This coming weekend, boxing fans are getting a real treat. Not only do we get to see Josh Taylor vs Jack Catterall fight for all the belts in the super-lightweight division on Saturday night, but we get to feast on some Sunday night boxing as Lawrence Okolie makes the second defence of his WBO world cruiserweight title.
Okolie and Cieslak meet on Sunday night for the WBO world cruiserweight title (Photo: Daily Mail)
The rise of Lawrence Okolie in the past 18 months has been mesmerising. Prior to this improvement, one monotonous bout followed by another made his fights very difficult to watch. When Okolie was about to fight you nipped off to the bar for a pint or went and put the kettle on and made some toast. But not anymore. In fact, quite the opposite.
‘The Sauce’ makes his first appearance of 2022, defending his belt against Polish bogeyman, Michal Ciselak. With the O2 Arena being the venue, the fight is still set to go ahead as originally planned, despite the damage to the roof suffered during Storm Eunice.
Okolie will be hoping the only storm coming on Sunday evening is himself, which will see him get past one of the most avoided men in the cruiserweight division. In Cieslak you have a man who has only tasted defeat once - to Ilunga Makabu, who himself is the WBC champion - so there is absolutely no disgrace in his challenge or his record whatsoever.
A lot of people within the boxing community are labelling this as the toughest test of Okolie’s career and it is difficult to disagree with them. Watch our big fight breakdown and analysis here!
In Lawrence Okolie you have a man who has risen to the top of his division in what feels like a click of the fingers. Having captured the Commonwealth, British and European titles in just 14 fights and with just over 30 months as a professional boxer, ‘The Sauce’ still left an awful lot to be desired before fans were convinced he could make it at world level.
That was when he began his relationship with trainer Shane McGuigan. Under the tutelage of McGuigan, Okolie has gone from strength to strength. He looks like a fighter re-born. More hungry, more emphatic, more eye-catching and appealing - it has all gone swimmingly since the pair started working together back in late 2019.
The Hackney man boasts an impressive record of 17-0 with 14 wins coming inside the distance, further emphasising how good he actually is. Standing at 6”5 tall, Okolie is a big lump of a man and certainly looks like he has all the attributes to one day step up into the glorified heavyweight division.
The 29-year-old has talked of his desire to unify at 200-pounds before that potential move up to heavyweight. Unification fights with the likes of Makabu and Briedis seem like they could be made in 2022, but first ‘The Sauce’ must get past the toughest test of his career on Sunday night.
At the press conference a couple of months ago, when the fight was officially announced, Okolie had this to say about Sunday night's opponent:
"I believe on paper this could be one of the most brutal fights. Until you get in the ring, you never know what someone’s got. Watching Cieslak’s fights, he’s an excellent technical boxer. He’s got some power and good speed. All in all, it poses to be a great, challenging fight.
"I believe I am going to go on and unify the division. This is a stage that I was made for. This is a fight I was made for. I’m ready for this."
Okolie looks to make is eight knockout victories in a row come Sunday (Photo: ringtv.com)
Michal Cieslak can stake a claim for being the most avoided man in the Cruiserweight division. With just the one defeat on his record, in what was a close fight, it is no surprise that the Polish sensation isn’t talked about that much.
Boasting a record of 21-1, almost 75% of Cieslak’s wins have come via way of knockout. Like Okolie, it is clear to see that he carries an almighty punch, which he will be hopeful of detonating on the chin of his English opponent. Despite Okolie being the bigger man, the Pole himself is 6”3, another big cruiserweight who aims to upset the party and rip that world title belt away from Okolie.
Cieslak could provide all sorts of problems for Okolie, and it isn’t completely beyond the realms of possibility that he walks away victorious. However, one of the biggest things to note ahead of this fight is the inactivity of Poland’s number one 200 pounder. Cieslak has fought once in 15 months, which was back in May 2021. Furthermore, that fight only lasted one round, so with less than three minutes of competitive boxing over such a enduring period, he may be additionally disadvantaged.
At 32-years-old, Cieslak is certainly more experienced than Okolie, who only started boxing after being inspired by the likes of Anthony Joshua and Nicola Adams at the London 2012 Olympics. The travelling Polishman has also boxed 31 rounds more than Okolie in his career, which could be telling come fight night, if he is able to establish his jab and assert himself on the champion.
The Polish boxing sensation believes Okolie will prove to be a tough test for him, but that he is 100% confident ahead of the fight. He had this to say at the press conference back in January:
"He’s a solid fighter, and he punches with both hands. He’s powerful physically. I have to do my work, all the training I’ve done with my coach, that’s what I’m going to bring to the ring. If I weren’t sure I was going to win, I wouldn’t be here, and I’ve been training since I was 13, so I’m ready to get the WBO Title."
Cieslak believes he has what it takes to dethrone Lawrence Okolie (Photo: Boxing Scene)
In boxing circles, it is clear to see that people think Okolie will ultimately get the job done on Sunday night. The bookmakers are in total agreement, with Okolie seen as quite a heavy favourite with the majority of outlets. The challenger can be backed at a price of around 6/1, with Okolie priced at around 1/10.
The talk from Team Okolie is that his time is limited at cruiserweight and that sometime in the not so distant future a move up to heavyweight in inevitable. However, with Cieslak to take care of first on Sunday night, ‘The Sauce’ cannot afford to take his eye off of the immediate job in hand.
The unifications with Briedis, Makabu or Goulamirian may well come in the next 12 months as well. Greatness could be on the horizon for Okolie, but that cannot even cross his mind right at this moment in time. He can’t even contemplate his next move or the next step in his career before he handles business on Sunday night and takes care of Cieslak, in what he hopes will be in impressive fashion.
Sunday night at the O2 promises to deliver a great evening of boxing, headlined by this colossal cruiserweight clash between Lawrence Okolie and Michal Cieslak. A great fight for our viewing pleasure..
Dilan Prasovic – WIN – KO Round 3
Krzysztof Glowacki – WIN – KO Round 6
Nikodem Jezewski – WIN – TKO Round 2
Yves Ngabu – WIN – TKO Round 7
Yury Kashinsky – WIN – TKO Round 1
Taylor Mabika – WIN – KO Round 6
Ilunga Makabu – LOSS – UD (111-116, 112-114, 111-115)
Olanrewaju Durodola – WIN – TKO Round 2
Date: February 27th 2022
Time: Ring walk approx. 22.00
Venue: O2 Arena, London, England
Official Okolie vs Cieslak fight poster (Photo: The O2)
Elsewhere on the card, Jordan Gill challenges Karim Guerfi, Anthony Fowler makes his middleweight debut against Lukasz Maciec and Galal Yafai makes his professional debut along with Tokyo 2022 teammate Cheavon Clarke. Fabio Wardley, Demsey McKean, Campbell Hatton and John Hedges also feature on the undercard.