Joshua Buatsi targets Anthony Yarde clash after outpointing Dan Azeez in all-South London light-heavyweight showdown


Joshua Buatsi is ready to head straight back into another big all-London light-heavyweight clash after outpointing Dan Azeez on Saturday night.

The 30-year-old from Croydon moved to 18-0 after his unanimous verdict over Lewisham’s Azeez (20-1) at Wembley Arena.

Buatsi claimed the British and Commonwealth titles off his South London opponent but – far more importantly – it acted as a final eliminator for the WBA world title, held by Russian Dmitri Bivol.

But boxing is rarely straightforward. Bivol will not be defending his belt any time soon against Buatsi as he has signed for a June 1 undisputed clash with Artur Beterbiev in Saudi Arabia which puts all the world titles on the line.

Money talks and the most lucrative option for the Olympic bronze medallist is facing Ilford’s Anthony Yarde, who has twice come up short when challenging Beterbiev and Sergey Kovalev, who held the WBO belt at the time.

The pair are under different promotional banners. Buatsi moved from Matchroom to BOXXER in March while Yarde is with Queensberry Promotions.

The wealth behind Turki Al-Sheikh, chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, has seen bitter rivals Warren and Eddie Hearn, chairman of Matchroom, work together on shows.

And it might need that kind of financial muscle to make Buatsi-Yarde a possibility.

Yarde (24-3) is set to have a tune-up on February 10 when he faces Marko Nikolic (32-3) at Copper Box Arena.

“It (Yarde) is a fight I’ve said that I would like to happen this year,” said Buatsi. “Of course winning the final eliminator means the world titles are up for grabs – but there is a unification going on.

“I’m not going to wait. I want to keep active and box again around June. I’ll definitely fight and if it is Yarde, so be it.

“I don’t see myself hanging around until the unification is over because there might be a rematch as well.

“It (the Yarde bout) is an interesting one because we are not on the same network, but I’ve seen people on different networks fighting each other now – Saudi is the place to be to make these fights happen.

“If it is going to be there, great. If it’s going to be in England, great. I’m sure BOXXER, Sky and Warren can sit down and talk.”

Buatsi won by scores of 117-109 (twice) and 116-110.

Referee Bob Williams ruled that Azeez had been knocked down twice in the 11th round even though at least one seemed a slip because of a slick canvas.

Buatsi appeared to show mercy to Azeez in the final round when his long-time sparring partner looked on the verge of being stopped, easing off so that both heard the final bell.

“There were times that I boxed and times that I fought,” said Buatsi, who won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics.

“Credit to Dan – it was a very hard fight. If anything this has made his stock go up as well – he’s proven he is one of the best.

“There were moments I caught him and thought ‘I’m going for the kill’ and he caught me and was going for the kill too. I’m just grateful that I came out on top.

“As much as people are giving me the spotlight – and the credit for winning – I don’t not want to put Dan in the picture as well. It takes two of us.

“My last fight I got a lot of criticism for it. It’s the styles. Pawel Stepien came to run about – Dan came to fight.”
Azeez was dignified afterwards.

“He was just the better man tonight,” said Azeez.

“He came and performed. He is a great athlete, both in and outside the ring. I respect him a lot. He has helped me in the past and it is just business (that they faced each other).

“I’m glad we put on a decent show for the fans who came out to support.

“We’ll see what the future holds. He deserves whatever is coming next.”

BOXXER promoter Ben Shalom added: “It was emotional and a difficult fight to watch because no-one really deserves to lose – they have put everything into it.

“Buatsi showed his level but Dan Azeez, what heart he showed. It was a brilliant domestic British fight between two warriors. It was toe-to-toe in the centre of the ring all night.”

Greenwich’s Caroline Dubois made a successful first defence of here IBO lightweight title with a wide points win over Miranda Reyes.

Dubois (9-0) won every round on all three judges’ scorecards as they went 100-90 in her favour.


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