By Thomas Lyons
Luke Watkins (13-0, 9KOs) has landed himself a crunch domestic clash with highly rated cruiserweight contender Lawrence Okolie (8-0, 6KOs) at the infamous York Hall on June 6, with a jam-packed schedule set, featuring Reece Bellotti who defends his Commonwealth crown against Ryan Doyle in the co-feature and Matchroom’s new signing and future-star Daniyar Yelussinov added to the card.
With undefeated records on the line, Okolie welcomes Watkins to his hometown and the pair will battle it out for the Commonwealth and WBA Continental Cruiserweight titles, to see who is up there with the best in Britain at the weight and warrant the winner a shot at Matty Askin, who is the current British champion. Nicknamed, ‘the Duke’, Watkins has defended his belt on one occasion, retiring Mike Stafford in December 2017, and was actually due to defend it again on a small hall show in Swindon, but unfortunately, due to the severe winter weather conditions, that fight was cancelled. This time around, Watkins has been presented with a much bigger platform and opportunity to prove himself as one of the leading contenders in the Cruiserweight division and attempts to put a stop to Okolie’s surge to the top.
Meanwhile, Okolie comes into the fight off the back of a convincing points victory over Isaac Chamberlain at the O2 Arena back in February. That fight failed to live up to the expectations of the fans and was far from explosive as many felt would be the case with the excitement generated throughout the build-up. With Okolie presented with the challenge earlier than expected in his career, the Hackney man maintained his composure despite the magnitude of the fight, passing with flying colours and continues to climb the ladder in the professional ranks.
Both have taken completely different paths in getting to this position. Okolie has had the amateur pedigree, representing GB at the Olympics in 2016 while Watkins has worked his way up from the bottom and not been given the same backing or exposure that Okolie has. Regardless of how they have reached this point, who has the more potential or any of the pre-requisites, both get the chance to determine their futures in this fight and be rewarded with a bigger stage than they’ve ever seen before.
With risk comes reward and there is a huge amount of pressure resting on their shoulders, particularly Okolie who steps up in class again in just his ninth professional contest. Knowing that there are huge fights in the pipeline for the winner, the British public will witness two men giving it everything in there: full of guts, pride, passion, in order to boost their profile and propel themselves in the British rankings and beyond.
Almost certainly the biggest fight of each other’s career, expect fireworks come June 6, in what is truly a 50-50 pick’em fight.
Elsewhere, Reece ‘Bomber’ Bellotti is back in action after blasting past Ben Jones in what was a punch perfect and mature performance from the Watford man on the Okolie-Chamberlain undercard. After halting Jones in the sixth round of their fight back in February, the 27-year old has welcomed a possible British title battle with Isaac Lowe but the Commonwealth champion is concentrating on defending his belt successfully before moving onto bigger challenges. The featherweight division is thriving at the moment with Lee Selby and Josh Warrington settling their differences on May 19 while Carl Frampton has confirmed he will be returning to Windsor Park in the summer for a big showdown.
Tipped as one of the hottest prospects in world boxing after turning over to the paid ranks, under the watchful eye of promoter Eddie Hearn, Daniyar Yelussinov makes his anticipated UK debut after debuting on the Daniel Jacobs card in the US and sets his sights on impressing in front of the British fans. The 27-year old Kazakh recorded a third-round stoppage of Noah Kidd in Brooklyn. With an outstanding amateur background, winning an Olympic Gold at the Rio games in 2016, Yelussinov looks to replicate this success in the pro-game.