By Gregory Doyle
The career of Lawrence Okolie has been fast-tracked, to say the least. Since being a member of Team GB in the 2016 Rio Olympics, the Hackney man has gone from strength to strength with all the right attributes to support his progress. Range, power and height. Standing at 6ft 5 and with huge punching power, it’s clear to see Okolie has all the right remedies for success as a cruiserweight.
The journey started in March 2017 at the Manchester Arena on the undercard of Jorge Linares vs Anthony Crolla and lasted 20 seconds as he came out firing, dispatching of Geoffrey Cave with two blasting right hooks. The trend seemed to continue as he stopped all of his first 4 opponents in the 1st round.
Then, after a routine points win over 6 rounds, he was stepped up significantly in class. Okolie met Isaac Chamberlain (9-0-0) in what could be described as an anticipated grudge match. Since their professional debuts, both fighters had been tipped to meet down the road but public demand made sure that happened sooner rather than later.
The fight didn’t live up to it’s billing though, as after Okolie dropped Chamberlain early, it seemed Chamberlain was happy to coast through the fight and avoid a humiliating stoppage to his rival. To be fair to Okolie, he did what he had to do and did it well, winning wide on all three cards over ten rounds.
Admirably, he again stepped up in class, this time taking on Luke “The Duke” Watkins, a fight some fans thought he may come unstuck in due to Watkins big punching power. Watkins had accumulated a record of 13-0-0 (9 early) and winning the Commonwealth Title along the way. Okolie though took control straight away and brutally stopped Watkins finishing the fight with two savage right hands that left Watkins on his back in the third round. The referee stopped the fight straight away with Watkins corner throwing in the towel to make sure the bout came to an end and protect their man from any further punishment. This night Okolie showed that he really is a force to be reckoned with in the British Cruiserweight Division.
Next up for Okolie now is another big step up in class. On the undercard of Anthony Joshua vs Alexander Povetkin on September 22nd, he takes on the ever-improving Matty Askin for the British Cruiserweight Title. Askin (22-3-1) is no pushover and has been matched tough in his career. Aside from losing early in his career to Jon Lewis Dickinson, the only other men to beat Askin are former WBO World Cruiserweight Champion, Krzysztof Glowacki and former world title challenger Ovill McKenzie. Both McKenzie and Glowacki have huge punching power. Askin took Glowacki 11 rounds, whilst losing a split decision to McKenzie. Going by these stats it makes for an even more intriguing fight for Okolie because the question is, can he hurt Askin who clearly is a tough man.
Since the McKenzie defeat, Askin has gone on a bit of a roll by beating some impressive domestic names. He has taken the undefeated records of Simon Barclay, Tommy McCarthy and Craig Kennedy, stopping Barclay and Kennedy inside 6 rounds in the process. In his last fight, he impressively disposed of Stephen Simmons in 2 rounds after a sickening body shot which was Simmons’ last fight as he chose to retire.
Okolie has his work cut out for him in this fight and it will be interesting to see what the plan of action will be if he can’t hurt Askin. Okolie has to be applauded for how he has significantly stepped up now in his last three fights and it is clear to see that Matchroom have a lot of belief in the man they call “The Sauce”.
If Okolie can beat Askin this will mean that inside 10 fights, he has won the British and Commonwealth Cruiserweight titles. An impressive possibility. It’s a big “if” though in a bit of a 60/40 fight, one that if Askin is up for could be very tricky for Okolie. It’s the making of a great fight, one where Okolie must be switched on and if he can come through it, will be intriguing to see his next move.