FIVE wins, five knockouts, four different cities. That was the tale of Adam Azim’s 2022.
And now probably the hottest prospect in British boxing has been rewarded with a headline slot at a major British arena for the first time in his burgeoning career.
Azim, still only 20, will face Santos “Starboy” Reyes, the 12-0 (3) Nicaraguan at Wembley Arena and anyone betting against him extending his six-fight stoppage hot streak will surely be left out of pocket.
Reyes has never boxed outside his native Nicaragua but he will feel a long way from home once Azim assumes control. The Slough man’s last outing was an impressive two-round demolition of Rylan Charlton. The three before that came in the first round.
Azim is an overwhelming favourite – with Reyes as long as 14/1 with some oddsmakers – and for good reason. The Shane McGuigan fighter has shown exquisite punch selection and genuine power that belies his age.
Over the course of his five fights in 2022, Azim was in action for just nine minutes and 21 seconds, with four falling inside the first round and only Rylan Charlton, who had been held up as a much-needed test, lasting into the second. He fell after 41 seconds of that.
Reyes is the first undefeated opponent of Azim’s career but the gulf in class between the pair will be evident. And, as a man who has grown accustomed to winning over the course of his 12-fight career to date, Reyes may not be adept at surviving. He can also be wild at times which will play into Azim’s dynamite hands. The visitor is unlikely to see three rounds here.
It is also a big night for Zak Chelli, who has been out of the ring since June after his proposed fight with Lerrone Richards in November fell through when Richards pulled out on the date citing an illness after the weigh in.
But Chelli has been handed the opportunity to make a genuine statement here as he takes on Indiana’s once-beaten Anthony Sims Jnr over 10 rounds. Chelli claimed the English super-middleweight title when he beat Germaine Brown last time out but he will have his hands full with Sims.
“Richards was ranked No.5 in the world so after that all happened I just told them to get me anyone,” Chelli said. “They went through a few names in Britain, former British champions, they all turned it down. So I said ‘fine, get me someone from abroad’. They came along with Sims and I said yes, I didn’t even know who he was.”
The 23-1 American was once contracted to Matchroom and was one of the stars of their USA venture but he was beaten by Roamer Alexis Angulo in January 2020 and he has been rebuilding ever since. He drew a line under a year of inactivity when he beat Antonio Dodd over eight in December so has some momentum behind him, plus far more experience than Chelli.
He added: “Sims may have had more fights than me but if you look at the rounds he’s only done eight more than, because of course he has stopped his opponents. I don’t think they are as tough in the US as they are in the UK.
“He’s skilful but I can box and I can fight, I proved that in my last fight. I do both.”
It is without doubt that Chelli is improving with every fight and he has won five on the bounce since losing to Kody Davies on points and then drawing with Jack Cullen. But despite that, it is hard to pick against Sims here if he turns up in shape and focused. A points win for the visitor seems most likely but with 20 inside-distance wins out of 23, a late stoppage cannot be ruled out.
At middleweight, Tyler Denny puts his English title on the line against Brad Pauls in what could be fight of the night. Denny was last seen beating Brad Rea on points in November which followed on from his humdinger with River Wilson-Bent in Coventry five months earlier.
But the “Newquay Bomb” Pauls is 16-0 (9) and will be full of confidence after getting his career back on track over the last 14 months, The COVID era was not kind to Pauls, who did not box between November 2019 and October 2021 but he has won twice since. Given his performance against Rea, however, Denny to win on points here is the pick.
Elsewhere, lightweight Caroline Dubois will attempt to continue her serene progression as a professional in a step-up bout against former Terri Harper victim Yamila Belen Abellaneda. The Argentinean was outpointed by Harper over 10 in March and should provide stiffer opposition to Dubois than her last opponent, Sofia Rodriguez, who lasted exactly a minute.
Tottenham cruiserweight Viddal Riley is also back in action and should extend his 7-0 (4) record in style against Watford’s Anees Taj. Following a two-year hiatus from the ring, Riley returned with a bang last year racking up three wins with two quick in 2022. He will be hoping to be even busier this year, starting with Taj.
There are also outings for undefeated duo Jeamie Tshikeva (3-0) and Jordan Reynolds (4-0). The former takes on Harry Armstrong while, at the time of writing, there was no specified opponent for Luton favourite Reynolds.
Dan Azeez was supposed to be on the bill with a clash against France’s Thomas Faure for the vacant European light-heavyweight title set to add further intrigue to the event. Unfortunately, that bout had to be postponed when Azeez fell ill with the flu in January and put his preparation back by a few weeks.