Lawrence Okolie delivered a punch-perfect display before landing a sixth-round knockout of Krzysztof Glowacki to become WBO world cruiserweight champion.
In just his 16th professional fight, Okolie used his height and reach to never allow Poland’s Glowacki close. He started unloading his right hand in the fourth and looked completely at ease against a former world champion. A pinpoint right ended matters, giving Okolie, 28, his first world title.
But how did all start for Okolie?
Growing up in London’s inner-city borough of Hackney and flipping burgers for a living at McDonald’s in London’s Victoria train station, life wasn’t looking how Okolie wanted it to be. Then along came the London 2012 games which took the entire nation by storm. Great Britain had its best Summer Olympics, finishing third overall with a total of 65 medals and a certain boxer called Anthony Joshua rose to fame by winning gold. And that was the point when “The Sauce’s” interest in boxing peaked.
Quitting his $8 an hour job at McDonald’s, Okolie laced up his gloves with intent and started making his way in the amateurs before being selected for the Team GB Boxing squad where he chosen to go to the 2016 Rio Games.
Okolie, who has Nigerian parents, explains that his African names were mocked, that he was shy, that the bullying would turn physical, that he was an easy target because he never wanted to fight at school.
“It’s strange but I almost thank that stuff for happening, because it shaped me into a tougher character,” Okolie says.
“But I had to do something about my weight, the doctor set me these targets. I tried playing basketball and football in school – but it just was not working. I wasn’t able to get into any of the teams anyway. But once I tried boxing, the weight started to fall off. I remember the first time actually seeing a six-pack and thinking – what is this?!
Initially, Okolie saw boxing as a way of losing weight and to stop the bullying he received — but now he is hoping for a busy 2017 to launch his professional boxing career.
“I want to be the best cruiserweight that Britain has seen,” said Okolie.
“David Haye has done great things, so has Johnny Nelson and many others, but I want to cement my legacy, have my name go down in history and maybe follow Haye by winning the heavyweight crown too.
“I want to get some excitement going in the division, not just from the fans but also have other cruiserweights training hard and wanting to fight me, because I want to be in great and exciting fights.
“I want to have six to eight fights in 2017 and I’ll be looking to get six to eight knockouts — I mean business.
“Even though I’ve only had 26 fights, people are going to say that I should be able to beat everyone because I’ve been to the Olympics. There’s pressure there but it’ll bring the best out of me. Even if people expect me to win, because then I will want to win in style and make a statement.”
Winning his first belt (the vacant WBA continental cruiserweight title against Isaac Chamberlain) in only his eighth fight, Okolie still had some doubt running through his head.
“It was good because I didn’t like Isaac at the time, so it was a good grudge match,” Okolie said. “I was the headline, all these things like how am I going to headline at the O2 Arena? How am I going to do this? How am I going to do that? I had a lot happening and all at once. But it was very exciting and I was really proud of myself for that and it showed me anything is possible because if you had asked me three months prior even two month before I would have never have guessed, so it was all good.”
Looking long-term, Okolie knows he will have to eventually step up to heavyweight. But he wants to learn as much as possible while fighting in the 200-pound division as well as from his mentor Anthony Joshua.
“It’s invaluable, when AJ gives advice, you know it comes from a good place as he doesn’t need anything from me and for me, I can see his actual life, what is happening and what has happened so it’s good to get advice. I have a lot to learn at cruiserweight, if I can make the weight I will. As soon as it becomes difficult or impossible then I will be moving up for sure. I’m 6-5 so I’m tall enough and I’m broad enough, so it’s just about packing on the weight.”