Will Lawrence Okolie move up to heavyweight? Assessing the WBO cruiserweight champion’s next move

Undefeated Lawrence Okolie is about to boil down to 200 pounds for a WBO cruiserweight title defense against unheralded New Zealander David Light on Saturday, March 25 at the AO Arena in Manchester. The 12-round bout plus undercard action will be broadcast by Sky Sports in the UK

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While Okolie has fulfilled his dream of becoming champion, cruiserweight has always been something for the advanced. The 30-year-old power-puncher is 6-5 with a reach of 82 inches. In terms of height and wingspan, that puts him taller than former heavyweight kings Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes.

Unsurprisingly, the glamor division beckons for Okolie, whose stunning frame is bursting at the seams.

“All the weight making is pretty annoying and of course I walk around pretty heavy,” Okolie told talkSPORT back in September 2021.

“It’s about choosing the right time. It’s a different sport heavyweight than cruiserweight.”

Since that interview, Okolie has twice defended the belt he won in March 2021 at the expense of Kyzystof Glowacki (KO 6). Without breaking a sweat, the tenacious Londoner blasted his way through previously undefeated Dilan Prasovic (KO 3). ) before turning out Michal Cieslak (UD 12) in February last year.

The rise would not only allow Okolie to reach a more natural weight, but would also bring huge financial compensation. Potential multi-million dollar paydays with the likes of Tyson Fury, Oleksandr Usyk, Joe Joyce and Deontay Wilder would be life-changing.

The only heavyweight Okolie has played against is former two-time champion Anthony Joshua. Until recently, Okolie was represented by Joshua’s company 258 MGT, but that connection ended when the cruiserweight champion signed on to Ben Shalom’s BOXXER.

Despite the business split, Okolie appears to be avoiding a matchup with his friend and mentor.

“Yeah, it pretty much still is until me and him had some other kind of conversation,” Okolie told GiveMeSport last month.

“But everything is fine at the moment. There are still many great heavyweight fights. I think you know that unfortunately he’s not a world champion anymore, which creates a different dynamic.

“And, you know, I like to be pretty realistic in boxing. And I think you know that the current generation of world champions are all 34, 35, 36 years old. Not much older than me, but old enough that they will be out of the game in the next year or two.”

Meanwhile, Okolie needs to gain weight and take care of Light, who will have his first fight for the world title. Nothing on the challenger’s resume suggests he can cause a stir, so the champion is expected to win easily. According to SkyBet, Okolie is a -500 favorite to retain his title for the third time, while Light is a +350 underdog.

Has a cruiserweight champion ever won a heavyweight title?

It hasn’t happened as often as you might think.

The first fighter to pull off this feat was Evander Holyfield, who became the undisputed king of the cruiserweight division in 1988 before launching an assault on the heavyweight ranks. Two years later, The Real Deal defeated Buster Douglas to become the undisputed world heavyweight champion.

Next up was British star David Haye. After unifying at cruiserweight in 2008, “The Hayemaker” added muscle plates to his already impressive physique and targeted the big boys. And they came no taller than 7ft 2in, 316lb behemoth Nikolai Valuev, who held the WBA heavyweight title. Haye used his superior speed and athleticism to outmaneuver the Russian giants to secure a 12-round majority decision win in November 2009.

The latest example of cruiserweight-to-heavyweight dominance has come from reigning pound-for-pound king Usyk. The Ukrainian magician won every available £200 title on the road before moving north in 2019. After adjusting to heavyweight with two wins, Usyk challenged then-unified champion Joshua in September 2021. The fleet-footed southpaw “AJ” outboxed in amazing style. to reach a unanimous decision in 12 rounds in London. Almost a year later, Usyk won a direct rematch via split decision in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

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