Okolie Is The Latest In A Proud Line Of British Cruiserweight World Champions

Okolie is the seventh British fighter to lift a cruiserweight world championship.
06:55, 24 Sep 2021

Anthony Joshua will not be the only British world champion stepping into the ring at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday night. WBO cruiserweight king Lawrence Okolie will be making the first defence of his crown against unbeaten Montenegrin Dilan Prasovic. When ‘The Sauce’ beat Krzysztof Glowacki for the vacant title in March, he became the seventh British fighter to capture a world cruiserweight championship. Here is a look at this country’s other top 200-pounders.

Glenn McCrory

‘Gentleman’ Glenn went on a run of four losses in a row in 1986. Three years later, he would lift the IBF cruiserweight championship. The resurgent County Durham fighter put together a run of eleven wins after that barren spell, before outpointing Patrick Lumumba to claim the vacant championship.

McCrory would retain his title with an eleventh-round knockout over Siza Makathini, before dropping it to Jeff Lampkin via a third-round stoppage. Glenn moved up to heavyweight and unsuccessfully challenged then-British and European champion Lennox Lewis. Two years later, back down at cruiserweight, he would attempt to win back his old IBF belt, losing a decision to Alfred Cole.

Carl Thompson

In 1995, ‘The Cat’ had been stopped in the eleventh round of a WBO cruiserweight title tilt against Ralf Rocchigiani. Two years later he would have his revenge, winning a split decision over the same opponent to finally win the championship he had been denied. Thompson’s two defences sent shockwaves through British boxing, as he twice defeated the legendary Chris Eubank, who was looking to win a world title at a third weight.

Thompson would come unstuck against the next name on this list, but returned to prominence in 2004 when he taught a young David Haye a valuable lesson, knocking the future king out in the fifth round.

Johnny Nelson

Nelson lost the first three fights of his career, and nobody at that stage expected they were watching a future record-breaking world champion. 13 years after his debut, he stepped into the ring with WBO champion Carl Thompson with a record of 31-12-1. Against all the odds he emerged as one of history’s unlikeliest world champions, stopping Thompson in the fifth round.

The Sheffield fighter would enjoy an extraordinary title reign, holding the joint-record for the most cruiserweight title defences with fourteen, as well as the record for defending the belt against the most different fighters with thirteen. Nelson retired in 2006, having not fought for ten months due to a knee injury.

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David Haye

After the chastening loss to Carl Thompson, boxing’s schadenfreude enthusiasts were cackling over the heavily-hyped young fighter crashing back down to Earth. Haye responded brilliantly, redoubling his efforts to improve his conditioning, while cutting a swathe through the division.

Haye annexed the European championship on the way to a world title shot against WBA, WBC and The Ring champion Jean-Marc Mormeck. ‘Hayemaker’ had to climb off the canvas in Paris, before stopping the champion in the seventh round of a thrilling fight. In his next fight, he would unify his titles with the WBO strap belonging to the next man on this list, before moving to heavyweight. David would capture the WBA heavyweight championship, making him the only British cruiserweight world title holder to win a world championship at another weight.

Enzo Maccarinelli

Part of the illustrious stable that made world champions out of Joe Calzaghe and Gavin Rees, the Welshman won the WBO interim title against Marcelo Fabian Dominguez. Enzo was upgraded to full championship status when Johnny Nelson pulled out of their scheduled title fight due to injury. 

Maccarinelli racked up four defences of the championship, most impressively scoring a decision win over former champion Wayne Braithwaite, before agreeing to meet Haye in a British dream fight. In a bout that every observer knew was not going the distance given the power each man carried, Enzo was blasted out in the second round by ‘Hayemaker’. 

‘Big Mac’ would never again claim world championship honours, though he did score a fourth-round knockout of the legendary but badly faded Roy Jones Jr in 2015.

Tony Bellew

Liverpool’s ‘Bomber’ had fallen twice in light heavyweight title shots before moving to cruiserweight. The lifelong Everton fan racked up six victories in the higher division before challenging Ilunga Makabu for the vacant WBC crown. Bellew bombed out his opponent in three rounds, before doing the same to BJ Flores in his first title defence. 

Bellew vacated the title and moved up to heavyweight, twice stopping former two-weight king David Haye. In his final fight before retirement, Tony returned to cruiserweight and challenged undisputed champion Oleksandr Usyk. Bellew’s brave challenge ended in the eighth round, and he now works as a pundit for DAZN.

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