Lawrence Okolie completed a remarkable story on Saturday night, from starting at the cashiers of McDonalds in Victoria Station to world title glory at the SSE Arena.
It wasn’t just the fact Okolie (16-0, 13 KOs) became a world champion in his 16th fight, but it was the manner in which he stopped Krzysztof Glowacki to claim the WBO cruiserweight title.
The former British, Commonwealth and European champion put in a performance that epitomised the developments made under trainer Shane McGuigan, with the pair just three fights into their burgeoning relationship, becoming Britain’s fifth active world champion, alongside Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury, Josh Taylor and Billy Joe Saunders, as well as the nation’s first cruiserweight champion since Tony Bellew.
The 28-year-old has been scrutinised in the past for a style which was perceived to spoil, particularly in his British title win over Matty Askin in 2018, however Okolie put in a noticeably more measured display winning each of the first five rounds convincingly, landing his jab with particular success throughout.
Okolie, who looked to be cruising to victory found the crucial opening in the sixth round, detonating a devastating right hand, which sent Glowacki to the canvas. The 34-year-old rose to his feet, but was unable to beat referee Marcus McDonnell’s count, handing ‘The Sauce’ a memorable victory.
Despite being a heavy favourite heading into the bout, Okolie who turned over in 2017 after the 2016 Olympics, was facing his most experienced opponent to date, with Glowakci a former two-time world champion, with prior losses only to Oleksandr Usyk and Mairis Briedis, the latter in highly-controversial fashion.
Whilst the Pole had been active since that defeat to Briedis in 2019, he brought all his pedigree and know-how to the table and so for Okolie to dispatch him in such comprehensive style is a clear sign of the level he’s at.
— Lawrence Okolie (@Lawrence_tko) March 22, 2021
In the aftermath of his victory, promoter Eddie Hearn suggested Okolie would look for unifications immediately before moving to heavyweight, whilst the Hackney man revealed on Tuesday a stint in the WBC’s new bridgerweight division was also a future possibility.
Dependent on the WBO’s stance, the new champion could have a mandatory obligation, yet that remains unclear at this stage, so who else could be on his hitlist?
By consensus the number one cruiserweight in the division, Mairis Briedis is the man to beat at 200lbs.
A three-time world champion, the Latvian’s sole defeat came to Oleksandr Usyk in his first spell in the World Boxing Super Series, losing his WBO crown.
After entering the series again and claiming WBO gold against Glowacki in the semi-final, the 36-year-old was stripped of the title, following an ill-fouled affair, yet he made up for it by edging Yuniel Dories in the final in September, securing the IBF and Ring Magazine titles.
Okolie called for a showdown with Briedis (27-1, 19 KOs) in his post-fight interview with Sky Sports, with promoters Kalle and Nisse Sauerland expressing their interest in a unification clash on social media.
— Kalle & Nisse Sauerland (@SauerlandBros) March 20, 2021
‘The Latvian Punisher’ like Glowacki has a clear advantage with experience, but the Brit has youth and freshness on his side.
Briedis has punching power himself, as well as being a well-rounded boxer and would likely be favourite heading in.
However, if Okolie wants to prove his status as the premier cruiserweight, then this could be the perfect opportunity to attest that, especially with the three-time champion reportedly eyeing a move to heavyweight in the near future.
Commercially, perhaps the fight that makes the most sense especially with WBC champion, Ilunga Makabu familiar in the UK from his dramatic defeat to Tony Bellew at Goodison Park in 2016.
Makabu (28-2, 25 KOs) is unbeaten in nine since picking up the WBC belt for a second time in his native Democratic Republic of Congo in January last year, prior to a successful first defence in December.
Okolie would mark a step-up for the 33-year-old from his recent company and would arguably be his toughest test since facing Bellew.
The Liverpool man insisted both Briedis and Makabu would be stern tests for his compatriot, especially his former opponent who is a tricky Southpaw with 25 knockouts from his 28 wins and dropped the ‘Bomber’ in the first round of their clash, before succumbing to a third round defeat.
Despite his lack of experience, the former world champion has backed his compatriot to beat both.
“Briedis is a difficult fight. Briedis is no mug,” Bellew told Sky Sports. “He’s very clever on the inside, he will come with a game plan. That’s a different prospect altogether than what he’s faced in Glowacki tonight.
“Ilunga Makabu is also very, very dangerous. Hard hitting southpaw. I know all about his power, he really can punch, so that’s another dangerous fight.
“But listen, I make him the favourite in each of the fights, purely based on his style, his power and how he’s imposing himself. His style is evolving and what he’s doing is getting better with each and every fight.”
Okolie could go down the WBA route, where he would find a unification with WBA ‘Super’ champion, Arsen Goulamirian (26-0, 18 KOs).
The undefeated, Armenian-born Frenchman is seemingly the least well-known of the current world champions, which brings intrigue in itself, but has shared rounds in sparring with Joe Joyce in the past.
‘Feroz’, who trains in The Summit Gym, Big Bear under Abel Sanchez’s guidance, has been elevated from interim to ‘Regular’ and now ‘Super’ champion, making two defences of his title, most recently a stoppage win over Constantin Bejenaru in December 2019 and has already beaten the current ‘Regular’ champion, Ryad Mehry.
Goulamrian, 33, is another big-puncher with 18 of his 26 victories coming inside the distance, although like the other two champions, Okolie has a significant height and reach advantage, standing at 6”5 and with an 82.5″ reach.
Let us know below who you want Lawrence Okolie to face next.