Hassan Azim: “I’m Going To Win A World Title.”
By Cameron Temple
British boxing has been a whirlwind of announcements recently, with Queensbury and Matchroom returning to boxing in July and August respectively.
This has been amidst the news that Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury have agreed in principle to two fights in 2021, edging British boxing ever closer to the biggest fight in its history.
These recent announcements have made it easy for less headlining grabbing news to be lost amongst all the noise, like MTK Global signing newly turned professional and former amateur superstar, Hassan Azim.
“We know that MTK is by far the best management team out there.” Hassan said, “They’ve got Tyson Fury, Billy Joe Saunders and a few others. When we approached them, they already knew who we were and when we sat down at the table, they gave us a good deal. I have no doubt in my mind that MTK is the best management team for me and they’ve been expanding really well.”
Hassan has amassed a strong support network around him with MTK Global and his training team lead by his dad, but he is still looking for a promoter to complete his team and he is open to all offers.
“It’s about whoever has the best deal and MTK will sort that out. MTK have good links with all the promoters, so I don’t really mind.”
Hassan is hoping an impressive professional debut might help in his search for a promoter:
“In my pro debut I want to get a good stoppage or at least have a convincing win so more promoters will be looking at me and thinking I’m a good boxer. Then, they’ll offer me a better deal than they would now, so I don’t mind waiting for a bit.”
Signing with MTK Global shows just how far Hassan has come since he first entered a boxing gym at the age of twelve, after being inspired by his brother Adam.
“When Adam started boxing, I was watching him training and it got me interested. I would visualise his training, so when I started boxing and sparring, I knew straight away some of the shots like a jab and a backhand.”
Hassan went on to enjoy a successful amateur career, winning numerous titles, until he was eventually recognised by the GB youth team and he was selected for the youth Olympics.
“My career highlight was when I got selected for the Olympic team, I can’t even explain how good it felt. I remember initially, everyone else got picked, but I wasn’t chosen. They told me, ‘sorry Hassan you didn’t get through,’ and I was quite upset for the next couple of weeks.
“Then, I got a phone call,” Hassan continued, “my dad came through and told me I’d been picked for the Olympic team and it was a dream come true. So, I went there and brought home a bronze medal. It was such a great feeling to come back and know I’d been to the Olympics and that I’d been on the TV in front of thousands of people.
“I remember when I came out of the arena with the belt, I had loads of people coming up to me and it was the best feeling, because I was like a minor celebrity there!”
Hassan was also awarded the honour of being the flag bearer for team GB at the closing ceremony, as he revealed.
“That was a great moment. I remember at the time I had to do a speech in front of everybody and I just froze. They called me up and told me I was the flagbearer, and I thought, ‘What?! Me?! Out of everyone you’re picking me?!
“I understand why they picked me, because I was one of the only athletes enjoying my time there, whereas some of the other athletes were panicking and scared. I was motivating everyone and still doing all the activities at the Olympics and even though I had a fight coming up, I was still enjoying my time there. Although, when it was time for fight week, I got my game on and that’s why they picked me for flagbearer.”
Such a calm yet focused attitude should be a useful asset for Hassan, as he navigates the chaotic world of professional boxing. Hassan credits his dad and God with instilling such an attitude in him.
“I was born like this and my dad raised me to be a good, humble person, which is what helps you progress in life. If you have a talent, you need to respect that talent that you were gifted by God, because God can also take it away if you don’t use it properly.”
Religion has always played an important role in the success of Hassan’s boxing career so far.
“When I pray before a fight I always come out victorious, but when I forget to pray I get split decisions or I lose, so religion plays a big part in my life. Sometimes when I’m in finals and I get nervous, I go towards God. After I’ve prayed to God and asked for his powers and blessings, I get in the ring and I have no nerves at all.”
As well as religion, role models have been key to Hassan’s success and one man he mentioned above all others was ‘the greatest,’ Muhammad Ali.
“I’ve studied him and he’s a motivator and an inspiration for all of us, not just in the ring but outside as well, he was just a great person. I want to have a name like that, not just from being good at boxing, but outside the ring, so when I retire as a boxer, I’ll have a good name behind me, just like Muhammad Ali had.”
Hassan is from Slough and his significant success in his short career so far has attracted attention from those in his home town.
“Adam and myself have been winning titles and getting recognised in Slough. A lot of people have joined our same boxing gym because of the titles we’ve won. We’re sparring a lot of the other boxers in Slough too, because they’re always messaging me saying they want to be like me and train with me.”
Hassan will be competing in the welterweight division as a professional. It is a division littered with big names and quality operators. Taking them on could be a daunting prospect for many young fighters, but not Hassan.
“I believe I can beat anyone in my weight division, because I’ve done it in the amateurs and I’ll do it again in the pro’s.
“My dream is to fight Josh Taylor one day, he’s a class guy. I watch his fights and he inspired me in the amateurs. I think it would be a good fight, Hassan Azim vs Josh Taylor, it would be all over the PPV’s. To become the best, you have to fight the best.”
Despite having not yet had his professional debut, Hassan has his sights set on the top:
“I would like to become a world champion. I want to slowly tick off all the boxes, picking up all the belts, becoming the British champion, European champion, and then world champion.
“I want a good legacy in boxing, the money will come, but I want to retire as one of the greatest boxers in British-Pakistani history.”
Upon revealing this, I had not expected Hassan to want to cement his legacy quite so soon, as when I asked him what his career plans were in the near future he replied, “I’m going to win a world title.”
However, he quickly tempered this statement with a laugh and said.
“Let me just get the first few fights out the way. Then I’ll discuss with my management team and they will decide whether I’m ready for a world title yet.
“But I’m pretty sure it’ll be sooner rather than later.”