ADAM AZIM successfully navigates through the final spar of this latest training camp and then sits down to discuss life as British boxing’s latest wonderkid.
But there is a startling lack of bravado from the 20-year-old hailed as the future of the sport in this country by the likes of Amir Khan, and he would know.
Instead Azim preaches about the importance of hard work and reveals an obsession with boxing that is bordering on problematic. “I watch boxing videos from morning until night,” he says, still wiping the sweat from his face. “I couldn’t even tell you how many hours I spend. I don’t really do anything else.
“Honestly. Every day. Everywhere I go I’m watching highlights and clips. Everywhere I go. I think it is to do with my ADHD.”
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder crops up a number of times during this interview and Azim believes it is at the heart of his success as a boxer. “It has played a big part for me,” he adds. “I can use it in any different way but boxing is how I use it, I love it too much.
“I’ve been doing it for 16 years already. My ADHD is like a superpower. It’s a thing I can switch on and control in the ring. I don’t need medication, my medication is my boxing. That’s where I drag my ADHD in and use it for good, both mentally and physically.”
What it has created so far, Azim believes, is a Frankenstein’s monster of attributes gleaned from his hours on YouTube. “I’m watching numerous fighters; Naseem Hamed, Canelo, Floyd Mayweather, Joan Guzman.
“I think I like a particular type of fighter and in many ways I’m a combination of them. Then also Gervonta Davis’ power, Shane Mosley for combinations, Khan for speed. There are so many ways you can acknowledge these guys’ attributes and try to apply them in the ring.
“I’ll watch it, see it, think about it and then try and do it when I’m in the gym or in a fight. It works.”
His record suggests thus. After 26 months as a pro, Azim is 7-0 with all but his debut ending inside the distance. That was back in December 2020 and, after fighting just once in 2021, he really got the ball rolling in style during 2022.
As a key component of Boxxer and Sky’s burgeoning relationship, the Slough man racked up five successive victories during the year, all of them live on the channel, all of them punctuated by highlight reel knockouts. The last of those came against Rylan Charlton, who was brought in as somebody who would extend Azim somewhat as he headlined Alexandra Palace on November 27. He lasted exactly three minutes and 42 seconds.
“The year went incredible,” Azim says. “It couldn’t have gone any better. I got the destructive knockouts I wanted, a lot of people got to see me fight and I had my first headline show. I fought Rylan Charlton and got the performance I wanted.
“Everything in the year went very smoothly and I really enjoyed it. Now I want to start this year with a bang and continue my journey like that.”
On Saturday Azim will make another forward step on that journey in the form of a headline slot at Wembley Arena on a Sky Sports Saturday fight night for the first time. There are only a handful of other British boxers over the last 30 years who received similar treatment at 7-0.
And, in truth, British boxing is crying out for more bonafide stars. We are nearing the end of the Anthony Joshua/Tyson Fury era and with the retirement of the likes of Khan and Kell Brook still reasonably fresh, there are few genuine torch bearers waiting in the wings. Azim, however, is one of those.
“This is why I want to continue to headline,” he adds. “It is about growing and growing. It takes time but I am ready to put the work in. I am mentally strong enough for the pressure that comes with it.
“I want to build my career really well. It’s the same as Amir Khan who used to headline every show and pack them out every single time. I want to build my fanbase and get it bigger.
“I need to perform all the time. I want to get these devastating knockouts and keep improving. I’m happy with the way it’s going. I think the bigger the stage, the better I’ll be. I want to show the people why I belong on a platform like this and I want kids to be inspired by me like I was inspired by Amir.”
Khan was near-ever present at ringside for Azim’s fights last year and the pair appear to have developed a genuine bond. There are obvious parallels between the two as British-Pakistani boxers who illuminated the amateurs before generating fanfare in the paid code as teenagers.
And while Azim will receive advice from many inside boxing, Khan is the one who knows exactly what the youngster will be going through these days.
