There is something poetic about taking the ‘classic’ route to a world championship showdown. Winning the British, Commonwealth and European titles en route to the big one is the classical way, it’s the way the likes of Lennox Lewis, Josh Warrington, and Tyson Fury all went down each winning the British, Commonwealth and European titles at some point or another during their careers.
Sure, fighters don’t have to take this road, some fighters choose to skip this part entirely, Charlie Edwards, for example, was handed a world title shot early on in his career and it certainly did not affect him negatively.
But, for me, fighters will learn so much more and grow their brand and popularity by fighting for the British and European titles at the very least, and let’s face it the Lord Lonsdale belt is one of the prettiest looking belts in boxing, it paves the way for big domestic clashes and opens up rivalries that can continue onto the world level. It’s the way that current unbeaten Cruiserweight Lawrence Okolie has gone down as well.
After turning pro in 2017, Okolie signed with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom promotions and quickly racked up a record of 7-0 before headlining the O2 arena against rival Isaac Chamberlain (9-0). The fight ended up a lackluster affair but Okolie would gain the bragging rights over Chamberlain with a unanimous decision verdict.
In his very next contest, and only holding a record of 8-0, Okolie would claim the commonwealth crown after stopping unbeaten champ Luke Watkins (13-0) after dominating him and stopping him in the third round. Although only early on his career Okolie was showing that he would be a problem to the Cruiserweight division with his long arms and heavy shots.
On a roll, Okolie went after the British title in his next bout as he outpointed champ Matty Askin (23-3-1) in what ended up being a very tough watch with both men continuously holding and a lack of clean shots. Fans began to turn on Okolie as, despite having good power, he possesses a style that was hard to get behind.
After stopping his next three opponents all inside the distance Okolie was handed a fight with hard-hitting unbeaten European king, Yves Ngabu (20-0) on the Sky Sports PPV and WBSS Super Lightweight final between Josh Taylor and Regis Prograis. Okolie dispatched of ‘the Belgian Mike Tyson’ with relative ease securing a 7th round TKO victory and advancing high up the WBO world rankings.
Despite talk of potential fights with Tommy McCarthy and Richard Riakporhe, Okolie had reportedly agreed to a deal to fight two-time World champion Krzystof Glowacki but no official date was penciled in for the young lion who has made it clear that he intends to win a world title in his next fight at Cruiserweight before eyeing up a move up to the glamourous Heavyweight division at some point in 2021.
Okolie may have received some stick from fans due to his perceived fight spoiling style but nobody can argue with his list of wins so far over his 14-fight career so far with wins over the likes of Wadi Camacho, Isaac Chamberlain and Matty Askin he has put together a very solid list of who’s who in the British Cruiserweight scene. His raw power, charming charisma and natural gifts of size and reach are enviable qualities and there is no doubt in my mind that ‘The Sauce’ will hold World Championship honors before 2020 draws to a close.
We are obviously in times of uncertainty, not just regarding the sport, but regarding the health and welfare of everybody that this virus has the potential to affect.
The reality is that lives have already been lost and the hope is that people will, at some point, be able to return to doing what they love once it is safe to do so.
Scheduled fights will no doubt be cancelled for the foreseeable future whilst the ramifications of what is happening continue.
We hope to see these sportsmen and sportswomen on our screens again soon, providing the entertainment we as boxing fans regularly take for granted.