Lawrence Okolie can equate Anthony Joshua’s rapid rise to world championship in just 16 fights, certainly the clearest proof yet that his journey is valued and inspiring in itself.
A tough, rough enemy in underage Okzie in Krzysztof Glowacki on Saturday night, will live on Sky Sports, for an empty WBO whiteweight contest – if he’s not finished in the end, this is an opponent who reveals his shortcomings.
But Okolie has been personified with confidence all week, boldly calling this fight “not his peak” and predicting a move to heavyweight shortly thereafter. He speaks bolshy ahead of his toughest test but, as a pro, has moved through every level so far.
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Okolie was obese and taking out burgers at McDonald’s in east London in 2012 with the Olympics just down the streets naming it home.
He saw Anthony Joshua claim the men’s heavyweight gold medal and vowed to turn his life around.
Nine years later he is an Olympian himself, author and rapper, British, European and Commonwealth champion, signed to Joshua’s 258th Order and just hours away from the moment of his world title.
It’s a boost Joshua himself would have been proud of – he defeated Charles Martin in his 16th fight for the IBF belt and Okolie can match that feat tonight.
Okolie’s 2016 Olympics were eliminated at the hands of Erislandy Savon, Cuban great-nephew Felix Savon, just like his 26th amateur fight. That is an absence, to mix at such high levels despite being so unfamiliar.
He has grown, evolved, learned in the hard way and from time to time is overwhelmed in the full splendor of the public. It’s been a boxing apprentice in the workplace that includes a series of brutal brawls (Okolie has the kind of power that can’t be taught) and also some ugly brawl.
It’s not perfect, and that makes tonight’s world title fight even more commendable.
A dozen stops from 15 fights and a ruthless instinct when he smells blood means Okolie is in great danger of blowing Glowacki away but he doesn’t like a quick fight, he said: “I’m not rely on a big bullet for the guy out. I am responsible for landing and landing. “
Polish Glowacki has been in Okolie shoes before.
He is a former WBO heroine who has won world title fights on the road. In 33 fights he lost only Oleksandr Usyk and Mairis Briedis, the two outstanding talents of the recent cruiser weight division.
Okolie is looking forward to other heroes: “Anyone that [promoter] Eddie Hearn can promise, I accept. If Briedis is next, I will take it, Arsen Goulamirian, I will take it. If it was Ilunga Makabu.
“Any one of them, really, I’ll go for it.”
Briedis promoter Kalle Sauerland warned: “It is clear he was the winner in that division after lifting the Muhammad Ali cup and the World Super Boxing Series.
“But his leadership looks more likely to hit the overweight sector in 2021, however no one ever knows.”
There is also heavy pressure where Okolie sees himself. He’s already drawn into a spicy war of words by Dillian Whyte.
“His intentions are to go under heavy pressure,” said his trainer Shane McGuigan. “You rarely roll and slide, useless material when it comes to heavy weights. The basic, basic material works for the big ones.”
Okolie has said: “I’m not here to scrape my way and dig to the top. I won’t scrape through, I’ll do it in impressive fashion.”
If that prediction comes true, Okolie will become the newest supporter in the world in the division won by Johnny Nelson, Tony Bellew, Enzo Maccarinelli and David Haye.
His sights are set much, much higher but foreign rivals have ruined several parties in British rings since last summer.
Glowacki is more experienced and safer when the stakes are so high, so if Okolie can bludgeon it will be a devastating statement.