If Lawrence Okolie claims the WBO cruiserweight title in his 16th professional bout on Saturday, don’t expect him to slow up. If Okolie beats Krzysztof Glowacki for the vacant title at Wembley on Saturday night, he wants to move straight into a series of unifications.
Okolie is not only planning victory, on Saturday, he is expecting it to be spectacular. Having boxed fewer than 30 times as an amateur, despite qualifying for the 2016 Olympics, he is notably short on experience. But having cleaned up the British, Commonwealth and European titles already, he is not someone lacking in confidence and already has his eyes on the future.
“Definitely this year I would like to unify,” Okolie said. “Some people have said ‘take your time’. I know that is important and I don’t aim to lose but I keep pushing to find my level. Is it British? Is it Commonwealth? Is it world?
“Now I believe I am going to win this world title, is it me against another champion? I definitely want to unify. It depends how thing go with other fighters. Not looking past this one, but I would definitely want my next fight to be a unification against one of the other champions.”
The eventual target is to move up to heavyweight. Eddie Hearn suggests that switch could come as soon as next year. It sounds like Glowacki is being overlooked, but Okolie’s self-belief is overflowing.
“The most important thing is to win well,” he said. “Usually I just say ‘I just want to win’, but I really liked the feedback I got from my last fight, hopefully I am going to be able to keep that momentum going. I feel I am one of the best fighters in the world and fighting the best out there is nothing that has ever worried me.
“I’m getting to that age now, I’m 28. It’s now or never-ish. If you’re going to be a world champion it would be nice to start from now. I have to make sure I’m doing world championship stuff now if I’m going to be a world champion.”
Okolie’s quest for perfection has seen him change trainers regularly, but he now feels he has found a good match with Shane McGuigan and a small group of fighters including Chris Billam-Smith, Luke Campbell and Anthony Fowler.
Competition between the group is intense. They are all linked by WHOOP straps, which record all their fitness work, calories burned and recovery. If one of his training partners is beating him, he will go for a late-night walk.
“The mindset is to win,” Okolie said. “I am very competitive.”
But it was the coronavirus lockdown that saw Okolie step up a gear, when he suddenly discovered that he wasn’t quite as prepared as he thought.
“When the gyms shut I had nowhere to train,” he said. “I didn’t have a boxing bag in my house but I had of these clothes and trainers which I couldn’t even wear out. I didn’t even have weights. I had to strip everything away and I felt quite ashamed.”
Okolie was originally due to face Glowacki in December, until the former champion failed a coronavirus test, leaving Okolie to face another Pole, Nikodem Jezewski, who was dispatched in two rounds.
The extra fight, though, thwarted Okolie’s ambition of winning a world title quicker than Anthony Joshua, his manager and mentor, did. Now he can only equal the 16 fights that Joshua did it in.
“It was a bit frustrating because I wanted to win the world title quicker than AJ did,” Okolie said. “But that’s OK, we take it on the chin and leave it to the next one.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.