Lawrence Okolie wants Richard Riakporhe, talks move to heavyweight

By Boxing News - 02/09/2023 - Comments

By Barry Holbrook: WBO cruiserweight champion Lawrence Okolie says he wants to face unbeaten highly ranked contender Richard Riakporhe to defend his belt against him at any time after he faces his mandatory challenger David Light (20-0, 12 KOs) next month on March 25th at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.

It’s disappointing the way Okolie has been stagnant career-wise, and you can argue that he should be a superstar by this point if he’d been kept busy, matched against the cutting-edge competition, and moved quickly to heavyweight.

Eddie Hearn should have already put Okolie in a unification fight in the last two years and ushered him to heavyweight to be challenging for a world title by this point. The way Hearn gave Anthony Joshua the red carpet treatment after he turned pro and seemingly kept Okolie in the slow lane is hard to ignore.

Okolie says he’s interested in moving up to heavyweight at some point, but he doesn’t appear to be in a hurry to make that move with his career.

He says he wants to first unify at cruiserweight and then move up to bridgerweight and capture a belt in that division before eventually making the jump to heavyweight.

Okolie isn’t saying whether he wants to unify by defeating one or two champions at cruiserweight before moving up. If he’s talking about capturing an additional two straps before moving to bridgerweight, it could be eons and is hardly worth it considering the lack of popularity of the other three cruiserweight champions, Ilunga Makabu, Arsen Goulamirian, and Jai Opetaia.

Many boxing fans now believe the big 6’5″ Riakporhe (16-0, 12 KOs) is ready to kick the 30-year-old Okolie (18-0, 14 KOs) off his throne as the WBO belt.

Riakporhe’s right hand rivals Okolie, but he possesses far better hand speed, technical skills, and coordination. Whatever edge the 2016 Olympian Okolie once had over Riakporhe due to his amateur pedigree has disappeared because of a combination of inactivity and lackluster competition.

As the WBO champion, Okolie has been a big disappointment, defending it just twice in two beats, beating Michal Cieslak a year ago in March in a competitive 12 round unanimous decision, and then stopping little-known Dilan Prasovic in the third round in September 2021.

Okolie captured his vacant WBO cruiserweight title in March 2021, stopping former world champion Krzysztof Glowacki in the sixth round.

Interestingly, Riakporhe did a better job of defeating Glowacki, scoring an easy third round knockout last month on January 21 in Manchester. If you were to compare the two performances against the same opponent, there’s no question that Riakporhe did a far better job of handling the still-dangerous Glowacki than Okolie did.

Don’t say my name until you actually want to fight,” Lawrence Okolie said to Sky Sports about Richard Riakporhe. “It’s as easy as this. I will fight that man any time. Any time.

“Then it’s done. You’ve got a world champion who doesn’t need to – Richard’s not my mandatory. But, he’s in my country saying he’s the best? See you soon,” Okolie said of his interest in defending his WBO cruiserweight belt against Riakporhe.

At this point, Okolie vs. Riakporhe is a 50-50 fight, and almost impossible to pick a winner. Again, whatever edge Okolie once had over the six-year pro Riakporhe, he’s lost it due to mediocre opposition and inactivity.

Okolie will need a steel chin to defeat Riakporhe, and it’s unclear whether he’s got the punch resistance to handle his right hand salvos.

“Unify, move to bridgerweight, win the bridgerweight world title, and then move up to heavyweight and win a heavyweight world title.┬áThose are some of my long-term goals,” said Okolie.

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