Ben Shalom is confident that Dan Azeez will be fighting Joshua Buatsi—not Dmitry Bivol—in his next fight.
Confusion abounded earlier this month when a press release circulated stating that British countrymen Buatsi and Azeez would be fighting in a light heavyweight eliminator for the WBA belt, held by Russia’s Bivol, in the fall.
Promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom, who backs Bivol, then told the press that he was having conversations with Azeez to go straight into a title shot against Bivol. Buatsi is backed by rival outfit Boxxer, but he was formerly promoted by Hearn until they had a major falling out. Bivol, who has not fought since November, has been on the hunt for an opponent ever since his much-discussed rematch with Canelo Alvarez went by the wayside. (Alvarez is expected to defend his four 168-pound belts against Jermall Charlo in September.)
Now, to muddle matters even more, Boxxer head Ben Shalom stated unequivocally, in an interview Thursday, that Buatsi-Azeez would be the next fight for both fighters. Shalom added that Azeez was not currently in negotiations with Hearn, pointing out that Azeez is tied to Boxxer, which has an exclusive content-producing deal with Sky, the British broadcaster. Shalom said he would know if Azeez was carrying on talks with Hearn because he is Azeez’s promoter.
“He’s not in talks with them (Matchroom),” Shalom told Boxing News. “He’s not in talks with them. Dan’s with Boxxer, Dan’s with Sky. I have not received any [offer].
“Dan Azeez and Joshua Buatsi have agreed to fight each other. We will announce the date and venue. Even I see things I’m like, ‘where’s that come from?’”
“As I say, our fighters getting attention is a good thing,” Shalom continued. “And sometimes I think it’s a bit of a distraction and a bit of deflection but Dan Azeez—the journey we’ve been on, to even have him is actually incredible. To have him in our world level and even amongst these names, what a journey it’s been. We’ll have news on Dan Azeez in the next few days. We’ve already got a fight scheduled for him. And he wants all the big fights and I can’t wait to see his career develop even further.”
Asked to categorically state that there would be no fight between Azeez and Bivol, Shalom responded, “I can categorically say that I’m his promoter and I’ve not received anything (offer from Bivol’s team).”
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.