Lawrence Okolie says he is aiming to overtake David Haye as the finest cruiserweight from Great Britain before going on to win world titles at three weights.
Okolie won the WBO title by beating Krzysztof Glowacki on Saturday night, but believes he will have to unify the cruiserweight title to outstrip Haye’s achievements before moving up in weight.
“I have to unify against top quality (opposition),” Okolie said. “He beat (Jean-Marc) Mormeck who was probably the best at the time, and then he beat Enzo (Maccarinelii) so he had two world title fights at cruiserweight which were amazing.
“So I’d like to be regarded as the No 1 at cruiserweight at the time and then go up, win the bridgerweight world title – that must still count – and then eventually go up to heavyweight and win the heavyweight world title. That way, I’m a three-weight world champion at that point.”
With the UK still under lockdown, there was no chance of a victory party, even if Okolie had wanted one. Not that Okolie would have organized one anyway. He is only planning two weeks out of the gym and will be out running again this week to ensure his weight does not go up.
“I don’t have big parties when I win,” he said. “I don’t drink alcohol but I also don’t like planning an after party before I have actually won. My mum was screaming and crying on the phone but it was such a relief winning, it was a relief getting the victory. I didn’t feel like running around and shouting.
“I have never felt a feeling like it before, it was like contentment, but I know I want to do so much more. It just felt really good and I was grateful to be around all the people who have helped to make it happen.
“People have been calling me ‘champ’. I thought I might be like a caterpillar who suddenly turns into a butterfly, but I feel just the same really, I just have a new belt and status.”
Okolie said he would like to return to the ring in June, although a place on the undercard of the heavyweight superfight between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, his friend and manager, also appeals. He says he wants to take on the other world champions in the division to prove himself.
“I love boxing, I love winning, I love and respect being a world champion,” he said. “I train hard because I don’t want to lose but that’s not something that drives me.
“It takes a lot of pressure off the fighting because I realize life for me is bigger than a fight. I’ve got a good family, I’ve got good friends so whatever happens in boxing, as long as I’m a good person to them and they’re good people to me I’m happy.
“I’m not forced to box, I get to go in and have a fight, it’s all a blessing. I don’t mind who I box as long as I get to test myself and show to the world this is what I’m capable of.”
People will be drawn to Okolie’s showreel finish of Glowacki, but just as impressive was the way he outboxed the former two-time champion in the first five rounds.
“If I’d maybe gone in and stopped him in the first 20 seconds it would be nice but, ultimately, I think it showed a lot of improvement but for someone with such limited fights in total, whether that’s amateur or professional. I’ve been put under a lot of pressure to perform. A lot of that obviously is my own doing with some of the fight I’ve had. I feel like I’ve always had to show more.
“I’m happy that’s happened because that’s forced me to go to the gym and work on stuff. That’s forced me to be able to handle big occasions. So it’s more satisfying that I was able to show one of the things I’m able to do which is keep it long on the jab, not get involved in a tear-up, and follow instructions. And then still get out the knockout. If I box a different style, I’ll have to show something different.
“I think I’m very teachable and versatile, once I am trained in something and I believe in a gameplan or strategy, I’ll do it to a tee. I’m interested to see what’s next.”
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.