Just like Anthony Joshua, another boxer of Nigerian descent, Lawrence Okolie, has made history following his victory over Poland’s Krzysztof Glowacki to claim the vacant WBO Cruiserweight title.
Głowacki had only lost to Oleksandr Usyk and Mairis Briedis in 33 fights but Okolie succeeded in starching the former two-time world champion with a brutal right hand to finish the fight in the 6th round.
- Davido to feature as taxi driver in Hollywood movie
- Burna Boy: If Not For Nigerian Leaders, I Would Have Won Grammy Years Ago
His journey to fame is a tale of life changing determination as he had to fight0ff bullying for being overweight and ridiculed many times due to his African heritage.
“It’s good to show myself how far I’ve come from being that kid who was being bullied and overweight,” Okolie told BBC Radio 5 Live in an interview.
How Boxing Career started
Okolie narrated that his journey to get in shape informed his boxing career. His success in University tournaments also put him on the radar of scouts that selected the Great Britain contingents to the 2016 Rio Olympics where he won the silver medal.
“I was the kid struggling to run laps. We started (Boxing) when I was losing weight jogging around this block. It takes six or seven minutes. I remember being able to do one and then being really proud of myself to get around it twice.”
He turned to a professional boxer in 2017 signing with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Sport to compete in the cruiserweight division.
His first professional fight took place at the Manchester Arena where he knocked out 33-year-old Geoffrey Cave in a fight that lasted for 20 seconds only. He would go on to win 15 other fights to claim many titles, including the British and Commonwealth belts at cruiserweight.
McDonalds and AJ’s Connection
Okolie was a former crew member of McDonald, an American fast food company in the UK where he worked as a retail staff. He had said in tweet how his life transformed from £5 per hour at McDonalds to being a famous boxer.
In 2012 he had watched Anthony Joshua, Nicola Adams and Luke Campbell win medals while he worked in McDonalds. Now he is the first man from Team GB’s 2016 Olympic team to win a world title as a professional.
“We’ve had so many great world champions in history so to add my name to that list is going to be amazing,” added Okolie, before his victory over Glowacki. “I’m going to go out there and do what needs to be done to bring the belt home.”
Even McDonald’s tweeted to say how proud they were of their former employee.
— McDonald's UK (@McDonaldsUK) March 20, 2021
The 28-year-old explained in an Interview with the Telegraph how he became Anthony Joshua’s spar partner. He said, “I was going to college but I said to my mum that I wasn’t going to work. I saved up and I just trained, trained, trained. That became my main focus from 2012 onwards. In 2014, I started sparring AJ and Dillian Whyte.
“AJ was an Olympic gold medalist and had all this fanfare. He was struggling for sparring because no one wanted to spar him at that time. Every time they called, I was straight on the train from Hackney to the Matchroom Gym [in Essex]. I was doing eight rounds, back-to-back with him. It boosted my confidence. When you’re sparring an Olympic gold medalist, or a professional like Dillian Whyte and holding your own against big heavyweights, you really start to believe.”
Okolie also explained how Joshua shaped his journey saying “AJ reminded me a little bit of myself. He was from London and had been through what I’d been through, I was always drawn to him. As an athlete as well he was a big strong black guy. I watched his world amateur championships, where he got a silver in 2011, as a spectator. I watched him go from that to winning the Olympics.
“Watching that, in that moment I said to myself there is nothing about these boxers that is far-fetched to me. They throw punches, they block punches. I thought to myself I’m never going to get to his place if I’m eating fast food every lunch break and not really living the life. That day I decided I was done there [at McDonalds]. I cancelled everything.”
Winning the Cruiserweight belt and the future
Speaking exclusively to Telegraph Sport, Okolie said “Winning the world title is definitely is a big moment. I’m still trying to find a way to articulate it. It’s a big deal but it just feels like an exclamation mark. This won’t be the greatest thing that’ll ever happen to me. It’s great and a checkpoint ticked. But I’m allowing myself to dream. Why can’t I be the unified champion, or go up to heavyweight?
“Winning the world title is amazing, but I don’t see it as I’ve done it now. I’ve dealt with adversity and the critics, people telling me I’m rubbish, I’ve put that aside and kept going. When I finish my career I’ll be able to see what they have said about me and what I have actually achieved.”
Okolie, 6ft 5ins tall with an 83-inch reach, a huge frame for a cruiserweight, now wants to unify the division, and then step up to the heavyweight ranks.
“Glowacki was talking about fighting Maris Briedis [the IBF champion] again. He thought I was inexperienced, not at his level. I wanted to show him brutally it’s not the case. Now I want to face Briedis, and become the division’s undisputed champion.”