Billy Graham's Preacher's Corner: Buatsi-Azeez banger is right up my street

There’s a phrase that gets thrown about a lot in boxing and people use it in totally the wrong way. It always gets said when there’s a fight between a pressure fighter and a boxer mover. People always say it’s a case of the bull versus the matador.

There's something they all miss. Matadors don't move around. They stay still and make the bull miss with very subtle movements. The best ones have the nerve to stay close.

Boxing a pressure fighter isn’t about moving all the time. In some ways, you want to let them beat themselves. You have to tame them. Make them hit arms and elbows. Be more economical with your movements and make them pay with simple shots. Let them throw and answer back.

It works the other way, too. A bull wants a matador to stay still, but when you’re tracking down a mover, you actually want them to move. Of course you want to get them in the end and force them to hold their feet, but you want to drain their tank, make them move constantly.

The key for both is to make the other fighter work when they don’t want to. 

I’d love to be involved in this fight between Dan Azeez and Joshua Buatsi. This is right up my street.

Buatsi was the one tipped for stardom. I think he’s extremely talented. He’s smooth and he’s rhythmic. I know he’s had a couple of not-so-great-performances but that happens to everyone. I didn’t really know who Azeez was until he broke through but he’s impressed me more and more as he’s progressed. He’s got better and better and he’s fan friendly. You know I’m sick of all the pre-fight bullshit and Azeez seems like a good guy.

I think Buatsi’s gotta get this guy out of the way, I don’t think he’s got any other choice. He has to hit him hard as he comes. He can’t have a mindset of keeping on the outside, poking away with a jab and weathering the storm late on. I think I’d gamble. It’s generally better if you can back any fighter up but somebody like Azeez is obviously not as good on the back foot. How he goes about it is the important part. 

Buatsi won’t be able to take the centre of the ring right away or back Azeez up. He has to hit him hard enough to straighten him up but this fight is all about controlling canvas and slowly beginning to back him up. It’s gonna be a tall order.

The problem comes when you fight a smart pressure fighter. If they are loading up on every shot and winging in big hooks you can see them coming, absorb them and use your elbows to block the shots. Then clinch, tie him up and turn him. Close is safe. When a pressure fighter doesn’t load up with every shot but gets into range and picks hard single shots, that’s more difficult to deal with and that’s how I’d want Azeez to drain Buatsi. He’s definitely got the physical attributes to do it.

He’s got a great engine. Physically, he’s very strong and he’s got a good jab that I wish he’d use a bit more. I don’t know Azeez and haven’t been around him. I’ve no idea how coachable he is but he’s a good body puncher and he has a really good punch selection. Because of Buatsi’s amateur background and style, I’m only assuming that he has the higher ring IQ, but if Azeez has been taught to pressure properly, he can do this. 

Smooth, stand up fighters and boxers like opponents who throw everything properly and correctly. That overhand right Azeez throws might also be a nightmare for Buatsi.

If I’d been working with Buatsi I’d have been working on one-twos. Mechanically, it’s an economical way to fight and you can generate so much power. I’d want to drill Azeez with that right hand all night. Of course, you’re gonna give ground early but you can do it with little movements that make sure you’ve always got all your weapons available. If he tries to just keep his jab going and stay away, Azeez will just roll right over him. 

They can both work inside. They can both hook and throw uppercuts. That ability to throw hard, straight shots might just make the difference.

I have absolutely no worries about Azeez’s mental strength. He’s done things the hard way and beat people in their own backyards. He’ll be rock solid. If I was training Azeez, I’d just have in my mind that Buatsi turned down the fight with Dmitriy Bivol when that’s the fight everybody dreamed of. Why? Why didn’t he take it? That would be in the back of my mind. It’d give me a little bit of confidence. You hold on to anything that makes you feel good before a big fight. 

The fact that they know each other will make it even worse. It’ll be even more violent if anything.

When I was fighting, I had a friend who was around the same age and same weight and we turned professional around the same time. We’d always been in boxing gyms together. I’d always be getting asked when I was gonna fight him. I remember one time I was stepping in the resin box before i got in the ring for a fight – in those days you used to wipe resin on the soles of your boots because they had no grip on – and even then the fans were shouting at me asking when I was gonna fight this fella. I got sick of it and shouted, “Him? He’s fuck all”. The bloke in the ring thought I was talking about him. He looked like Hercules too. It’s all down to how you deal with the attention.

I just think this is a fight that will bring the best out of Buatsi. It’s gonna have to. I’m expecting him to have a bit too much in his arsenal but Azeez will climb all over him unless he uses his weapons properly.