By Charles Brun: Eddie Hearn claims that 2016 Olympian Lawrence Okolie (14-0, 11 KOs) will win a world title at cruiserweight and then he’ll be moving to heavyweight. Hearn was defensive about Okolie after the way he was booed by the boxing fans last Saturday night in his 7th round TKO victory over EBU cruiserweight champion Yves Ngabu (14-0, 11 KOs) at the O2 Arena in London, UK. The fight was stopped at 2:28 of round 7.
Referee Jean Robert Laine quickly waived the fight off after Okolie hurt Ngabu with a couple of hard right hands to the head. Ngabu retreated to the ropes where the referee stepped in and stopped the fight before Okolie could lay him out proper.
Okolie HOLDING Ngabu constantly
The performance was an uneven one by the 26-year-old Okolie, considering that he constantly clinched the shorter 30-year-old Belgian Ngabu whenever he was in the vicinity. Rather than defending the normal fighters do by using their guard, head and upper body movement to get out of the way of shots, Okolie would grab Ngabu at every opportunity. What was especially disturbing was how Okolie’s first move was to dive forward and wrap Ngabu in a bear hug to keep him from getting his shots off.
The clinching was arguably excessive to the extreme, and it’s unclear why the referee didn’t penalize or disqualify Okolie. In looking back at former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis’ fight against Henry Akinwande in 1997, Okolie appeared to be doing as much holding as Akinwande did. For the fans that don’t remember, Akinwande was disqualified for his excessive clinching by referee Mills Lane.
Hearn says fans expect Lawrence Okolie to hold a lot
“The issue with Okolie now is people are just waiting for him to hold,” said Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn to IFL TV. “That wasn’t a Chamberlain fight, and that wasn’t a Matty Askins fight. He just absolutely destroyed the European champion with absolute ease. He’s had 14, and he’s the British Commonwealth champion, and #2 with the WBA, and #4 with the WBO. He was working in McDonalds not too long ago, and he was 300 pounds plus.
“Respect what he’s achieving, and respect the rate he’s moving. And understand because of the rate that he’s moving at that speed, and he is inexperienced that every now and then, he’ll have to work with his advantages to win fights. Don’t always expect Lawrence Okolie to be in the fight of the year contenders, and always expect to see him out of his depth and at a place in his career beyond where he should be,” said Hearn.
The way that Hearn was worked up as he talked about Okolie’s holding, he seemed quite defensive about it. He wasn’t taking a stand by saying that Okolie needs to stop with his holding. Instead, Hearn talked about how Okolie worked at McDonald and weighed over 300 pounds. Hearn mentioning this came across like he was excusing Okolie for holding by bringing up his past. Instead of saying, ‘Yeah, Okolie needs to stop with the nonstop holding,,’ he brings up his background. It was very strange.
Is Okolie gaming the system by holding constantly?
Boxing fans haven’t forgotten all the clinching that Okolie did in 2018 in his fights against Matty Askins and Isaac Chamberlain. Those fights were incredibly ugly due to the clinching that Okolie did. He clearly should have been penalized repeatedly for holding in those fights in this writer’s view, but he got away with it. Some fans would argue that Okolie’s nonstop clinching is him bending the rules of boxing by gaming the system to prevent his opponents from throwing punches.
It comes down to the referees whether they want to do control Okolie’s tactics. It would be interesting to see if Okolie can win at the upper level without holding repeated. Against a good heavyweight that can punch, Okolie might be in trouble if he can’t nullify their offensive by repeatedly grabbing them to keep them from throwing punches.
You can argue that the referees need to set a certain number of clinches that they’ll permit from a fighter per round. It makes sense. If a fighter is clinching 10+ times per round, then it would be a good idea to give them a warning. If that doesn’t stop the nonstop holding, then points should be deducted. For some fighters, they’re not going to change their tactics of clinching excessively unless the referees take a strong stand against them doing this.
Okolie WILL win a world title, then move to heavyweight says Hearn
“Fans are impatient, and want fighters to move as quickly as they can be,” said Hearn in continuing to slather the complements all over Okolie. “Now you’ve got one doing it, and if he’s not in fights of the year each time, you want to moan. So respect Lawrence Okolie, and respect the way he’s moving.
“He’s going to win a world championship at cruiserweight, and he’s going to move to heavyweight. And he’s going to be around whether you like it or not. He’s a talented kid with a load of heart, he lives it and he loves it. And he can fight. Shawn McGuigan is going a good job, and respect the performance,” said Hearn.
It’s possible that Okolie can win a world title against the right cruiserweight champion. These are the current cruiserweight champions right now:
- Arsen Goulamirian
- Beibut Shumenov
- Alexey Egorov
- Yuniel Dorticos
- Mairis Briedis
The chances of Okolie winning a world title at cruiserweight depends on a lot of things
Okolie can probably beat one of the first three cruiserweight champions because they’re flawed fighters. The World Boxing Association has three champions at cruiserweight, and it’s a complete mess. Certainly, Okolie can beat one of those guys, but he likely would be knocked out if he fought the highly talented Briedis or Dorticos. Those guys are polished fighters that came from fine amateur backgrounds. They don’t need to clinch nonstop to try and win fights. Whether Okolie can beat the good cruiserweight champions would depend on the referee.
If Okolie is allowed to hold repeatedly to keep Briedis or Dorticos from throwing punches, then he would have a good chance of beating them. If a fighter is unable to get his shots off because he’s being held excessively, then it changes the whole complexion of a fight. The fighter that is doing the holding has a HUGE advantage because he’s the one getting his shots. Its the old punch and grab routine where gone guy throws a shot and immediately holds his opponent to keep him from firing back. Referees are supposed to penalize these tactics, but obviously that’s not happening enough.