Former WBO cruiserweight champion Lawrence Okolie admits his indifferent form has frustrated him as much as it has his fans.

Okolie, now with trainer Joe Gallagher, fights for the WBC bridgerweight title in Poland on Friday night against 15-0 (14 KOs) Lukasz Rozanski and, after going 19-1 (14 KOs) as a pro so far, the 31-year-old wants to launch the next phase of his career in style.

Okolie has not boxed since losing his belt to former stablemate Chris Billam-Smith in Bournemouth almost exactly a year ago, but he is hoping to generate consistency and momentum.

Okolie has posted listless performances one minute and looked destructive the next, and even he is at a loss to explain why.

“Agreed, definitely,” he said. “I think in my career that’s probably been the most annoying thing if I’m honest. I think that’s the thing that hurts the most in boxing for me because I’ve won belts and I’ve done okay outside the ring but that is one that’s always kind of been like, ‘What is it?’ 

“It’s been good to break it down and find out what’s going on, what’s this, what’s that, and it’s been frustrating and that’s probably been the hardest part. As much as the fans might go away, I’m actually the person putting on the performances but I think this fight [on Friday] will be good for me to have a look.

“I know the stuff we’ve worked on. I think it will get better and I think this fight will be a staple, ‘Okay, now I don’t have to make weight as much, so I should have the energy to do what I want to do in the ring?’ Secondly, I’m saying to myself now, I’m adopting a more vicious mindset, so if I’m able to execute it, great. If not, then there’s a problem. But I feel confident.”

For a while, under trainer Shane McGuigan, it seemed like the former 2016 Olympian had found his finishing touches, but Okolie has failed to link a devastating run of fights, and now he believes his mindset will change.

“For me it’s about taking more risks, and also being prepared to go to that dark place where you’re out of breath and you’re working, because I think I’m very comfortable at maintaining a really good pace the whole way through fights, but I never go all the way to the red zone and back down and change gears,” Okolie explained. “I think that’s the main one. I think also committing and going for KOs and committing to going that extra mile, where I kind of just coasted through the majority of my fights and if I’m able to land a good shot and get the KO, I will. But I’m not necessarily hungry for it.” 

Okolie had hoped to land a rematch with Billam-Smith, and it was contracted, but now he said he’s grown out of the division and is on his way to heavyweight. And while he wants to be in good fights for himself, he has another reason to impress.

“It's my son, because I know one day he’s going to come where he’s gonna say, ‘I’ll search up my dad,’ and he’ll say, ‘You won all this’. 

“‘I lost, and what did I do when I came back? Did I come back worse, did I come back better, did I come back explosive, did I work on the stuff I wanted to work on?’ And I want him to be able to see my fight against Rozanski and be like, ‘Woah, look what he did to him’. That’s the kind of stuff that gets me going.” 

Money no longer motivates the former McDonald’s employee, who was inspired to take up boxing after seeing Anthony Joshua strike gold at the London Olympics. Now Okolie wants to follow through on his potential and to excite the fans. 

“Respectfully, I don’t need to box because I’ve done well for a number of years,” Okolie, who lives in Dubai, said. “I’m in a really comfortable position, but I kind of enjoy the idea of ending my career over the next few years doing the stuff that I visualise. I always visualise myself getting the KO and looking really fancy and stuff like that, but when I’m fighting, I’m not executing that. I’m not delivering that. I want to be able to look back on my fights and just be like, ‘You know what, you did what you envisioned and actually made it into a reality’. 

It is not something he thinks about or even feels during his bouts, but when he goes back through the tapes he becomes very self-aware.

“Only afterwards,” he went on. “In the fight, I understand the reasoning behind certain decisions that I make, because I’m the one making them. For example, holding and smothering and things like that, and I’ve watched my fights back and listening to Joe and just kind of remembering how I’m feeling in moments. 

“In sparring and whatever else, I’m so good at controlling the distance, taking a step left, taking a step right, and it’s all fine and relaxed, but then on fight day, other people [opponents] are coming like their lives are going to change if they win this fight. They’re coming with a different energy that sparring partners would.   

“Now the intensity is up here and I’ve thrown a couple of jabs and it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s not keeping them off. Now where do I go? Oh, it’s safer here’. As opposed to having more options. So the stuff we’ve been working on is, ‘No Lawrence, pop your jab, and if that’s not working and they get in here throw shots, because you’re a lot more dangerous throwing shots than you are holding, and you want to get a KO, and you want to do this’. 

“It’s about having the options and also executing those options, because it’s one thing to know, ‘We’re here, I’m big, strong, I can punch hard, and can throw a shot, or I’m big, strong, can claim him and calm it down’. It’s up to me to make those conscious decisions, not allow it to come down to be unconscious, I need to be intentional with what I’m doing.”

As part of Team GB, Okolie was exposed to sports psychologists but that is not something he has explored in his bid to be more aggressive, although he does not rule it out. It seems harsh to ask a man why it’s hard to pull the trigger when he has knocked out 14 of 19 victims, but Okolie understands the line of questioning. Performances against the likes of David Light, Isaac Chamberlain and Matty Askin damaged his reputation.

“I’ve had normal therapy. I’ve had sports psychology but that was back when I was on the GB team, it’s something we have thought about incorporating but I do think at this current stage, especially with this fight and this atmosphere, it’s clear what we have to do,” he said, of taking on Rozanski in Poland on Friday.  

“Everyone knows what it is. You’re going into the lion’s den, it’s going to be hostile, it’s going to be violent, it’s going to be vicious. The guy’s going to be coming to take your head off so you have to be intentional. I can’t coast through a fight like this because if you’re not paying attention… Double left hook and one of the shots lands, we don’t know how hard he punches, you can only look by his record, so you’ve got to respect it. For me to get the KO, I have to be switched on to capitalize on the mistakes he makes, because if I’m lackadaisical those moments slip by second by second, so I need to be on it.”