Dan Azeez continues his climb up the 175-pound rankings on the Yoka-Takam undercard
British and Commonwealth light heavyweight titlist Dan Azeez looks to continue his impressive form when he fights Thomas Faure for the vacant European title on the undercard of Tony Yoka-Carlos Takam at Zenith de Paris-La Villette in Paris, France on Saturday.
Azeez, The Ring’s No. 10-rated light heavyweight, had been due to face Faure in London on February 11 but a bout of flu curtailed those plans. He will now face Faure on his opponent’s home field but feels he is ready to dip his toe into the European class.
“I’ve been taking the right steps in my career so far and I’m looking forward to this next one,” Azeez (18-0, 12 knockouts) told The Ring. “If I can do well at European level, it will set me in good stead for when I step into world level. So, let’s see how it goes.”
The 33-year-old Londoner is something of a late developer only turning professional at 28. However, since then, he has gained the requisite experience and confidence training under the feted eye of Buddy McGirt as well as sparring with a trio of world champions.
“I’ve sparred (with) Artur Beterbiev, Gilberto Ramirez and Sergey Kovalev,” he said. “When I’m in there with them, I don’t think I’m far off, [although] sparring is different from fight night. I just want to make sure I’m prepared when I step up to that level and showing I belong.”
Those invaluable experiences have helped Azeez evolve further as a fighter and enjoy a break through 2022, that saw him win all three fights and crack The Ring ratings for the first time.
“Yeah, they were creditable opponents and for me to beat them quite convincingly put me in the right place,” he said. “Reece Cartright, he’s very experienced, he’s been a pro since 2015 and beat me in the amateurs. Shakan Pitters, the tallest light heavyweight there is, 6-foot-6, awkward as hell. Rocky Fielding, former British and [WBA secondary beltholder]. He’s got all the experience in the world and can hit and I got him out of there. He’s only been beaten by Callum Smith and Canelo [Alvarez,] who are elite fighters. It put me out there for people to be put on notice that I am one of the light heavyweights who is [on the way up.]”
However, he admits to being in the dark in terms of what type of threat his French opponent will present him with.
“I don’t know anything about him, that is the threat,” said Azeez. “I haven’t seen anything of him online. In my eyes, I’m preparing for the unknown but that’s what gives me the edge in training. I don’t know who I’m coming across so have to train for everything.”
Azeez, who only started boxing at 19, while in university, openly says he wasn’t a natural talent and that his persistence has helped him get to where he is today.
“When I started boxing as an amateur, I was awful, I wasn’t good at all,” said Azeez, who estimates he won 40 of 60 amateur contests. “I really wanted to get better and learn my craft and that took me all the way up to 27. Once I did that, I got a job because I’ve got a degree in Accounting and Finance. I was working and thought, ‘I’m pretty decent now, let me try turn professional.’ I didn’t want to get to an age and think, ‘I should have tried it and seen how far I could have got.’ That’s why I turned over so late at 28 and here we are now. I’m doing quite well, I feel good and we’re going to keep trying to push.”
He hopes his story and journey can help inspire others.
“When I see young kids or even older people who are thinking of turning professional, I just want to be an example to them,” he said. “If you knuckle down and focus and you’re determined you can get somewhere.
“One of my main goals is to be an example to people that you don’t have to be super talented and gifted as long as you have a bit of discipline you can do well in whatever you are trying to achieve. I wasn’t naturally gifted at all. My gift is being disciplined and just being consistent.”
But now he’s here he doesn’t want to stop at domestic level and hopes after leveling up on the European scene that he can go a step further.
“Maybe some top-level domestic dust ups, your Craig Richards, Lyndon Arthur that kind of domestic dustup,” he said of his plans for this year. “Everything depends on where I am, I’m not in a rush to do anything. Maybe getting an eliminator for the world title. I’m ranked No. 2 by the WBA, so we’ll see how that goes. The main aim to get a world title and become world champion. Everything is step-by-step. I want to be able to say I picked up every type of belt there was.”
The fight being moved from England to France adds a new layer of intrigue. It should be a good experience for Azeez but fighting away from home will be difficult. I expect Azeez to had the edge and be the superior boxer and potentially score a stoppage win in the second half of the fight to continue his impressive progress.
Faure has been a professional since 2013. Although the Frenchman lost twice early in his career, he rebounded before twice losing to Eddy Lacrosse, the later for the national title. To his credit, Faure has gone one to win the national title and won seven of his last eight. The lone blemish in that time against Kevin Thomas Cojean (D10), who Faure has since beaten (UD 12). The 33-year-old enters this fight with a record of 21-4-1 (2 KOs).
Yoka-Takam, plus undercard bouts will be streamed on ESPN+ starting at 2:45 p.m. ET/11:45 a.m. PT.
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