London: Lawrence Okolie, From £7 in The Bank to British Cruiserweight Title Fight this Weekend.

September 21, 2018

Lawrence Okolie has come a long way in the past 18 months.

The cruiserweight had just £7 in his bank account last year but on Saturday takes on Matty Askin for the British title on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s world championship fight at Wembley.

 

And a little further back — when Joshua was winning Olympic gold at London 2012 — Okolie, 25, was serving burgers at McDonald’s in Victoria Station. 

Now he’s hoping to serve up something special in the ring, having been inspired by the multiple world heavyweight champion. 

But you won’t find Okolie, who has yet to move out of his mum’s house completely, shouting loudly about his talents as he takes the same approach as Joshua — and that’s to stay humble.   

The Hackney fighter, who was once an obese teenager weighing 18st, is managed and mentored by Joshua and sees him as the perfect role model to follow. To have the ample frame of Joshua, with whom he has regularly sparred although not in this current camp, in his corner is a huge asset.

But without appearing to sound ungrateful, Okolie said: “At the end of the day, no one can get in the ring for me, not even him. When the bell goes it’s just me and my opponent.

“But having him is great. If I need advice, I can call him and it’s inspiring seeing what he does. He’s doing so well and he handles the pressure so well.”

Okolie, who has been tipped as a global star of the future in the cruiserweight division, has kept it simple, knuckling down and making the most of his talents. “I don’t have super powers and I’m not a genius, it’s just down to hard work,” he insists.

“Where I’ve come from to where I am now is important because it shows how much further I can go in the future.”

Okolie is probably being modest about his “powers” as seven of his nine wins have come by way of a knockout and his first fight lasted just 20 seconds as he pummelled Geoffrey Cave to the canvas at the Manchester Arena. 

Joshua has repeatedly lauded his younger charge as well as regularly having him on his undercard.

However, Saturday against Askin is a move to the next level, with a Wembley appearance 17 months on from what should have been his first at the stadium. Scheduled to fight there, it was pulled at the last minute when the undercard for the Joshua fight against Wladimir Klitschko overran. Understandably, he is relishing the opportunity to make amends.

“That was hard but it’s all part of the journey,” he said. “But the size of the venue doesn’t bother me. 

“I’m used to big pro crowds and big pressure although I admit that Wembley is a step-up.”

Does fighting in his home city act as an advantage? Okolie added: “It can do if it’s a hard and close fight. I don’t think I’ll need that.”

Askin, living out of a caravan for his pre-fight training camp, has pledged to knock out his more fancied opponent. But Okolie’s take is different. 

“What he says is nothing to me,” he insists. “I think I’ll win. I’m getting better with every fight.”

At times, Okolie admits to struggling with the patience of the early pro ranks, watching Joshua have more than double the number of fights at the very pinnacle of the sport.

“I desperately want to get to the top but I know it takes time,” he added.

At what point his rise allows him to move out from home is unclear. 

Sitting on the sofa in Hackney on fight night will be his mother. “She can’t watch me fight in person,” he said. 

“I understand that it’s tough as she knows the potential consequences but she’s at least started watching on TV and I know she’s proud. 

“To see that pride from my family, that’s a big motivation

 

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