Lawrence Okolie AKA ‘The Sauce’ has had a frankly meteoric rise. His amateur career saw him selected to represent Team GB at the Rio 2016 Olympics after less than thirty bouts. Now he’s undefeated in the pro ranks, at 9-0, managed by Anthony Joshua, promoted by MatchroomBoxing and looking to claim the British Cruiserweight Title from Matty Askin on Saturday.
It has to be stressed just how far Okolie has come, and how fast he’s done so, having taken up boxing at the age of 17 in order to lose weight (he was 19 stone and clinically obese!) he has been widely commended for taking on big challenges in his last two outings. Both Isaac Chamberlain and Luke ‘The Duke’ Watkins were undefeated and heralded as potential foils to Okolie’s awkward style. Both were dealt with easily. Chamberlain was physically dominated in a ten round shut-out and Watkins was stopped in the third round when they faced each other at York Hall.
His opponent, Blackpool’s Matty Askin, dispatched Stephen Simmons last time out. Doing away with the Scot in the second round of their March showdown he defended his British strap and boasts both amateur and pro success. He was an ABA Champion and his pro record of 23-3-1 (15 Kos) is complimented by great recent form and a good knockout ratio. So far Lawrence Okolie has looked unstoppable but Matty Askin certainly boasts the best credentials of any man yet to challenge the Matchroom starlet.
Okolie stands 6’5” to Askin’s 6’4” but will perhaps find more of an advantage in his reach, which exceeds that of the Blackpool man. Both Chamberlain and Watkins looked entirely unable to cope with Okolie’s physicality and as a result the biggest question ahead of this bout remains whether Askin will be more suited to the task.
One clue to suggest that he might be is his preparation. Social media posts showed that Askin has had sparring with heavyweight world title challenger, Hughie Fury, who is similarly lanky and even more awkward stylistically than Okolie. He told Boxing Social: “I’m sparring Hughie Fury. He is a big lad, a big British heavyweight champion so you know he is good. We started in camp together and we will both be in the gym at the same time now”.
In the same interview Askin candidly admitted his priorities were, unashamedly, cash based, rather than honours based. He said, “It’s not a matter of where I want to be, it’s a matter of how much money I can get. Whether it’s a World title or a small hall show – which ever pays more money for me and my family, then that’s where I will be.”
With the utmost respect to Matty Askin, who earned his belt with flying colours and has a fantastic boxing CV, the feeling is that money may well be all he walks away with after Saturday night. Simply put, Okolie looks like he will be a heavyweight, and a very good one, in a few years, where Matty Askin is an out and out cruiserweight. That was the defining feeling after Okolie’s last two bouts and it seems that that factor may remain a dominant concern come Saturday night.
That said a man with Askin’s experience and punching power is never to be written off. Ask Stephen Simmons…
Ricky Hatton Backs Fragile Price
Ricky Hatton is undoubtedly British boxing royalty. He’s also currently a successful heavyweight trainer, as his man Nathan Gorman remains undefeated and full of improvement. Should fans sit up and take notice then, now that Hatton has backed David Price to return to title contention?
The Mancunian told Sky Sports News: “David has got such massive ability, massive punching power, you can’t tell me he’s not capable of knocking out any heavyweight out there. He’s had a bit of a bad run, but he can’t lose that faith.”
The big Liverpudlian has been preparing for a showdown with Russia’s unbeaten 12-0 heavyweight, Sergey Kuzmin, on the undercard of Joshua versus Povetkin on Saturday. His preparation has taken him to Hatton’s camp to spar aforementioned heavyweight prospect, Nathan Gorman. “It was good to see Pricey looking so good” Hatton told Sky Sports reporters, after watching his man spar six rounds with Price.
Is solid preparation enough to undo his latest foe though? Or will Price’s infamous fragility shape Saturday’s heavyweight appetiser?
He suffered a horribly heavy knockout last time out at the hands of Saturday’s headliner, Alexander Povetkin. The Russian’s undoubted power left no room to criticise Price for being downed but the nature of the stoppage may contribute to concerns for fans of David Price. Equally his history of suffering bad knockouts simply did not need another chapter.
Notably Price accepted the fight on short notice but claims he was already in training for a planned fight in Belfast. He rocked Povetkin in their Cardiff clash and carries massive punch power but also demonstrated plenty of technical flaws in his last few outings. Povetkin was allowed to come in and out of range almost at will and Price was criticised for throwing his jab with a lack of conviction. That pawing jab ultimately did little to discourage Povetkin’s aggressive work and Price received his fifth stoppage defeat.
Kuzmin has 9 stoppages in his 12 professional victories but hasn’t faced anyone of Price’s calibre yet. That being the case this could be an exciting heavyweight match-up. Kuzmin’s opposition has been limited and it will be interesting to see how he copes with the power in Price’s right hand. Price’s fragility will hang over the fight and Kuzmin’s knockout ratio makes it tempting to predict a Russian victory.
Team Southpaw Jab, along with all British fight fans, will of course be supporting David Price come Saturday, and hoping that qualities displayed in the Hatton gym are brought to bear at Wembley Stadium. However, if Kuzmin finds his mark we may see a sixth stoppage loss for the former British Champion.
Overall Saturday night could well be a fistic feast. Joshua and Povetkin is an interesting main course, despite being slightly over shadowed by the Fury versus Wilder furore. The other appetisers include Campbell-Mendy 2 and David Price versus Sergey Kuzmin, both of which have potential to be exciting. Glancing down the menu though, it may well be ‘The Sauce’ that steals the show.