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Lawrence Okolie retains WBO cruiserweight title with points win over David Light



Busier and more powerful but docked a point for holding

Briton Lawrence Okolie defended his WBO cruiserweight title with a comfortable but scrappy points win over David Light at Manchester’s AO Arena. Okolie, 30, was the busier fighter, landing more power punches to beat his mandatory challenger, but he was docked a point for excessive holding. He had New Zealander Light, 31, in trouble in the 10th and 11th rounds but could not find the finish. The judges scored it 116-112, 119-108 and 117-110 to Okolie.

Okolie remains unbeaten with third defence of title

Okolie has now won all 19 professional bouts, completing a third defence of the title he won against Krzysztof Glowacki in March 2021. “I’d give it a five out of 10 because I felt rusty,” Okolie – who last fought in February 2022 – told BBC Radio 5 Live. “I was trying to work the jab and I started to get a bit tired which isn’t like me. After 13 months out of the ring and everything I’ve been through it was hard to get going.” Defeat for Light is the first of his career in his 21st fight.

Undercard results

On the undercard, Britain’s 2020 Olympic bronze medallist Karriss Artingstall won her third professional fight after beating super-featherweight Linzi Buczynskyj on points. Heavyweight Frazer Clarke, who also won bronze in Tokyo, moved to 6-0 as a professional. He beat Bogdan Dinu after the Romanian retired on his stool before the third round with a suspected broken rib.

Scrappy Okolie criticised in the past for excessive holding

Okolie made his debut six years ago to the day, in the same arena. It was the Hackney fighter’s first outing since acrimoniously leaving Matchroom Boxing – after a protracted contract dispute – and linking up with promotional company Boxxer. He also had new trainer SugarHill Steward in the corner.

Okolie has been criticised in the past for being far too scrappy, often grappling and weighing down on his opponents, and the first round – aside from a couple of stinging rights to the body – was flat from the champion. He moved his attack to the head in the second and found more success, landing flush on the Kiwi challenger, but Okolie failed to utilise his jab or capitalise on the good work from the previous round in a quiet third, as a durable Light grew in confidence. Steward also trains WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury. He likes his fighters to embody the ‘Kronk’ style of boxing: aggressiveness, fighting on the front foot and never leaving it in the judges’ hands.

Potential unification bouts and future plans

In between rounds, he told Okolie to revert back to targeting the body, but there was little to trouble Light in the fourth. Two strong rights landed in the fifth and the sixth was uneventful. Okolie was outpunching his opponent, but it was far from spectacular. The fighters were warned by referee for holding in the seventh, a few jeers and whistles started ringing around the arena in the eighth. Okolie launched a brutal onslaught in the 10th. A flurry of right and left hands wobbled Light’s legs. Okolie eyed up the finish, but Light survived. The champion was docked a point in the 11th, but seconds later he buzzed Light with a sensational right. Once again, he was unable to find the telling blow.

Okolie could now look at unification bouts. Frenchman Arsen Goulamirian is WBA ‘Super’ champion, Sweden’s Badou Jack holds the WBC title and Australia’s Jai Opetaia is the IBF and Ring Magazine champion. “I need to be back immediately. The year out of the ring does have an impact,” Okolie said. By joining Boxxer, Okolie has also opened up an opportunity to face Briton Richard Riakporhe. The two fighters were separated during an altercation at the London premiere of the Creed III movie in February. Despite their friendship, the highly ranked Chris Billiam-Smith – coached by Okolie’s former trainer Shane McGuigan – is another potential opponent. Okolie has also previously said he plans to move up a division in the next two years in a bid to join Evander Holyfield, David Haye and Oleksandr Usyk in winning world titles at both cruiserweight and heavyweight.




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