Lawrence Okolie canceled his vacation with Anthony Joshua just so he could fight this weekend
- Lawrence Okolie was so desperate to fight this weekend that he had to cancel a trip to Nigeria with his friend Anthony Joshua.
- While Joshua has been living his best life on vacation in Africa, Okolie has been training for a fight at the 02 Arena on Saturday.
- He is backed by his promoter Eddie Hearn to win, achieve greatness in the cruiserweight division, then join Joshua in the heavyweight ranks.
- Visit Business Insider’s home page for more stories.
Lawrence Okolie, a protégé of the former heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, canceled a vacation with his superstar mentor just so he could fight at the O2 Arena in London on Saturday.
Okolie was not supposed to compete this weekend. His original opponent was Jack Massey, a domestic rival he would have defended his British and Commonwealth cruiserweight titles against at the Manchester Arena on July 6.
But Massey pulled out of the bout one week before the show, citing injury. Okolie was then added to the high-profile O2 Arena card where he will face a “game” replacement — Mariano Angel Gudino from Argentina.
Agreeing to fight Gudino came at a cost for Okolie because it meant he couldn’t go away with Joshua, who is currently living his best life in Nigeria.
Okolie even commented on the above video, posting the Nigeria flag and two crying emojis.
“He’s my manager, I’m with his management team, but he’s also a friend,” Okolie told Business Insider at a pre-fight press conference in Canary Wharf on Thursday. “The relationship is good. We were meant to go on holiday together but then my fight got pushed back.”
Okolie then said that the two of them may have a professional relationship but they also have a personal one. The better Okolie becomes, the less he needs Joshua’s advice, but the heavyweight still tells him to “do what you do” and “handle your business.”
And handling business is exactly what Okolie says he will do come fight night, even though he is facing an athlete who brings a unique energy with him.
“He’s definitely coming to win this fight,” Okolie told us. “He’s come with the Argentinean press, he looks upset, and didn’t speak at the press conference. Then, when we shook hands he shook it extremely hard.
“They’re giving it a lot of energy … but I’m going to smash him, it’s as simple as that. They gave me the energy and I’m not going to mess around for one second, I’ll handle business.”
Okolie ‘will be world champion at cruiserweight’
Eddie Hearn.Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images
Okolie is represented by one of the most powerful promoters in world boxing.
Eddie Hearn, the group managing director of Matchroom Sport, is best-known for promoting super middleweight world champion Callum Smith, dominant women’s lightweight Katie Taylor, the former undisputed cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk, potential superstar Devin Haney, and, of course, Joshua himself. But he also looks after Okolie, and says he’s a champion-in-waiting.
Read more: Watch a 20-year-old American fighter called Devin Haney deliver a knockout of the year candidate. He’s now being called a ‘potential superstar’
Hearn told Business Insider that there are frustrations “finding the right opponent for Okolie,” that a good opponent was scheduled with Massey, but they had to bring in a “dangerous” South American instead.
Regardless, Hearn expects his man to win in style, something he has struggled to do at times in his 12 fight professional career to date.
“We got a game Argentinean who is going to be dangerous, have a go, but he’ll get beat,” Hearn said. “And Okolie, I think, will knock him out. Okolie is extremely dangerous. I think he’s going to be a world champion at cruiserweight and I actually think he can go and win a world championship at heavyweight. He’s already huge, his legs have got to thicken out a bit, but he’s going to be a very dangerous fighter in the division.”
Cruiserweights [are] enthralling … because they’re very, very fast, they’re powerful, [and] they’re mini heavyweights.
Okolie campaigns at cruiserweight, one of the most competitive divisions in boxing thanks to the way Kalle Sauerland revolutionized the weight class with his groundbreaking World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) tournament.
This is a competition that forces eight fighters in a specific weight class to compete against one another until there is only one left. It made the first cruiserweight winner, Usyk, a multi-millionaire many times over, turning him into a heralded athlete campable of headlining pay-per-view shows.
Now there’s a WBSS sequel at cruiserweight, with Yunier Dorticos and Mairis Briedis due to compete in the tournament final for a trophy, two cruiserweight world titles, and a fast-track to superstar status.
Okolie wants some of that.
“Just from watching the Super Series alone you see the quality of the fighters,” Okolie told Business Insider. “I’m 12 months away from competing at that level, dominating at that level, then moving up to heavyweight.”
Hearn agrees. “I think cruiserweight is a thrilling division at the moment. We saw the World Boxing Super Series, Usyk become undisputed champion, and then we saw him in a high profile match-up with Tony Bellew.
“People are starting to take notice of cruiserweights. It’s enthralling because they’re very, very fast, they’re powerful as well, they’re mini heavyweights.
“Okolie is not always in great fights but you’ll see his style improving now, and he’ll start to look very good in those fights.”
Finishing, Okolie, who is 6-foot-5, said: “I’m strong, powerful, and can box. It’s all nice being tall, but I’m tall and strong. On Saturday, I’ll show the world what I can do in the ring.”
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