Lawrence Okolie was rarely troubled in the second defence of his WBO world cruiserweight title against challenger Michal Cieslak in London tonight.
Earlier in the week promoter Eddie Hearn reported that a crowd of five or six thousand would be inside the repaired O2 Arena, following the damage caused by Storm Eunice. The majority sounded as though they were there to support Cieslak.
The Polish challenger did have plenty of support on the night and while their voices created a terrific atmosphere the fight was largely untidy.
Okolie ran out a comfortable winner on all three scorecards 117-110, 116-111 and 115-112.
Chants of ‘Cieslak, Cieslak, Cieslak’ greeted both men as the first bell sounded but they were soon quietened when Okolie hammered home a violent right hand that looked like it would end the fight early. The Pole survived the opener but from then on there were too many clinches and rabbit punches that spoiled the fight.
Okolie’s jab was a useful tool that acted as an opener before his explosive right hand tried to blow Cieslak out. But the power shown in round one was rarely repeated.
Cieslak was rough, aggressive and did very little in the form of his own attacks and in the fifth round was dropped by a one-two which finished on the side of his head. Okolie tried to close the show but couldn’t do so as he looked to draw mistakes out from his opponent.
Just as in last night’s world title fight in Glasgow the referee had to give tonight’s main eventers warning after warning, occasionally bringing them together to give them a telling off for their rule bending ways.
Okolie’s one-two was always something that looked like setting up and creating a finish but time after time the work was smothered thanks to Cieslak and Okolie’s over eagerness.
In the seventh some proper one on one boxing broke out briefly in what would be Cieslak’s best round on the night. For a moment Okolie looked like having a challenge in front of him but it soon petered out.
With body shots and attacks from distance coming into play Okolie was looking for a way to end matters without being caught in another clinch. Come the final two rounds the champion was in complete control and on this scorecard won much clearer than the 115-112 handed in by Bence Kovacs.
IBF cruiserweight champion Mairis Briedis was inside the venue doing some punditry work for DAZN and made his was on to the apron to greet Okolie, while dressed as Nintendo video game character Mario.
“He looks like a clown, and I’ll show him that,” the Brit said just prior to the appearance of the eccentric Latvian.
The hope is the two best guys in the division can meet in a unification this year. Briedis must take care of business against his own mandatory challenger in the shape of Jai Opetaia first.
“I hope after Australia we come back to London and make full arena,” said Brieidis.
“It’s a fight we need to see,” Okolie’s promoter Eddie Hearn added.