“We always stay in touch,” he nods. “He is like a big brother to me and we’ve grown very close. I think he’s coming to this fight and we are going to meet up and just chat about normal stuff, it’s like a family thing really.
“We speak a lot but the thing that sticks with me most is how he is always telling me to stay grounded. The biggest bit of advice really is just to be humble. Khan really is. And it is not something you can fake either. You either are or you aren’t.
“Actually I get similar advice from Barry McGuigan who is another legend who had to deal with the stage where he is building up towards becoming a world champion and then he became a global superstar. He knows what is going on so it is great to have him around.”
Barry’s son Shane, Azim’s trainer, meanwhile, has been mentoring his young charge to ensure he stays grounded too. The presence of his big brother, Hassan, and another couple of figures from his childhood are also key to that.
“I’ve known Caroline and Daniel Dubois since I was about eight,” he says of the brother and sister duo who also do their training with McGuigan.
“Actually I used to spar Caroline a lot when we were kids and I used to struggle. She’s amazing and will become a multi weight world champion.
“I’ve heard the stories that she had to pretend to be a boy called Colin but she was always Caroline then. I think I was eight when I first sparred her, we were probably sparring until I was about 11. That was down at Dale Youth. She had talent from a young age and always had that style. I’m a bit too big for her now but I’ll never forget those spars we had.
“Believe it or not, I never sparred Daniel. He was too big for me then as well. It’s good to be climbing the ladder together. They’ve always been friends to me and now it’s like family. We all are in this gym.
“Having Hassan here is important too. He’s my big brother and he keeps an eye on me, while I keep an eye on him too. We are both pushing each other all the time.”
Not that it seems like he needs any additional motivation as he continues his climb towards titles, with similar haste to that shown in 2022. Only 11 weeks have passed since he scythed down Charlton in such emphatic style at Alexandra Palace – and some of those were spent laid low.
“I got a one or two week break but I actually got ill during that period of time, over Christmas,” Azim says. “I was properly out of action for a week or so, but it actually turned out well to get ill then so I’m now fully fit and fresh to get back into the ring. I got the same flu that everyone else seemed to get but I’ve had a good seven-week camp and I’m ready.
“The secret for me is just training hard. I train so hard, I’m always focused and always in the gym. I’m always angry, it’s my ADHD. I enjoy the gym, I love the gym and working hard. If I go to a spar and I don’t leave tired I’m not working hard enough.
“The fights are coming around quickly now so I want to stay in tip-top shape, eat healthy food. After this fight I’m going to go organic, I want to keep my body in top tip shape just like Cristiano Ronaldo. He’s 37, look at the shape he’s in. I’m looking for longevity in this game and that’s the only way.”
The man in his way this weekend is Santos Reyes, the 12-0 Nicaraguan, who represents the first undefeated opponent of Azim’s career. He arrives as a 14/1 outsider and will leave 12-1, save one of the biggest shocks in a British ring in Azim’s lifetime.
“I think a lot of people want to see me go rounds because they want to see how I am as the fight goes later,” Azim adds. “But I never go looking for the knockout, they just come. I place the shots correctly so I end up getting the knockout I want. But I’m even better when I go rounds.
“He’s a durable fighter, very tough, I’ve seen him in a couple of videos on YouTube. I won’t underestimate him but I want to get a superb knockout and put on a show. I don’t feel the pressure because I don’t go looking for the knockout but I believe it will come.”
With that, Azim is just about done with one of his final media obligations before fight week begins in earnest. Despite being only 20, he has already dedicated the best part of 16 years of his life to boxing. There is time to ask why.
“I have thought about this one a lot,” he says. “I think it is because I want people to be inspired by me.
“A lot of young people have many problems these days, even out on the streets there is a lot of knife crime – in places like my home town of Slough and London. There are a lot of stabbings going on.
“But I want to build boxing gyms around the UK and get these kids off the street, I can show them there is another pathway for them. There are opportunities for you to do something with your life that benefits you.
“And the only way I know I can show them that is by boxing.”