Adam Azim is ‘one of the scariest talents’ in British boxing

An esteemed family photo that is too grainy to reproduce here fills his father’s phone screen. It reveals the smiling face of a six-year-old Adam Azim sitting next to his father that night Amir Khan fought Michael Gomez in Birmingham.

Next month, 14 years after the photo was taken, Azim will be in Khan’s company again, only this time on the undercard in Manchester, when his hero finally shakes his fist at his distant dance partner Kell Brook.

Azim are two battles in a career inevitably linked to Khans, with whom he shares the same British-Pakistani heritage. Khan is negotiating the end of a career that perhaps should have already been closed.

Though unusual, Khan has – at least in the toughest of engagements – carried the tension from a jaw too fragile to meet the demands placed on it by a warrior heart unaware of fear. But the big nights, oh my, unforgettable.

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The thought-provoking epic against Marcos Maidana in 2010, the dismantling of Zab Judah the following year and Devon Alexander’s schooling just over seven years ago. A bit of it is what Azim wants, glorification under light with the amount on the ragged edge.

The pedigree is there. Azim and older brother Hassan boast gilded amateur careers packed with national junior titles. Had the pandemic not intervened, Azim was heading for the elite senior amateur squad in Sheffield, where global success could have been his. Khan was blessed with an Olympic cycle as a 17-year-old. Aziz could not wait for Paris 2024. As a 19-year-old and restless, he is where he needs to be, where he needs to have pay and dreams big.

Two weeks after his second match, Azim was back in the gym of coach Shane McGuigan’s training center in East London. Azim is like Khan tall and slender with his hand quick eyes to detect. McGuigan, who planned the march of Carl Frampton and Josh Taylor from raw amateurs to world champions, sees the same rich potential in Azim. There is actually a trait that might still set him apart from the field.

“X-factor,” McGuigan said I on the question of what that property could be. “He has it. You can feel it. He’s very talented, but it’s not always enough. It depends on how much he wants it, how hard he’s prepared to work. None of this is easy.”

For McGuigan’s brother Jake, part of the management structure, it’s about balancing excitement with the realities of a sport that changes reputation with a bang. Experience the night when Khan walked on the right hand side of Breidis Prescott in 2008.

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“We’re hugely excited about Adam,” Jake says. “He wants to fight for a world title tomorrow, but he’s still young. Step by step. It’s a long process. Does he have the talent? Absolutely. Some of the scariest I’ve seen. And Shane feels the same. But he must prove it. ”

Azim was introduced to combat sports to curb a hyperdisposition, first to kick boxing at the age of four and then the noble arts as ten. “I had ADHD,” he recalls. “The only way to train my energy was boxing. It was always positive. I tried cricket, I could bat and bowl but could not play. Did not feel it. When I first started boxing, that was it.

In addition to Khan, Azim had something to do with Naseem Hamed – the knockouts, the overflowing, somersaults. On the advice of his father, a successful operator in the care sector from Slough, Azim decided to add his own festive setback to his repertoire.

“People want excitement. They want entertainment. My dad said ‘why are you not trying to come back?’. I went to a gym club and the guy said it would take three months. I learned it in an hour.” After victory No. 2 at Wembley, where he left Stu Greener sprayed on the floor, Azim landed the flip as clean as Max Whitlock.

“When I was fighting in the amateurs, I knew what to do. The opponents were scared. It was like ‘wow, this guy has won everything’. I had a reputation. As a professional it’s different. Shane teaches me a lot of things. On match night it’s the same. I have to perform, show what I’m up to. In the second match I did it and knocked the guy out. It all comes together. It’s on to the next match and the next after that. just develop myself to become a better fighter. “

Azim has sparred with people like Luke Campbell and Conor Benn and, as Jake noted, maintained: “He has the amazing ability at a young age to feel comfortable with world-class fighters. He seems to catch on very well. Not everyone can do it, but the signs are there. “

Caution is needed, but how deep it penetrates the psyche of an alpha child full of running is hard to say. Azim is manners and modest out of the ring, but when that bell rings, the humility falls away. He becomes something else, a frightening presence in one with the violence. “I had about 150 kickboxing fights before I started boxing. I always imagined being in that ring. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

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The audience is just as eager to see him as he is to fight. In his pocket, Dad carries his amateur record card, the records fade from use. He points out the great conquests, the results that told him he was something special.

To facilitate the flourishing of both his sons, father rented an apartment in the Docklands to be near the Leyton training base. They return to Slough this weekend, then it’s back to McGuigan School, where a certain Barry can often be seen giving wisdom and tying gloves.

“He’s a fabulous talent, similar to the ones I’ve seen at his age,” Barry said. “He has such natural speed. You look at all the great fighters, Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Ray Leonard, they all had it. Either you were born with it or you are not.”

The testimony was provided with the usual reservations. Wonder children come and go. Azim could not be in better hands, but ultimately fate is in his own.

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