Ricards Bolotniks favours Joshua Buatsi to win tactical battle with Dan Azeez in London

Ricards Bolotniks will be an interested spectator for Dan Azeez’s collision with Joshua Buatsi this Saturday because he knows both men well. 

The pair square off for the British and Commonwealth light-heavyweight titles at Wembley Arena in London in a bout that was rescheduled from last year after Azeez suffered a back injury.

The Latvian light-heavyweight, 20-7-1, knows both men well having shot into British boxing’s conscience with wins over the UK’s Steven Ward and Hosea Burton in 2019 and 2020, following up with a knockout win over the undefeated Serge Michel. He boxed Buatsi during the lockdown summer of 2021, and was stopped in the 11th round.

Azeez, 20-0 (13KOs), spent 2023 fighting in France and Italy, winning the European title with a late stoppage over Thomas Faure in Paris to start the year. Buatsi, 17-0 (13KOs), meanwhile, switched promoters from Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom to Ben Shalom’s Boxxer, which has become a legal situation. 

The Olympic bronze medalist made his debut for Shalom with a lopsided points win against Pawel Stepien in Birmingham in May. Bolotniks believes ring intelligence and experience will play a huge role this weekend.

“I was in camp with Azeez for Artur Beterbiev’s camp in Canada one time,” Bolotniks said in an exclusive interview for ProBox TV. “He’s a nice lad, always smiling, very happy, he is crazy. He’s got a good punch, he’s a hard trainer too, and strong, definitely a very strong guy. 

“I was in the Buatsi camp before they rescheduled for this fight. I was helping Buatsi ultimately for this fight now. I was in the training camp and used for sparring, then I came home after three weeks of good sparring with him. After just two days of being back the fight was canceled.”

Azeez-Buatsi tops the bill on Sky Sports this weekend.

“They are both very strong guys,” Bolotniks added. “They both have a good punch. They both have great conditioning over 12 rounds, they are always boxing at that level. They will have both spent time on running, fitness and strength training. They will both be in great shape for a 12-round title fight. 

“It will come down to who has the better tactics. Whoever is thinking more, whoever did the most homework will win. It’s because they are both as strong as each [other], there is not too much difference there. I think I will give it 35/65 to Buatsi though. Azeez is strong, but Buatsi has had better fights. I haven’t seen Azeez in with as good fighters, you know. Buatsi has been in the ring with Craig Richards, with me and the Croatian guy he fought gave him a good fight. Buatsi has just had harder fights, we have seen how Buatsi reacts when the fights go, not so easy. This will be the first fight for Azeez where he will really have to show his heart and mind.”