ALTHOUGH this fight may not illuminate Instagram reels quite as adequately as most of his other ones, there is no doubt Adam Azim will look back on this as a crucial night for his development.
The 12-0 Nicaraguan Santos Reyes was brought over in the hope that he would provide some rounds for Azim, who won five on the spin in 2022 but featured in a total of just eight threes across the 12 months.
Not many expected him to eek out all 10 here, particularly when he was dropped in the second by a vicious right hand, but that’s exactly what Reyes did. Whatever he was getting paid, he deserved double it.
Because Reyes hung tough throughout, despite barely winning a second of any round. But he played his part, he was durable and frustrated his 20-year-old opponent.
These 30 minutes of action will be like solid gold for Azim and particularly his trainer Shane McGuigan, who has not only trained the fighter but also created the atmosphere in which he can grow despite the hype.
It may have looked like he had it all his own way, using his long, sharp jab to set up attacks to head and body but there were many times when his best work was hitting nothing but gloves. It forced him to reassess, create angles and set up attacks. Despite his form last year, Azim knew it would not always be a case of hitting someone on the chin and putting them to sleep, even though it has happened often in the gym and beneath the lights.
But if he is to hit the heights expected of him, there will be tough, frustrating nights. This was not quite one of those but it’s exactly what he needed.
It was also the first time in his career that he has dropped someone and failed to finish the fight. When Reyes stumbled backwards onto the seat of his pants after that right hand, it looked like another early night was almost guaranteed. But he regathered his composure and made it through the round.
“After the knockdown and he dropped, I thought he was gone,” Azim said. “I landed it right on the button, you know people from his country are very tough.
“Overall I rate my performance. It was very tough, I’ve never seen someone who has had eight fights to take on someone who is 12-0.”
Judges Michael Alexander, Rene Fiebig and Grzegorz Molenda all scored it 100-89 in favour of the Slough man, who had to listen to scores being read out for the first time since his professional debut in 2012.
McGuigan said: “This was definitely what we wanted, a knockdown, rounds, experience. These are all the things we needed and we could showcase what we’ve been working on in the gym tonight.”
In the chief support, Fulham’s Zak Chelli boxed diligently en route to the biggest win of his career, widely outpointing Anthony Sims Jr over 10 at super-middleweight.
Chelli showed enough patience and focus to control large swathes of the fight, except a short spell in the eighth when the Las Vegas man produced an eye-catching but ultimately pointless burst of energy.
There were no surprises – or complaints from Sims – when Molenda and Terry O’Connor scored it 98-92 and Fiebig 99-92. Alexander was the referee.
There was also a career-best performance from Rowley Regis middleweight Tyler Denny who once again successfully defended his English title against an undefeated bloke called Bradley.
In November it was Brad Rea but here he outboxed ‘The Newquay Bomb’ Brad Pauls over 10 in style from his southpaw stance. Alexander saw it 98-93 while both O’Connor and Howard Foster scored it 97-93. Bob Williams reffed.
Viddal Riley against Anees Taj had been shaping up as the best fight of the night after three rounds of back-and-forth action but it was cut short, literally, after four seconds of the fourth.
Tottenham cruiserweight Riley had landed a sizzling right hand which opened up an ugly gash over Taj’s left eye and, despite his corner doing a good job of sorting it between rounds, the ringside doctor advised referee Bob Williams to wave it off.
It was also an early night for Caroline Dubois who demolished the badly overmatched Tanzanian Feriche Mashaury inside three rounds. “I am frustrated,” she said after. “I wanted someone who would fight back, throw back. She was negative from the first bell. She was literally turning away.”
Mashaury was dropped in the second round by a body shot and stopped on her feet after 47 seconds of the third when Foster had seen enough. Before that, Tottenham Jeamie TKV beat Torquay’s Harry Armstong over eight threes at heavyweight. Williams scored it 77-75 which was harsh on the dominant TKV.
There were stoppage wins for all four of the remaining house fighters on the undercard. Welterweight Hassan Azim, brother of Adam, tore through Tanzanian Abdallah Luanja in two brutal rounds with Foster calling a halt after 2-43 of the second.
Luton super-middleweight Jordan Reynolds dropped Frenchman Mohamed Cherif Benchadi in the second but did not close the show until 58 seconds into the sixth and final round when Foster stepped in.
Smithborough’s Stevie McKenna dropped Brendon Denes in the fourth round and the Zimbabwean then chose not to leave his stool at the start of the fifth. It was scheduled for eight with Williams the ref. While in the first fight of the night, Maida Vale featherweight Razor Ali claimed the first inside-distance win of his career when he forced Williams to wave off his six rounder against Mexico’s Hector Avila Lozano after 1-26 of the third.
Verdict: Azim needed a night like this and he got it.
Adam Azim (140lbs), 8-0 (6), w pts Santos Reyes (140lbs), 12-1 (3); Zak Chelli (167lbs), 13-1-1 (6), w pts Anthony Sims Jnr (167lbs), 23-2 (20); Tyler Denny (160lbs), 16-2-3, w pts 10 Brad Pauls (159lbs), 16-1 (9); Viddal Riley (198lbs), 8-0 (5), w rsf 4 Anees Taj (198 1/4lbs), 7-3 (5); Caroline Dubois (137lbs), 6-0 (5), w rsf 3 Feriche Mashaury (138lbs), 10-8 (3); Jeamie TKV (260lbs), 4-0 (2), w pts 8 Harry Armstrong (259 1/4lbs), 5-1-1; Jordan Reynolds (171 1/4lbs), 5-0 (2), w rsf 6 Mohammed Cherif Benchadi (173lbs), 4-21-2; Stevie McKenna (153lbs), 13-0 (12), w rtd 4 Brendon Denes (151lbs), 9-3 (6); Hassan Azim (149 1/4lbs), 6-0 (3), w rsf 2 Abdallah Luanja (144lbs), 15-10-2 (10); Razor Ali (124lbs), 7-0 (1), w rsf 3 Hector Lozano (125 1/4lbs), 1-2 (1).
THE EMPTY SEAT
THIS was an emotional event from start to finish as British boxing paid tribute to our friend and colleague Ron Lewis here at Wembley. Ron was supposed to be sitting next to me at the Wembley Arena, reporting for Boxing Scene, rolling his eyes at the ringwalk music and scouring the oddsmakers for value on the men and women in the ring.
But Ron suffered a cardiac arrest on Friday morning and died at his home. Boxxer kept his desk for him, placed upon it a red carnation and adorned it with the blue-and-white hooped shirt and scarf of his beloved Queens Park Rangers.
There was also a minute’s applause for the acclaimed journalist who had covered boxing for decades before his untimely and tragic death last week.
Me and Ron, both freelancers, had been working in tandem for Boxing Scene at Thursday’s Anthony Joshua press conference. We had agreed to sit down during a quiet moment in this show and divvy up some of the many quotes from the likes of Joshua, Eddie Hearn and Joe Markowski which had not yet been used.
When he left the press conference in order to collect his young daughter as the afternoon drifted into the evening, he had cheerily waved: ‘see you Saturday, sir’. To be without him at this show was unimaginable.
The avalanche of tributes since his wife Ellie confirmed the sad news on Twitter has gone some way to highlight the esteem in which Ron was held in this industry. Given the way the media has changed over the years, in boxing in particular, there will never be another like him.
He was a mainstay and a titan and we all miss him.