Adam Azim can make lightweight, but is hitting so hard he’s been having to spar middleweights as he prepares for Sunday’s clash with Rylan Charlton.
“I’ve sparred a lot of middleweights now. I can’t really get anyone my weight for sparring so I have to spar bigger people,” he told Sky Sports.
“Shane [McGuigan, his trainer] puts me in tough rounds so I can adapt to any style.
“With middleweights you can’t really switch off because they’re big, they’re coming straight at you. I believe I can spar anyone and I’ve learned a lot in the gym,” he continued.
That’s what McGuigan intended. “The thing is because he’s so much quicker than these middleweights, he beats up on them. Because he lands three or four shots. They’re not used to being hit with five, six punch combinations,” his coach said.
It’s a sign of what Azim is capable of. “He is very special. He is proper special,” McGuigan said. “It’s just the truth. I’ve never seen him out of his depth. I want to try and find that level. He’s up to sparring middleweights… Good ones, guys with belts and he’s still handling them.
“I don’t want to get him hurt by going up even further,” he continued. “It’s just stupid after that but he’s very comfortable in the ring.”
Currently McGuigan isn’t willing to put a ceiling on Azim’s potential.
“You see it with certain fighters. Great vision, they know when to jab. He listens to my instructions and for me as a trainer I need to have fighters that do what I’m asking them to do. If I teach them something, they’ve got to be able to implement it and that’s what’s great about him, I actually get him to implement what I’m looking for,” he said.
“I can maximise fighters. I’ve done that my whole career basically, taken a fighter on and maximised their potential and even the ones that are world champions they’ve still got an area of limitation. But there isn’t really for Adam.
“Because he can fight on all ranges. He’s better at fighting at long range. If he needs to he can go forward, he can fight short. It remains to be seen what his toughness is like, but we haven’t needed to see it. I’ve tried to test it but it’s still not been tested.”
Azim himself promises there’s more for him to show in his next fight. “A lot of people have seen me going forward, they haven’t seen me go backfoot once, a lot of people don’t know that I can fight either way, I can fight front foot, I can fight back foot, and a lot of people haven’t seen that capability yet,” he said.
“This camp I’ve been looking very sharp, very strong and when I get in that ring you guys will know what kind of a fighter I really am.
“If I hit anyone right on the spot with that unexpected shot, I know for a fact they’ll be going down.”
McGuigan manages as well as trains Azim. Plotting his course through the sport is an exciting challenge. Charlton on Sunday is a step up, but it’s one that McGuigan is certain his fighter can handle.
“There are guys that shout and scream from the rooftops and then they get in there and they flap it. Rylan’s the opposite. He’ll say little and he’ll go and do as much as he can. But I know that he [Azim] will beat him … and I think deep down, Rylan knows it as well,” the trainer said.
Looking ahead to next year, McGuigan has to consider: “When do we let him off the leash? If he does Rylan Charlton in one or two rounds, where do we go from there? People are going to want to see him reach his level really fast.
“But we’ve got five fights a year and they’re all going to be championship fights now. There are so many great names in and around light-welterweight, 140lbs. You’ve got people like the [Ivan] Baranchyks of this world, former world champions, when do we push him on to that?
“Well, we know when we’re going to do it and we’ll gauge that with how he goes.
“You’ve also got young fresh talent coming through, like Devin Haney, who’s phenomenal, these guys are all going to step up [to super-lightweight], it’s going to be an exciting journey,” he continued.
“We have to get through and impress and it’s one thing doing it in here [the gym], there’s another doing it in front of 5,000, 8,000 people, 10,000, 20,000 people on Sky Sports with all the eyeballs and pressure on you. It’s how he deals with that.
“I know he’ll deal with it well.”