Joshua Buatsi proved too slick for Dan Azeez on Saturday, dropping his friend twice en route to a decision win in London – though a slippery canvas might have played its part.
Buatsi and Azeez both entered Wembley’s OVO Arena with unbeaten records, as the latter defended the British light-heavyweight title that Buatsi previously held.
But it was Buatsi, 30, who left the arena with his record intact and improved, while handing 34-year-old Azeez his first professional defeat. Buatsi was a 117-109, 117-109, 116-110 winner on the judges’ scorecards after 12 rounds, with Azeez hitting the canvas twice in round 11.
After an even first frame, Buatsi began to pull ahead with impressive efficiency, fighting well behind his jab and investing heavily in the body of Azeez, which he was battering with left hooks.
Buatsi began to raise the left hook to Azeez’s head as the rounds went on, and the challenger maintained an encouraging output despite looking tired in the latter half of the bout. He was also happy to leave his head hanging in the pocket, suggesting a lack of respect for Azeez’s power after the many rounds of sparring that the Britons have shared.
Both fighters battled a wet canvas as well as each other, and when Buatsi dropped Azeez with a flurry of short shots in round 11, it seemed that the champion had slipped rather than been knocked down. The same was arguably the case when Buatsi landed a right hand later in the round, though Azeez hit the canvas hard.
Buatsi appeared to hold back slightly in the last round, before the final bell signalled a handy win for him, as well as the start of a second reign with the British belt – and a mandatory shot at WBA champion Dmitry Bivol.
However, it was announced on Saturday that Bivol is due to box Artur Beterbiev for undisputed status in Saudi Arabia on 1 June.