Lawrence Okolie: I faced Light in worst condition of my life

EXCLUSIVE: Lawrence Okolie insists he is feeling ‘sharp, strong and mentally focused’ ahead of Chris Billam-Smith fight… after returning to the ring to face David Light in worse condition of his life

  • Lawrence Okolie will defend his WBO cruiserweight title on Saturday evening
  • The fight comes just 63 days after he fought against David Light in Manchester
  • Okolie says he feels ‘sharp and strong’ after being in the worst shape of his life 

Lawrence Okolie admits to being in the worst shape of his life for last month’s clash with David Light – but insists he is ‘feeling sharp, strong and mentally focused’ ahead of his fight against Chris Billam-Smith. 

Okolie will aim for a fourth successful defence of his WBO world cruiserweight title when he takes on his fellow Briton and former sparring partner Billam-Smith on Saturday evening. 

This bout comes 63 days after he defeated New Zealand’s Light on a unanimous points decision in Manchester on March 25. However, Okolie came under fire for his performance against Light. 

Okolie wanted to re-establish his dominance in the cruiserweight division after taking some time away from the ring, but the 30-year-old gave what some people described as a ‘lacklustre performance’. 

‘The Sauce’ agrees it wasn’t his best performance to date but insists there is ‘no way’ that Light would have won that fight in any capacity, also claiming he is in much better shape heading into the Billam-Smith fight. 

Okolie admits to being in the worst shape of his life for last month’s clash with David Light

Okolie will take on his former sparring partner Chris Billam-Smith in Bournemouth on Satuday

The fight comes as a quick turnaround for Okolie, who defeated David Light on a unanimous points decision in Manchester on March 25, extending his unbeaten record to 19 fights

Speaking exclusively to Mail Sport ahead of Saturday night’s fight, Okolie said: ‘I am feeling sharp, strong and I think it’s going well so far. The main thing is I’ve been mentally focused. I am in good physical condition and I am executing a good game plan.’

Okolie went on to speak about his fight with Light after fans criticised him for a drab showing. The 30-year-old described the bout against Light as a ‘good learning experience’ for himself and his new trainer SugarHill Steward. 

However, he did admit to being in the worst shape of his life. He added: ‘I looked at myself on the scales before the fight and I think that is probably the worst I’ve ever looked in terms of fleshiness and whatever else.’

Discussing the Light fight exclusively with Mail Sport, Okolie continued: ‘My immediate thoughts after the fight were, wow what a tough guy, number one. Number two was ring rust might actually be a real thing because it was interesting being back in the corner for the first time in a year, plus. 

‘Learning what Sugar is like in the corner and him learning what I am like in the corner. It was good experience. But, now watching the fight back a couple of times, I think I was a bit hard on myself.’

He finished by saying: ‘There is a lot of good stuff that I did. I think I just need to be a bit more consistent. That fight put me in good stead for this camp and my next fight.’

Okolie turned up the heat during the 10th and 11th round of his fight with Light and said he regretted waiting until then to ‘execute’ the things he had been working on in camp. 

He said: ‘There were things I worked on in camp that I didn’t execute until then. There were things I thought ‘okay cool, that works’ and I should have tried to push him in round one not round 10 out of desperation. 

Okolie was re-establish his dominance in the cruiserweight division when he faced Light

However, the 30-year-old gave what some people described as a ‘lacklustre performance’ 

‘I remember when I threw those shots, a point had just been deducted and I wanted to make an instant statement and I pushed it a bit more. I just need to push it from earlier.’

Speaking ahead of his fight with Light, Okolie was adamant his lawsuit with promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing would not impact his performance inside the ring. 

Reflecting on that statement after the fight, Okolie told Mail Sport: ‘I think the distractions can only impact your training camp, not during the fight. I think whatever you have done during camp will show in the fight.

‘I think it was more so little moments in camp. Little energy dips and stuff like that. That is the stuff that translates into the fight. Especially in terms of conditioning.

‘For me, the camps set up the fight. I’ve been doing this for a number of years now and I am always going to be in good shape as I know how to do 12 rounds but there is different levels of 12-round fitness.’

He went on to add: ‘At the end of the day, people are going to have their opinions [on the fight]. They are entitled to their own opinions. But, there is no way that he [Light] would have won that fight in any capacity. 

‘He wasn’t close at all. That’s it really. That’s the bottom line. These guys say all of these things but no one actually tries to actually engage with me. All they do is tuck up and run forwards. 

‘They aren’t actually trying to have a boxing match, they are basically scared. These guys are scared to throw punches. Instead, they close up like a turtle, use their shell and run forwards hoping for the best. It’s their safe place.

Okolie is ‘feeling sharp, strong and mentally focused’ ahead of his fight with Billam-Smith

Okolie will face Billiam-Smith at Vitality Stadium on Saturday in front of 15,000 fans

‘I know what it’s like in a boxing ring. When you want to win a fight and land shots, there are certain ranges and certain mindsets you have to go into, thinking I might get caught here but I have to throw. 

‘These guys don’t do that. They just want to get as close as possible and then hope for the best. Then when they get close, it just ends up getting scrappy. They’re not really doing any work and that’s it. 

‘It in the actual realms of boxing and the rules, it is what it is. I just get on with it. I got a point deducted at one point and if it’s too much, the ref will come in and do what needs to be done. If not it is what it is.’

When asked how frustrating it is to box against such a style, Okolie said: ‘It’s about being mentally prepared before the fight starts. For example, in the fight [against Billam-Smith] I know that they are going to resort to this tactic just like everyone else. 

‘Nothing is going to change. He might start off trying to box but when they realise what actually happens when you try to fight me like that, they will resort to the same tactics as everyone else. 

‘They will be looking to use a tight guard, run forwards and try and get on the inside. We’ll see whether he wants to work in there but it could end up being a smothering job. Yeah so it’s about being prepared. 

‘Sometimes it catches you off guard and you think this guy is coming to the fight but then you realise it’s this type of fight. It limits opportunities for them and it limits opportunities for me.

‘If you’re tight guarding and you’re trying to run forwards, you’re not trying to win. I get it though. If I was a weaker and lesser fighter that’s exactly what I would do.’

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