Okolie set to make second defence of his World title amidst talks of stepping up in weight


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Britain’s Lawrence Okolie will defend his WBO Cruiserweight World Championship against 21-1 Polish fighter, Michal Cieslak.

With that being said, will this be the last fight before ‘The Sauce’ steps up to Heavyweight?

Okolie’s Background

Born in Hackney, North London, the towering WBO Cruiserweight Champion has had his own, unique route into boxing and the position he currently holds.

During his upbringing, Okolie struggled with his weight due to the constant temptations of his local chicken shop after school.

At his heaviest, Okolie weighed 265lb and was registered clinically obese. As such, aged 17, he took up boxing as a means of keeping fit.

Amateur Career 

Aged 18, he had his first amateur bout but would not fight again until he was aged 21. Despite a respectively short amateur career, Okolie went on to compete in the World Series of Boxing and eventually qualified for the 2016 Olympics, where he would reach the Second Round.

The Hackney-born fighter also mentioned that working at McDonald’s during the early stages of his career humbled him in his rise to the top.

Converting to the Pro Ranks and rise to World Level

Subsequently, Okolie would turn professional aged 24 after just 18 amateur bouts.

Despite still being a relative novice, Okolie was pushed fast and defeated highly respected 9-0 fellow prospect Issac Chamberlain for the WBA Continental Championship in just his eighth fight.

By the time he entered his 10th fight, the British title was on the line when he defeated Matty Askin by a unanimous decision. It was at this period in his career that Okolie started receiving criticism for his pragmatic, and at times, stagnating style.

However, Okolie is a tall cruiserweight at six-foot-five and has long possessed power some experts feel would trouble many a heavyweight.

The Londoner would go on to win the Commonwealth and European titles as well as picking up numerous other minor straps along the way. It was the European title victory over Yves Ngabu that propelled him to world level, and subsequently, earned him a shot at one of the Cruiserweight world champions.

World Title Shot

Initially, Lawrence Okolie was awarded the vacant WBO World title clash against Krzysztof Glowacki as the chief support on the Anthony Joshua v Kubrat Pulev card. However, Okolie’s World title hopes were put on hold as Glowacki tested positive for COVID-19 in the build-up to the bout.

As such, Polish Cruiserweight Champion Nikodem Jezewski stepped in to fight Okolie for the vacant WBO International Championship. The stand-in was simply outclassed as Okolie dismantled Jezewski in just two rounds.

Okolie would eventually get his bout with Glowacki for the WBO World Cruiserweight Championship in March 2021 and this would be the night that Okolie would cement his legacy.

In a dominant performance, Okolie knocked out Glowacki in the sixth round and put the rest of the Cruiserweight division on notice.

Unification options? 

The three recognised full world champions in the division were, and still are, Arsen Goulamirian (WBA Super), Ilunga Makabu (WBC) and Mairis Breidis (IBF and Ring Magazine).

To unify the division, Okolie would have to go through three other fighters whilst also fulfilling mandatories, and despite his undisputed dreams, this has proven a difficult task for the 29-year-old.

Makabu has had mandatory challengers to deal with himself and has also found himself getting caught up in a potential groundbreaking fight at Cruiserweight with Canelo Alvarez.

Meanwhile, Breidis has not expressed much desire for a unification bout and has recently been calling out none other than Jake Paul, going as far as getting a tattoo calling out the internet sensation. Goulamirian is arguably the quietest of the three champions and has not fought since 2019.

Mandatory Challengers

With all of this in mind, Okolie has made it clear he is not hanging around and wishes to fulfil his dreams of stepping up to heavyweight. A step up in weight class has been teased on a couple of occasions by Okolie, but so far, he has been unable to make the fights he wants and has been left to face mandatory challengers.

In his previous fight, Okolie made his first defence against 15-0 undefeated Dilan Prasovic. Once more, his opponent proved to be no match for the champion and the Brit dispatched beat him in three rounds.

Opposition Insight

That takes us to this fight against Michal Cieslak at the O2 Arena. Cieslak is a relatively unknown entity in the entire world of boxing, but within the Cruiserweight division, he is a proven contender.

The 32-year-old from Kozienice, Poland has fought almost his whole career on home soil in a competitive Polish domestic scene and would often also welcome overseas opponents to Poland in his rise to the top.

Back in 2016, Cieslak was set for a big domestic clash with Jezewski. Initially, Cieslak won the fight with a convincing third-round TKO victory, but the fight was retrospectively called a no-contest after both competitors tested positive for banned substances.

Following this, Cieslak was forced to re-build his profile against inferior opposition before eventually getting a break in a fight against the respected former World contender, Olanrewaji Durodola, where the Nigerian fighter based in the US strangely contested the Polish Cruiserweight title. Cieslak would go on to dominate his opponent, who at 39, had definitely seen better days.

After getting the second-round stoppage, Cieslak got a shot at Ilunga Makabu for the vacant WBC World Championship. This would be the first time the Pole would fight away from home as he travelled to Makabu’s native Democratic Republic of Congo for the bout.

Ultimately, Cieslak would come out second best and would be beaten by a unanimous decision in favour of Makabu. However, one card scored it 114-112, showing that the Polish fighter was more than capable of hanging in there with an elite opponent.

Since his one and only loss, Cieslak has got himself back in the win column, earning himself a shot at Lawrence Okolie’s WBO strap. Undoubtedly, this is the biggest opportunity of Cieslak’s career as he is fighting for a world title at the O2 Arena on a global stage as he headlines a DAZN card.

Fight Overview

So, under the new stewardship of Shane McGuigan, Okolie can not afford to overlook his opponent as he brings a good amount to the table.

Whilst Okolie stands taller, Cieslak is six-foot-three so is certainly no slight figure. Furthermore, with 15 knockouts, his power is certainly a big part of his game, with his last five wins coming via stoppage.

Cieslak is also three years younger than Glowacki was, and as such, you would imagine the 32-year-old has more speed on his side than his Polish predecessor and will be able to utilise that more.

That being said, Okolie’s long towering figure and 82.5-inch reach make it very difficult to close the distance. Okolie sticks out an effective jab and is able to set up his power shots by doing so.

There is every chance that Cieslak will end up being Okolie’s toughest fight yet, but it remains to be seen if the Polish fighter will be good enough to trouble the Hackney-born fighter on home soil.

Should Okolie win, there is a possibility he would step up to heavyweight or even a Bridgerweight World title shot at Oscar Rivas if he wishes. A defeat would set Okolie’s career back a step and could possibly cause his team to re-evaluate their options.

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