A seven-day extension was granted for Lawrence Okolie and David Light to reach terms for their ordered WBO cruiserweight title fight.
The ruling came on the eve of a scheduled purse bid hearing to have determined promotional rights for the contest, and despite a stern objection from Eddie Hearn, Okolie’s estranged promoter and head of Matchroom Sport. Ultimately, the sanctioning body sided with its cruiserweight champion and mandatory challenger in granting the order.
“Be advised that authorized representatives from Team Okolie (Legal) and Team Light (Manager) submitted jointly on behalf of the fighters a request for a 7-day extension to reach an agreement,” Gustavo Oliveiri, lead counsel for the WBO informed all involved parties. “The request is granted.
“[I]f the parties do not reach an agreement within the granted extension, purse bids will be conducted on Thursday, December 22 at 10:00 a.m. (AEST) at the WBO main offices in San Juan, Puerto Rico.”
The development comes one week after the WBO opted to call for an immediate purse bid amidst the legal entanglement between Okolie (16-0, 13KOs) and Matchroom.
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 Tuesday afternoon 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.”
The email did not include Matchroom Boxing but was referenced in a separate note provided by the WBO to Hearn, informing of the progress made between the two boxers. It came as a surprise to the leading UK promoter.
“The purse bids are [Wednesday] and we have made all the necessary plans to take part including flying our team to Puerto Rico,” noted Hearn in a reply email, a copy of which was obtained by BoxingScene.com. “We strongly object to any request to an extension and look forward to the purse bid… as planned.”
The only thing that all involved parties can look forward to, is another week for the fighters to reach a deal.
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.
There is a chance that he will have to hit the road for the third time in a span of four fights. There is also the possibility that Okolie’s current promotional situation could leave him inclined to accept a deal that would see him travel abroad for the first time as a pro.
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.
Should the fight ultimately head to a purse bid deal reached, the session will be open to all WBO-registered promoters, who are required to submit a minimum $300,000 for the bid to be rendered valid. The winning bid will be distributed 75/25 in favor of Okolie, or 80/20 for the champ should the fight land in the country of origin or residence of the challenger.
Both boxers must also commit in writing within 48 hours of the purse bid their commitment to proceeding with the fight under the terms of the purse bid. The promoter of record for the event will also be required to submit a twenty-percent deposit, also within two business days upon completion of the session.
The WBO ruling also stipulated that any failure by Okolie to proceed with the fight—be it injury, illness or unavailable for any other reason—could result in his being stripped of the title or for the sanctioning body to call for an interim title fight between Light and the highest ranked available contender. Similar unavailability by Light would leave the New Zealander out of the title mix and the mandatory position.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
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