Lawrence Okolie has every intention of his next fight taking place without Matchroom Boxing.
The unbeaten WBO cruiserweight titlist will move forward with his mandatory title defense versus number-one contender David Light. A deal was reached within the one-week extension period, thus avoiding a purse bid hearing that was scheduled to take place on Thursday at WBO headquarters in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Per both camps, their fight will take place on March 11 at an unspecified location in Okolie’s London hometown, with Boxxer to present the event. The agreement was presented to the WBO via email, with both camps and the sanctioning body copied on the correspondence from which Matchroom was intentionally omitted.
“Please be advised that [Wednesday], the WBO World Championship Committee acknowledged receipt of correspondence from Team Okolie’s legal representative Mr. Mohit Pasricha whereby Okolie confirmed in writing that his team had reached an agreement with Team David Light pertaining to the ordered subject matter mandatory bout,” WBO Championship Committee chairman Luis Batista-Salas noted in an official letter to all parties, including Matchroom Sport chairman Eddie Hearn. “Also, the Committee confirmed receipt of correspondence on behalf of Team David Light confirming the agreement between the parties.
“According to the fighters, through their representatives, the bout will be promoted by “Boxxer” and will take place on Saturday, March 11, 2023, in London, United Kingdom. Therefore, based on the fighter’s written confirmation of an agreement reached, the parties jointly request that the purse bid scheduled for (Thursday) at 10:00 a.m. (AST) at the WBO main offices be terminated, effective immediately.”
The development is the latest footnote in an ongoing legal struggle between Okolie (16-0, 13KOs) and Matchroom Boxing. An inquiry to Matchroom by BoxingScene.com seeking comment was not immediately returned at the time of this report due to the resolution being reached overnight in the U.K. due to the time difference.
The fight was originally sent to a purse bid hearing by WBO, whose policy is to avoid legal issues between boxers and promoters in sanctioned title fights. The original notification letter to all parties on December 5 listed Matchroom Boxing as the representative for Okolie, having promoted the unbeaten Brit since turning pro following his 2016 Rio Olympics appearance for Great Britain.
The listing hit a sore spot with Okolie (16-0, 13KOs) and his team, including Themba Smith who is identified in the most recent WBO correspondence as Head of Commercial and Operations on behalf of the boxer.
As noted by the WBO’s official resolution in canceling the negotiation period, “the WBO confirmed email communication by Mr. Themba Smith, on behalf of Team Okolie confirming receipt of the negotiation notice and advising that Matchroom Boxing was no longer Okolie’s promoter. Consequently, Mr. Smith requested that the WBO refrain from including Matchroom in any further correspondence pertaining to Okolie/Light.
“Thereafter, the WBO received an email response from Mr. Shaun Palmer, on behalf of Matchroom Boxing asserting that Okolie and Matchroom are parties to a pending dispute resolution process and in order to preserve the legal status quo, Matchroom should remain informed on matters pertaining to Okolie.”
Matchroom Boxing remains copied on all notices pertaining to this fight, including an e-mail exchange between all parties.
The WBO was contacted by Mohit Pasricha, who identified himself as a legal representative for Okolie and who revealed that talks are ongoing with New Zealand’s Light (20-0, 12KOs). An email submitted on December 20 expressed confidence on the part of Pasricha that “we can reach an agreement in the next few days. We just need to agree feasible dates with respective broadcasters.”
Such progress was noted by Matt Rose of No Limit Boxing, Light’s promoter who expressed “support” of “this request in the best interest of our fighter David Light.”
A follow-up exchange on December 21 revealed that the extra time allotted did not go to waste.
“I would like to inform the Championship Committee that I have agreed to terms and no longer require the purse bid,” Light noted in a direct letter to WBO president Francisco ‘Paco’ Valcarcel, as provided to the WBO by promoter Matt Rose of No Limit Boxing. “The contest will take place in London the 11 March and be promoted by Ben Shalom/Boxxer.”
Similar confirmation was provided by the defending champ.
“Please accept this as confirmation that I have come to an agreement with Ben Shalom/Boxxer to box David Light in London on the 11th March 2023,” noted Okolie, as forwarded by Pasricha to WBO lead counsel Gustavo OIivieri. “Therefore, I would be grateful if you stop the Purse Bid process, and my team will forward you a signed Bout agreement in due course. This should be a great contest and I thank the WBO for their support.”
Neither letter included anyone from Matchroom Boxing, who was later notified by the WBO.
Okolie has held the WBO crown since a sixth-round knockout of former two-time champ Krzysztof Glowacki last March at Wembley Arena (now OVO Arena Wembley) in what remains his best performance to date. Two title defenses have followed, including a twelve-round, unanimous decision victory over Michal Cieslak on February 27 at The O2 in his London hometown.
The nine-plus months since his last bout have featured oft-publicized reports of a messy relationship with Matchroom, to the point of clarification needed as to his exact promotional status. It was since confirmed by Matchroom that there remains one fight left on their contract.
Light advanced to the number-one mandatory position following a ten-round, split decision win over previously unbeaten Brandon Glanton on December 2 in Plant City, Florida.
The feat marked the second win in the U.S. for the 31-year-old Light, who hails from North Shore, New Zealand. The unbeaten challenger will now hit the road for the third time in his past four starts, this time for the biggest opportunity of his career.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
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