwealth and European. Despite his humble beginnings, he has strived to catch up to and place himself on the same level as the Olympian.
So, after both turning pro in 2017 – on vastly disparate levels – here they are set to collide in a contest that is completely split down the middle, regarded by almost everyone as 50-50. So much so, that fellow pro boxers, trainers, reporters are finding it impossible to pick a winner.
Buatsi is a very well-schooled, disciplined boxer, with good all-round boxing skills. He possesses a very sharp, stiff jab, which he uses often and effectively.
The Olympian is powerful too, he reeled off 10 knockouts in a row until he came up against the very accomplished Craig Richards in his penultimate fight in May 2022. Then he was taken the full 10-rounds against IBF #4 Pawel Stepien in his last bout, this May.
Against Richards, two of the scorecards were 115-113, so the fight was incredibly close to call. JB was explosive and strong in that fight, trying to finish it on more than one occasion, but Richards showed everyone that Buatsi can be hit and pushed to the limit. ‘Spider’ was strong down the stretch where Buatsi slowed slightly, but the pair traded blows many times in the fight, neither man able to land heavily enough to the hurt the other.
Azeez is a very compact boxer, with a Mike Tyson-like physique. He doesn’t utilise his jab as much as Buatsi, but it is a formidable tool still, as he likes to launch the big right hand more. He has mastered the overhand right, which is his best weapon and has been the catalyst for almost all of his knockouts. In his last fight, he landed it copiously against Frenchman Thomas Faure in their European title fight, until one of those rockets knocked him out cold on his feet in the final round. He has registered six KOs within his last 10 fights.
Betting Odds (Betway Sports)
Buatsi is favourite to win at 3/10 and Azeez the underdog at 13/5. Odds for a draw are 18/1.
As long-term friends who are respectful of each other’s skills and attributes, it’s possible they could start tentatively, feeling each other out, but when you consider their styles, both as pressure fighters that will walk forward, with a lot of aggression, then it’s more likely to be explosive from the first round onwards.
Buatsi’s jab is his best weapon, so if he uses that intelligently, then it could dictate the contest. But he will be forced to fight very often, well not forced because he will need no hesitation in engaging with Azeez when it calls for it, but the action will be contested close-up regularly. Against Richards, Buatsi was often exchanging jabs on the outside, but against Azeez, it will be the opposite.
Azeez will be looking to step in close to avoid JB’s jab, but also because that’s where he is most comfortable, to land his overhand right, which will have a more damaging effect than Buatsi’s jab if it lands.
Buatsi has the advantage in height and reach, but I can imagine he will have a harder time punching down on the stocky, shorter man, than Azeez will have punching up at his taller target. It’s hard to imagine Josh not being able to land his impressive jab in any fight with anyone, but it’ll be vey interesting to see how the size difference affects his ability to land it accurately.
Despite being the underdog, I’m picking determined underdog Dan Azeez to get into range to land his big overhand rights to win by late knockout or on points.