No announcement yet.

Beterbiev and Ortiz Kept on Truckin’, but Lawrence Okolie Stole the Spotlight

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Beterbiev and Ortiz Kept on Truckin’, but Lawrence Okolie Stole the Spotlight

    Click image for larger version

Name:	Beterbiev-.PNG
Views:	12
Size:	329.3 KB
ID:	19067

    By Arne K. Lang

    On Saturday, WBC/IBF light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev and welterweight Vergil Ortiz Jr kept their perfect knockout skeins alive. Beterbiev, now 16-0, and Ortiz, 17-0, have yet to face an opponent that proved capable of staying the distance. The weekend’s most impressive showing, however, was turned in by Lawrence Okolie who won the vacant WBO world cruiserweight title with a dominant performance over former title-holder Krzyzstof Glowacki.

    Born in London to Nigerian parents, Okolie, 28, was raised by a single mother in government subsidized housing in the East London borough of Hackney. In his late teens, he was obese; his weight ballooning to 260 pounds. He was inspired to take of up boxing after watching Anthony Joshua win the gold medal at the 2012 Olympic games. At the time, he was flipping hamburgers at a McDonald’s. (When he visits his former workplace, you won’t find him ordering a Big Mac. He’s become a vegan, embracing a plant-based diet.)

    Although Okolie started his boxing career late, he proved good enough to make the Olympics. He competed for England as a heavyweight in the 2016 Rio games where he advanced to the second round before being eliminated by Cuba’s Erislandy Savon.

    Okolie brought a 15-0 (12) record into his match with Poland’s Glowacki who had lost only twice in 33 pro starts, those coming at the hands of Oleksandr Usyk and the man that would be recognized as the top dog in the division when Usyk left it to campaign as a heavyweight, Latvia’s Mairis Briedis.

    The bookies installed Okolie a 3/1 favorite, but there were certainly doubts about him. His ascent up the ranks was reminiscent of another Hackney man, Anthony Yarde, who won his first 18 fights by knockout before Sergey Kovalev burst his bubble, taking him out in the 11th round. Moreover, although Okolie was undefeated, his style wasn’t winning any new fans. Some of his fights were frankly boring.

    Lawrence Okolie stands six-foot-five and has an 82-inch wingspan. This reporter was reminded of Alfonso Ratliff, a fighter from Chicago who briefly held the world cruiserweight title. Ratliff stood six-feet-four and in common with Okolie had come down from heavyweight. He was good enough to grab a world title, but in truth he was nothing special.

    Based on his showing on Saturday, Okolie figures to accomplish much more than did Ratliff. He has the chance to be very special.

    Against Glowacki, Okolie controlled the first three rounds with his jab before bringing the heavy artillery. He ended the fight early in the sixth with a booming right hand. Glowacki beat the count, just barely, but was in no shape to continue and the fight was waived off.

    The Pole was an empty vessel. This was his first start in 21 months but, as ESPN’s Nick Parkinson said, rust had nothing to do with it. Glowacki was out of his league.

    Okolie is co-managed by Anthony Joshua. This was his fourth fight with Shane McGuigan who has been working on getting Okolie to take advantage of his length which will, in turn, improve his power as his punches will carry more force if delivered straight-on. McGuigan believes that Okolie is far from a finished product. In a conversation with British boxing journalist Tris Dixon, McGuigan said that when Okolie left the amateur ranks he “was only 35-40 percent of what he can be” unlike most elite British amateurs who take up the sport at an earlier age and have less room to grow when they turn pro.

    Down the road, it’s easy to envision Okalie comfortably carrying 30 to 40 more pounds on his six-foot-five frame. But first he’d like to follow Usyk’s example and unify the cruiserweight division.

    The other title-holders of note are WBC champ Ilunga Makabu, the Congolese southpaw who fights out of South Africa, and the aforementioned Briedis (IBF). If Okolie had his druthers, Briedis would be next on his schedule, but the Latvian, now 36 years old, is reportedly contemplating a move to heavyweight and may not care to wait around for a unification fight.

    Regardless, Okolie made a big jump in public esteem this past Saturday and stamped himself as a force to be reckoned with at 200 pounds and above.

    Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel