WBO champion Lawrence Okolie impatient to unify cruiserweight division

Lawrence Okolie believes he is a better fighter when stepping outside his comfort zone and so will only be satisfied if he gets the chance to unify the cruiserweight division next.

Okolie made a routine first defence of his WBO title at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last Saturday as hopelessly overmatched mandatory challenger Dilan Prasovic was counted out in the third round after a brutal left to the body.

But the Londoner (now 17-0, with 14KOs) is not appeased by merely keeping hold of his crown and has immediately set his sights on either IBF champion Mairis Briedis, WBC titlist Ilunga Makabu or WBA belt holder Arsen Goulamirian.

Lawrence Okolie, left, retained his WBO cruiserweight title last Saturday (Nick Potts/PA)
Lawrence Okolie, left, retained his WBO cruiserweight title last Saturday (Nick Potts/PA)

Indeed Okolie, who scooped world honours by knocking out Krzysztof Glowacki for the vacant belt in March, admitted he would be frustrated if a showdown against one of the other world champions fails to materialise early next year.

He told the PA news agency: “I’d be disappointed in my team if I was unable to get it. For me, the level of opponent (like Prasovic), of course I can get paid well for it and be one of these guys that holds a belt hostage.

“But I’m a risk-taker and I like the feeling of being in training camp and wondering ‘am I going to win this?’.

“I’m happy to build up that confidence with hard work as opposed to knowing that I’m going to just show up in shape and I’m going to win.

“If you look at my best performances, I felt like there was something on the line, for example when I boxed for a world title or what I’m going to gain at the end of it is impressive.

“I’ve got the world title belt already so that’s gone now. I need the next thing, I need another world title belt by boxing another champion.”

Mairis Briedis, left
Mairis Briedis, left, holds the IBF belt (Peter Byrne/PA)

Okolie’s trainer Shane McGuigan has prioritised a bout with Briedis, who arguably gave new world heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk his toughest test in January 2018 with the Ukrainian winning by a narrow majority decision.

But Okolie does not have a preference, revealing his only concern is to get back into the ring as soon as possible following his one-sided blowout of Prasovic on the undercard of Usyk’s fight against Anthony Joshua.

Okolie said: “I kind of saw it as a final eliminator or a semi-final – I had to win it to progress to the next step. I did it and now on to the next. I’m going to beat any champion that is around at this time.

“They’re all pretty similar in terms of level, they’re all just going to be really hard fights. They’re all going to be great fights because they’re all champions in their own right.

“It will be interesting to just see how I’m able to negate all that experience and get the victories.

One fighter not on Okolie's radar at present is Richard Riakporhe, pictured (Bradley Collyer/PA)
One fighter not on Okolie’s radar at present is Richard Riakporhe, pictured (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“I honestly just wanted to be out before the end of the year. However, I’ve been told that I have to show some patience, so maybe it will be the early part of next year, maybe January or February.”

Someone not on his radar at present is fellow unbeaten Briton Richard Riakporhe, who takes on Krzysztof Twardowski at the SSE Arena, Wembley, on Saturday and is courting a fight with Okolie in the future.

Okolie, though, gave short shrift to the idea and said: “My aim is to become undisputed.

“If he becomes a world champion then I have to fight him to be undisputed but until then it’s all just someone using my name for a little bit of trajectory.”