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Dan Azeez: "You never really choose boxing. It chooses you."

Light-heavyweight English champion Dan Azeez talks about his boxing inspirations, his toughest opponents and the people who have helped guide his journey

Dan Azeez

Dan Azeez isn't your average boxer. The light-heavyweight pursued the sport while studying for his accounting and finance degree at Essex University.

Amassing a 12-0 record and the English title, Azeez's decision to swap finance for fisticuffs looks a wise one. 

On Friday Azeez defends his belt against Ricky Summers and will hope to take care of business and move toward his goal of becoming world champion. 

"As a boxer you never really choose the sport, it’s chooses you," says Azeez. "Once you're in there, there is no looking back until you're truly done." 

He has a way to go yet. 

How did you take up the sport?

I was influenced as a teen by a few local boxers in my area, and then took it up competitively as an amateur after watching the national finals where the likes of Anthony Joshua won the championships.

Who were your idols growing up?

Growing up I really idolized the likes of Muhammad Ali – but more so for the great things he did outside of the ring.

In the ring, it was Mike Tyson for his share ferociousness, and Naseem Hamed for pure entertainment both in and out the ring!

What teacher / coach / teammate made the biggest impact on your development?

My amateur coach Gordon Charlesworth helped and played a big part in developing my mental toughness, which is maybe the most important part of boxing.

My current trainer Brian O’Shaughnessy has really helped hone my technical ability and we are constantly improving each fight.

My strength trainer has aided in my physical ability to sustain high intensity for longer, as well as keeping me more immune to injuries.

As well as trainers though, I've also had the pleasure of being around top elite level boxers who have really helped improve me as a boxer such as current world cruiserweight champion Lawrence Okolie, 2016 light heavyweight bronze medalist Joshua Buatsi and super-middleweight world champion Billy Joe Saunders, amongst others.

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What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

"Everyone loves a winner" – Anthony Joshua. 

Have you ever come close to quitting the sport?

As an amateur when I lost a fight I would always say I’m done with boxing and have a little sulk, but then be back in the gym the next day!

I believe as a boxer you never really choose the sport, it’s chooses you, and once you're in there, there is no looking back until you're truly done.

Talk us through your pro debut – were you more nervous or excited? 

I remember being very excited and slightly nervous, although I had been boxing for some years before then, my professional debut felt like I was having my first ever fight again.

I was sharing the bill with British heavyweight David Price and I was being dubbed the new kid on the block with a lot of potential, so I had to show what all the noise was about.

The highlight would definitely have to be having so many people coming to watch me fight as I had never experienced that as an amateur fighter, so it was really nice to have that.

What would you say is your best singular performance to date?

My Southern Area title fight live on Sky Sports at the O2 against fellow Londoner Charlie Duffield.

It was a big fight for me at the time and I enjoyed every moment of it.

And your biggest career achievement?

So far, winning the BBBofC English Title (Champion of England).

Who’s been your toughest opponent?

They’ve all been tough, in their own unique ways. I have just performed and looked better in some than others!

If you could fight one bout again, which would it be and why?

Any fight that has gone the distance, so I could try and get the knockout the second time around.

What are your goals for the remainder of your career?

Simply to keep climbing the rankings, get as many titles as possible and the ultimate goal is to be a world champion.

What plans do you have for retirement? 

I would love to be an actor...

Dan Azeez

Watch Dan Azeez vs Ricky Summers, April 17 on IFL TV.

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