It was only his 16th fight but Saturday’s world title graduation against Krzysztof Glowacki felt like a moment of truth in the career of Lawrence Okolie.
The British cruiserweight was pitted against the former world champion for the vacant WBO title at the SSE Arena in Wembley. Could Okolie make the leap to world level? Was Glowacki going to ‘old man’ him? Questions were posed in the build-up with only one answer given and that was the right hand which knocked Glowacki out in the sixth round. It was a near punch-perfect performance from the 28-year-old who looked like a world champion in waiting from early in the fight.
“It’s a massive relief because it’s always something that I wanted to do and it means I’m still on the steps to become unified and so on,” said Okolie who spoke to Boxing Social this week while enjoying some cereal.
“I also feel a lot of responsibility and pressure because now I’ve got it, it’s what do you do now? Everyone watches you rising [from the bottom], ‘Okay world champion… what now?’ I’ve got to go out there and show a bit more.”
Since teaming up with trainer Shane McGuigan we have seen the evolution of Okolie travel on a more polished and powerful path than the one he seemed destined to be on. Four fights under his belt with the world champion trainer have seen him pick up the European title and now the WBO crown. His performance on Saturday night was not the be all and end all, however. It was a sign of things to come.
“One hundred per cent,” he answered when asked if he was satisfied with his world title winning display.
“I’m happy with that as equal to winning the world title as well or [the] knockout because for me I enjoy being good at stuff. I always considered myself to be a good boxer and good at taking instructions. A lot of fights I haven’t been able to show that or showcase that because of decisions I’ve made so it was good to go in against a top-quality fighter like Glowacki and show some skill.”
Glowacki offered little on the night which was largely down to what Okolie was showcasing in the ring. Size, distance, jab, power, movement made it a difficult away day for the Polish veteran as the task grew more challenging by the minute.
Boxing Social asked Okolie if he expected more from his opponent or if he knew he would control the fight the day that he did.
“That was the aim,” he answered.
“We were working on it tirelessly in training. We were sparring, ‘Exactly like that, exactly like that, exactly like that’. However, you never know on the day. Is your timing going to be as good? Are they going to do something that you never knew was coming? You just never ever know. Is his game-plan going to be to step all the way back? To rush you? I just had no idea. It couldn’t have gone any better in my opinion. I didn’t take too many punches. I didn’t hold too much. I didn’t allow him to hold me. We boxed well and I got the knockout.”
The origins of Okolie’s boxing story have been well documented and were a popular reminder for us all during fight week. But to become a world champion there has to become a moment where you believe in yourself to go on and achieve such a feat.
“I think it was sparring AJ [Anthony Joshua], one of the first ones, because when you’re boxing as an amateur, you’re boxing other novices – under 20-bouters’, under 10-bouters’. So, I was doing well at that level, but I never really had the opportunity to box any one any good, so I sparred AJ and he had positive stuff to say. Then I sparred Dillian [Whyte]. Same. And then I thought I’m actually good at this. I thought, ‘Why not?’ When I managed to go to the  Olympics, I said to myself and thought, ‘If I’m one of the best amateurs in the world right now it must translate itself to the pros as long as I get fit’. Even if it’s a case of these guys are way too good, at least at my age I’m one of the best at my age.”
Now here he is. Britain’s newest world champion. He joins AJ, Tyson Fury, Billy Joe Saunders and Josh Taylor in a quintet of talent who could have more titles by the end of the year. But what is next for ‘Big Sauce’? There has always been talk of moving to heavyweight one day but the chatter in the immediate aftermath was that of a fight between himself and the IBF and Ring magazine champion Mairis Briedis.
“He’s the best outside of myself,” Okolie said. “He’s got the Ring magazine [belt]. Every champion is hard. Glowacki was meant to be difficult but they’re all meant to be difficult. Why not go after the number one and solidify myself as the number one? And then when I go into other fights, I’m still number one. I have to beat them in some sort of order so why not beat the number one straight away. And there’s a lot of talk of him moving up to heavyweight or bridgerweight so if he leaves that belt or a vacant belt, I don’t get the opportunity to prove myself against the number one. Ultimately, whatever happens I’ll be fine but that would be ideal to beat Briedis.”
Okolie stated that while there are plans for the future that doesn’t mean he isn’t thrilled by his achievement on Saturday. That win was simply the next step but he’s enjoying every second of it.
“I don’t want to come across as ungrateful because believe me I am beyond happy. I’m overwhelmed. However, I do feel it is part of the journey. I’m 28 and 16 fights in,” he said. “There’s so much more I can go on and accomplish. Stay dedicated, keep focused and go out there and perform. When I close my eyes and envisage myself fighting there’s a superhero in there!”
British boxing now turns its attention to Gibraltar and the ‘Rumble on the Rock’ this weekend on Sky Sports Box Office – Dillian Whyte versus Alexander Povetkin. A high stakes rematch from last August where Whyte was knocked clean out in a fight he was dominating. Another loss for Whyte would be more destructive than that of the KO he took back at Matchroom Fight Camp. Boxing Social asked Okolie if it will be repeat or revenge.
“I see revenge. I think not only because of the way the fight was going before the stoppage but because of the person I believe Dillian is. He decides to get the rematch just months after getting stopped shows that he’s not afraid of Povetkin. Povetkin didn’t give him any reason other than the shot to fear so I think when they get into the fight he’s not going to be flustered or running or anything like that because I think he’ll be able to stick to a solid game-plan and get the victory. Also, Povetkin is getting older still. I think he was 40 in the first fight but getting Covid, recovering from it at that age… maybe it has an effect. We don’t know.”
Turning back to Okolie, Saturday night showed boxing fans the potential and the power that had so many excited about his decision to turn professional over four years ago. The negative opinions and the negative tactics seem to have vanished as quickly as each other. On to whoever and whatever is next then. But how much of himself does he still have left to offer after the professional job he executed on Glowacki? His answer was simple.
“At least 75%, I guess, at minimum. It’s only 25% of the belts so there’s 75% to go and collect.”
Main image: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.