LAWRENCE OKOLIE exudes confidence. But that’s not always been the case. That mindset is based on hard work.
“I think my nerves would come in if I didn’t train properly,” he said ahead of Sunday’s WBO cruiserweight belt defence against Poland’s Michal Cieslak. “From now to the fight, I know what I’ve done in training, so it is what it is. I know some people train harder than me. In the gym, I’ve seen people run faster, do more push ups but I just know what I’m meant to do, I’ve done. So I’m in great shape. If another guy can do 15 rounds, it doesn’t bother me because I know my 12 rounds can destroy your 12 rounds. We will see.”
“I just think I owe it to myself to continue to show not just myself but everyone that I’ve boxed, everyone that I’ve sparred, everyone that’s watched me and that believes in me and what I’m doing that I’m actually good. Sometimes I have to remind myself oh yeah I’m actually pretty good at this,” he continued. “Just show that I’m pretty good at this boxing thing.
“If I didn’t train properly for this fight, I would look terrible on Sunday but I did train and I did spar, I have done my due diligence, I’ve gone to bed on time, dieted, I’ve overcome injuries and made sure I come in fresh, so I’m going to go in there and demonstrate.”
Cieslak is a good challenger. But Okolie is envisioning a stoppage inside the distance. “I personally believe I’ll get to him between [rounds] six and nine. Unless I catch him early. But I think he’ll come with a lot of ambition, he’ll be moving a lot, I’ll be taking my time because I don’t really have to take risks early. I think he’ll be trying to double jab, trying to keep on the move, watch out for the right hand. It’ll be up to me to creep into range, lots of feints and then pin him to the ropes or wherever and just go to work,” he said.
Okolie’s promoter, Eddie Hearn noted, “He punches like a horse kicks.”
A stoppage would be a good reference point to Ilunga Makabu, the holder of the WBC belt. He went the distance with Cieslak. He’s also the most likely next opponent for Okolie.
“[Mairis] Briedis is here and if he stops calling out Jake Paul then hopefully we can make that. Realistically though he’s supposed to fight [Jay] Opetaia, in a mandatory defence,” promoter Hearn said. “Makabu’s not going to get the Canelo fight any time soon, so what’s he going to do?”
The WBC belt-holder is firmly on Okolie’s radar. “I think it’s the most achievable unification,” said Okolie, who’s looking forward to taking on an English speaking opponent so he can indulge in a bit of trash talking. “I’ll be able to let him know, ‘I’m going to smash you.’”
“I’ll be able to have some fun,” he says before adding, “I’m going to smash him [Cieslak] anyway on the weekend. But we’ll see.”