Light Heavyweight contender Dan Azeez was forced to withdraw from his scheduled bout with Joshua Buatsi because of a back injury just days before their clash. The fight cancellation was especially unfortunate because the winner would be next in line for a fight against Dmitry Bivol, the WBA light heavyweight titleholder.
“I’m obviously not in the best of spirits but it is what it is. The fight is off and we’re looking to get a new scheduled date in the diary,” Azeez shared. “I was having my last real hard session and after the session, I could feel a pain in my lower back, and it got worse and worse from there. I thought I would be able to take some painkillers but the restriction, I couldn’t move the way I needed to move, both standing up and sitting down. I was not clear to box after that.”
Given the injury restriction, it was a smart move for the contender to sit this fight out. Azzez understood the magnitude of the matchup, was sincere in his apology to the fans and his opponent, and wasted no time pushing for a rescheduled matchup.
“I know emotions are high I can only imagine how he feels. Hopefully, he understands and hopefully, we can get this on. I’d really like it to happen before the end of the year. That’s what it’s looking like. Once we get the scans and results back, hopefully, we can actually put a date to it,” Azeez said.
To make matters worse, Azeez was dealt unwarranted chatter surrounding his injury, and a claim that he fabricated the extent of the injury began circulating.
“That’s one of the things that’s been most upsetting. I’m hearing the narrative of three weeks out. The show was going to be off but that’s really hurtful. For someone of my integrity, the type of fighter I am, I would never, ever stage an injury,” Azeez said.
“People have worked hard to buy a ticket to come and people have travelled far. I just wouldn’t do that. It’s nothing to do with Boxxer or Buatsi, got the injury just the other day. It was hurtful, especially coming from people in the industry. You’ll have your people on social media and your keyboard warriors, but when you have people in the industry who know the game and the industry talking about conspiracies, that’s really, really poor. I was enraged. You have other promoters who maybe try to make the show not as successful as it was going to be. It’s competition, dirty tricks. People who know me know I wouldn’t do that. I’m a man of integrity and the sport means a lot to me.”
The top of the light heavyweight division has been stalled for some time, and the cancellation of Buatsi vs Azeez is no exception. Dmitry Bivol last fought in November 2022 and does not have his next fight currently scheduled, while WBC, WBO, and IBF titleholder, Artur Beterbiev, will be returning in January 2024 to take on Callum Smith, following an injury postponement he was dealt, which pushed their fight date by five months.