SAFE to say, Lawrence Okolie, the British and Commonwealth cruiserweight champion, has annoyed a wasp and now can’t get away from it.
The wasp in question, top heavyweight contender Dillian Whyte, recently took umbrage with Okolie’s suggestion that he might soon make the move up in weight and start picking off his fellow Brits one by one and didn’t much like the idea of Okolie posting footage of a sparring session they once shared on social media, either.
Now, with Whyte engaged, poor Okolie, still only 11 fights deep in his pro career, can’t shake free of him.
“My aim wasn’t ever to cause a stir with that,” Okolie told Sky Sports. “It was just a lot of people talk about me in the media and on their platforms. Dillian Whyte spoke about me on the day that I posted. I didn’t like what was said, so I made my opinion on him and me boxing.
“In terms of moving up to heavyweight, I believe definitely it’s something that’s going to happen. I always believe in myself and I’ve always set targets and gone and accomplished them. That’s what I’ll say on that.”
Okolie faces Wadi Camacho with the British and Commonwealth titles at stake on the undercard of Charlie Edwards’ WBC title defence against Angel Moreno at the Copper Box Arena on Saturday. Basically, he’s a long way off making the move to heavyweight, much less calling out top five contenders.
“I’m not going to single him out and say I’m gunning for Dillian Whyte,” said Okolie. “I’m doing my own career. But at the end of the day, I don’t say stuff for no reason. It is what it is. We’ll see how I handle Wadi and we’ll see what I do at cruiserweight. But that’s a fight I would happily take.”
Whyte, of course, isn’t going to let Okolie get away with his perceived misstep that easily. Irked by it, he now wants his fellow Londoner to put his money where his mouth is. Either that or, you know, close it altogether.
“Look, I don’t have much time for sparring stories,” Whyte told Sky Sports. “Sparring is sparring, but Okolie is living on another planet.
“The last boxer to make up a sparring story about me was [Dereck] Chisora and everyone saw how that ended. I only sparred Okolie twice over two days in 2015 and the second time he was very arrogant, so I put a little pressure on him and he folded and had to be helped out of the ring and miss his next fight because of his injuries.
“Okolie is a complete hype job. If I fought him, I’d snap him in two like a Twiglet.
“Okolie and his handful of supporters call themselves ‘Penny Bois’, which is a great name for him as that’s all he’ll earn off boxing – pennies. He has no real talent, no heart, no chin and nothing about him is likeable.
“If Okolie steps up to heavyweight I would end his career. He is one of the most deluded boxers in the history of boxing. Okolie is a joke. Without AJ [Anthony Joshua] backing him, he’d still be working in McDonald’s.”
The angrier Whyte gets as a result of Okolie’s comments, the more chance there is the two fighters – for now separated by weight classes and experience – will one day settle their differences in the ring.
Although Josh Warrington isn’t exactly backward in coming forward, he is, for the most part, the type of boxer more inclined to let his fists do the talking on fight night.
Last year, this approach brought the 28-year-old success against both Lee Selby, with whom he had some beef, and Carl Frampton, with whom he had no beef. It also resulted in Warrington being crowned the UK’s ‘Fighter of the Year’.
Warrington’s next assignment takes place on June 15, again in Leeds, his home city, and will see him defend his IBF featherweight title against fellow Yorkshireman Kid Galahad.
If today’s press conference to announce the fight is anything to go by, there’s no love lost between the pair. Nor was there much love extended Galahad’s way from Warrington’s Leeds fans, many of whom goaded the challenger and heckled him about his 18-month ban from the sport [for testing positive for stanozolol after beating Adeilson Dos Santos in September 2014] during the press conference.
If it’s needle you’re looking for, look no further. Equally, if the Leeds faithful need a bandleader, they have one in Warrington.
“He got banned for drug cheating, this sport is hard enough,” Warrington said. “People’s lives change in this sport.
“Last thing we need is people trying to take an inch by cheating. He’s been given the green light to be able to box again but he makes no remorse about being banned. The sport doesn’t need people like Barry.”
Galahad, whose real name is Barry Awad, said he didn’t knowingly take the performance-enhancing drug and blamed his brother for spiking one of his post-workout drinks. He was, however, banned under UK Anti-Doping’s ‘strict liability’ policy [UKAD says athletes are responsible for any trace of a prohibited substance in their system irrespective of how it got there].
“It doesn’t matter what has happened in the past,” said Galahad, 29, who returned to the sport in 2016 and has boxed six times since. “I will be 100 per cent clean. Let’s just hope he is 100 per cent clean.”
The fight, too. With three months of build-up, and a let of unresolved issues between the pair, there’s every chance Warrington vs. Galahad could become one of the nastiest match-ups seen in a British ring this year. Let’s hope that’s not the case.