Adam Azim returns to the ring on Saturday, seven months on from his last fight.
The idea had been to get the eight-bout prospect busy, but the rapid and heavy-handed Azim, only 21 and tipped for the top, but a hand injury has delayed his progress so far in 2023.
Now, Azim is hoping to steal the show on the Liam Smith-Chris Eubank rematch undercard at the Manchester Arena. Because he did not blitz 12-0 Nicaraguan Santo Reyes earlier in the year, in his last fight, critics started to take shots at the hotshot contender.
Reyes was down in the second but lost a landslide on all the cards, 100-89.
“That guy would have had one of the hardest heads in the 140-pound division, I’m telling you,” said Azim’s trainer, Shane McGuigan. “I know how much power he [Azim] generates. He knocks people out cold with 14 [ounce]s on, 16s on. That guy was made out of something different, but you’re going to get those guys. You’re going to get the Joshua Clotteys of this world. Golovkin was made of steel, and then you’re going to have to beat them with Plan B because you’re not going to beat them with power, and yes Reyes’s boxing ability wasn’t up to scratch but if toughness was and more. You’ve got to be able to dissect these guys. [Azim] Could have gone to the body a bit more, but that’s learning.”
Azim’s hand injuries go back to around the Reyes fight and it’s a reason McGuigan says they did not dispose of Reyes inside the distance. But McGuigan also saw positives from Azim doing 10 rounds for the first time and after any of his last six victims failed to get out of the third round, with three going in Round One. McGuigan was happy his charge got the rounds.
“Yes, I was,” Shane continued. “I felt he could have let his shots go a little bit more, but he had a bit of his issue with his hand. Naseem Hamed went 12 rounds when he won the European title or in his first or second defence and it was a bit boring, but the boxing purists loved it and the boxing purists liked that fight [Azim outboxing Reyes] because he was showcasing everything and giving the viewers time to see how good he is, not just blitzing someone.”
The coach also believes Azim is just one of a solid crop of British talent that will bring world glory to the UK, and that if the general public falls for Azim, he could be a star. McGuigan’s busy stable plays host to one of the other young prodigies tipped for the top, too.
“Joshua Buatsi is a very good fighter, I really rate him, I think Ben Whittaker is a really good star,” he said, when asked for some of the stars to watch. “I don’t necessarily like too much flash, you’ve got to get the blend right. You have to have the charisma to back it up. Naseem Hamed had it, Junior Witter didn’t. Amir Khan played a completely different card, he was a very likeable lad, very approachable and he went the other way. Adam is going to be a blend between the two but he just needs to be himself and he just needs to get more comfortable in front of camera, because he’s super comfortable in the ring. We’ve just got to build his out of the ring personality and status, whereas Caroline [Dubois]’s got that already, and one thing, she’s calm and confident and she’s the most improved fighter in this gym this year by far.”