BY EDMUND BRACK
South London boxers Dan Azeez and Joshua Buatsi went head to head this week with the first press conference ahead of their light-heavyweight bout on October 21.
The duo both head into this fight unbeaten, with Lewisham’s Azeez 20-0, recording 13 knockouts during his professional career. Azeez, 33, has won the British, Commonwealth and European titles.
Croydon-raised Buatsi turned professional in 2017 after winning bronze at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, winning 17 fights and recording 13 knockouts.
Azeez and Buatsi are close friends.
The introduction of the press conference billed the fight as “a true South London battle for supremacy”.
Azeez said: “I’m at war with everything. I’m at war with myself to improve and overcome the hurdles I need to get through to come through successfully in this fight.
“I’m at war with the doubters who think I can’t do it. I’m at war with a friend who is in front of my dreams and aspirations.”
The winner of Azeez-Buatsi is set to push themselves into a mandatory position for a world title shot – making it impossible for a belt-holder to avoid them.
Buatsi added: “This fight is important because we all have friends in life. It’s no secret that Dan is a friend of mine, but what is at stake allows me to put that aside.
“We’re in the sport to look after people but to win world titles as well. It’s the most important fight of my life.
“He’s the guy I have to get through – it’s the final eliminator. If it was anyone else, that would be great. But it happens to be Azeez, someone I know, so it has to be Dan.
“I’m aware that October 21 is going to be war. Whether I think he’s a soft touch, hard fighter, whatever he is, on October 21, he’s going to be across the ring and I know what’s going to happen. Soft touch or not, it doesn’t matter to me.”
The fight will take place at Greenwich’s O2 Arena.
Azeez added: “Anyone I get in the ring with, the job has got to get done. I could sit here and say I’m confident, but Josh is a brilliant fighter and somebody who I used to spar rounds upon rounds with. On October 21, a job has to get done – it’s as simple as that.”
Buatsi won a unanimous decision over Pawel Stepien in Birmingham in May, his first outing under new promoter BOXXER.
But the 30-year-old has fought just twice since August 2021, also winning a points verdict over Crystal Palace’s Craig Richards at the 02 Arena in May of last year.
Buatsi said: “Yes, Dan’s a good friend. But there is no emotion in the ring. I’m looking forward to it. There is always pressure. At the 02 [Arena], there is going to be pressure. But I’m going to be in the ring and do what I do.
“There is always a point to prove as long as your hands get lifted up. Whenever I step into boxing places, I notice it’s about the winner. How you won doesn’t even matter – just win.
“It’s part of the game.”
BOXXER founder Ben Shalom added: “As boxing fans, we have to put up with a lot of rubbish. This stands out as something special.
“What a huge advert for the sport and a huge advert for London. Two boys from the southern area of London, both unbeaten but now headlining at the O2 on Sky Sports.
“It’s special and it doesn’t happen often. Both fighters are putting a lot on the line here.
“For them both to do this at this stage of their careers, with the unbeaten record and world titles in touching distance, it deserves a lot of credit. It’s not a fight we all saw coming, but it’s a special, special fight. There has been tension making the fight. Both will come out of a fight a lot better for it.”
Azeez is largely based Stateside with Buddy McGirt, who also trains Brixton heavyweight Dillian Whyte.
“I see an entertaining, brutal fight,” he added. “I don’t have any predictions. It’s just about the winner and that’s my mindset going into the fight. If I land clean on anybody, I can knock them out.”
Buatsi is with Virgil Hunter.
“I win,” said Buatsi of his prediction.
“I have said 12 rounds or less from the beginning. I will make sure I win on October 21.”
Brixton cruiserweight Isaac Chamberlain (15-2) will also feature on the show and faces Mikael Lawal (17-0). Lawal pulled out of their bout scheduled for the end of May citing medical grounds.
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