Azeez v Buatsi to decide

Dan Azeez laughs and points during a news conference
Dan Azeez will face Joshua Buatsi for a chance to fight for the WBA light-heavyweight title

Dan Azeez says his fight with Joshua Buatsi could decide who is the UK’s number one light-heavyweight.

The British scene is blessed with a host of excellent light-heavyweights, including Callum Smith, Anthony Yarde and Lyndon Arthur.

“This will decide who’s number one in south London, who’s the best in the UK,” Azeez told 5 Live Boxing.

Fans have been calling for Buatsi to fight Azeez for some time; both grew up nearby, and both are undefeated as professionals.

Azeez, 33, is the English, Commonwealth and European champion, but none of those titles will be on the line.

“Our pride is on the line, so that’s more than enough,” Azeez said.

Azeez and Buatsi have been friends for years, but Buatsi says their “friendship is on pause” as they prepare to face each other.

Buatsi, 30, says he only accepted this fight because it would guarantee his shot at a world title.

“It’s no secret, we’re good friends,” he said.

“Pride’s a good belt. It’s also a good thing to have sometimes in boxing. Got to know when to earn it, when to offer it.

“There’s no title but the title really on the line is the final eliminator. That’s the only reason I said I would fight someone like Dan Azeez.”

Buatsi asks who can handle the ‘bright lights’?

With Azeez v Buatsi landing at London’s O2 Arena, promotional outfit Boxxer is hopeful the domestic fight can generate big ticket sales.

It will be the first time either fighter has headlined at a venue of that size, with an available capacity of 20,000.

Buatsi has fought on huge undercards, including at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium and Madison Square Garden, but for 33-year-old Azeez it will be only his second appearance at the O2.

While Buatsi was signed by Matchroom off the back of his bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics, Azeez has slowly worked his way up from the small hall circuit, winning 20 fights and every domestic title along the way as well as the European light-heavyweight belt in March.

Buatsi thinks dealing with the pressure of the occasion may play a factor in the result.

“We know each other, very well, so it’s going to be interesting to see who can do what they need to do when the lights are bright,” he said.

Joshua Buatsi speaks and holds out his hand during a news conference
Buatsi is friends with Azeez outside of boxing

“When the lights are hot, when you’ve got smaller gloves on. When there is a crowd. Because of course when we spar, there’s not a crowd.

“But this time there’ll be a massive crowd, there will be a lot at stake.”

Azeez, who like Buatsi has 13 knockouts on his record, is confident the magnitude of the event will not faze him.

“The hard work is getting there,” he said.

“I’ve had to do it the hard way and I’m here now. In a sense, I’ve already won.

“That pressure, do you know what I mean? I remember all these other guys coming up and talking about all these other domestic fighters and I’m just grafting away thinking: When is it going to me? When am I going to get in the mix?

“To be here now. Any pressure, that just drives me, man. It gives me that extra bit.”

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