Light Work: Lawrence Okolie Must Get Past David Light And Secure Big Name Fights

Okolie takes on his WBO mandatory challenger this Saturday
13:00, 20 Mar 2023

WBO cruiserweight champion Lawrence Okolie will make the third defence of his title on Saturday night. Unbeaten contender David Light is probably not the challenger most fans would have picked for ‘The Sauce’. The 20-0 American is something of a necessary evil as, despite lacking box office appeal, he is the WBO mandatory challenger. But Okolie will not have that excuse next time out. If and when the champion turns out the Light, he must take on a marquee name next.

Okolie’s title reign has been solid rather than spectacular. The cruiserweight division has always struggled for the prestige of its peers. But that is no excuse for not excelling. Britain in particular has a knack of producing elite 200-pounders. Tony Bellew, Enzo Maccarinelli and David Haye have all carried cruiserweight goal on the way to fame and fortune. Further afield, the likes of Evander Holyfield and Oleksandr Usyk used top-class cruiserweight runs to establish themselves as banner heavyweights.


Okolie’s moderate stewardship of the WBO is further called into question when one considers the quality of opposition he has been faced. Dilan Prasovic was unbeaten when he met the Londoner, but he had only boxed a scheduled 12-rounder once. He has been knocked out twice in three fights since Okolie stopped him. Michal Cieslak had lost his only fight outside Poland before losing to Okolie via decision. The 30-year-old’s title win against ex-champion Krzysztof Głowacki was more like it, even if the veteran has been flattened by Richard Riakporhe in four rounds since.

This is not to denigrate the Hackney-born talent. You can only beat what is put in front of you and Okolie has done that mostly with aplomb. He is a worthy world champion in the four-belt era and he clearly carries considerable ability and power. But he has been moved too carefully and, at the age of 30, it is time to put up or shut up.


Okolie himself seemed to understand this when he swapped Matchroom for Boxxer last year. The fighter was frustrated that he only managed one outing in 2022, that February win over Cieslak. Okolie had arguably been moved too carefully by Eddie Hearn’s company, and while the mandatory Light bout is more of the same, Ben Shalom and Boxxer do seem willing to push him a little further.

What form that push takes remains to be seen. Boxxer can offer the showdown everyone wants, with Riakporhe now Okolie’s stablemate. The two heavy-hitters have circled each other for a while and it would be a massive missed opportunity not to match them up. 

European and Commonwealth champion Chris Billam-Smith is another top British name that has fought on Boxxer cards. ‘The Gentleman’ has been targeting a rematch with Riakporhe, who beat him in 2019. But a bout with Okolie would also make sense for all involved. 

Beyond the domestic scene, Okolie should be eyeing up unification. Veteran road warrior Badou Jack has just secured the WBC strap and could be an appealing option. Jai Opetaia shocked the world last year by beating Mairis Briedis to capture the IBF title. Arsen Goulamirian holds the WBA gold and is unbeaten but also relatively untested. None of these fights feel beyond Okolie, if Boxxer can take the stabilisers off in a way Matchroom were never willing to.

If Okolie does get past Light and is then handed another gimme of an opponent, the damage could be fatal to his career prospects. The belt does not make the boxer, the boxer makes the belt. Being a world champion will ring hollow if that designation is defended in the shallow end of the talent pool. Okolie showed strong intent by leaving Matchroom. Now he must deliver on that gesture in the ring.

okolie vs light fight odds*

*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change

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