By Charles Brun: Lawrence Okolie (19-0, 14 KOs) retained his WBO cruiserweight title with a dull 12 round unanimous decision against David Light (20-1, 12 KOs) in a fight at the AO Arena in Manchester, England.
The 6’5′ Okolie used in trick in the book to stifle Light’s offense tonight. We saw a lot of holding, leaning, wrestling, headlocks, and stiff-arming done by Okolie.
Light showed no power whatsoever, and that made Okolie’s job easier because he didn’t have to worry about anything of substance coming back at him. The way Light fought, it was difficult to give him more than a handful of rounds because he was so average.
Okolie used a lot of movement to keep Light from getting to him. He did a good job of preventing Light from closing the distance, but the holding he did was frustrating to watch. He wasn’t even trying to fight Light on the inside and easily could have. The equally tall 6’5″ Lennox Lewis used to throw a nifty uppercut in close, which made him lethal at close range.
You could see training with Tyson Fury has rubbed off on Okolie because he was Tyson-esque tonight with the grappling he was doing to shut down Light’s offense and tire him out with the leaning.
“I only saw the last three rounds, but when I first came out, he had him going, but I predicted he’d get him out of there,” said Frazer Clarke to Boxing King Media, reacting to Okolie’s win over Light.
“David looked like one of those stubborn opponents where he knew if he stayed on the outside for too long, he was going to get taken. So he kind of closed the gap, and it was a bit of a tangle-fest.
“But Lawrence, that was his first fight of the year, a new trainer [SugarHill Steward], and I think he [Okolie] can be happy he’s back in the ring, and I’m sure the best is still to come from him,” said Clark.
Typically, Okolie is entertaining to watch with how he throws right-hand bombs to destroy his opponents. But tonight, he looked like a copy of Tyson Fury with his mauling, and it was difficult to watch. The ringside crowd hated what they saw, as they were booing a lot. Interestingly, you could hear a pin drop in the AO Arena in the first six rounds. It was that quiet.
Okolie: “I’ll fight anyone”
“With the time out of the ring, it was tough for me to get my timing,” said Okolie to Sky Sports after the contest in explaining why he couldn’t score a knockout of Light.
“I’ll go in the ring, and I’ll fight anyone,” Okolie continued. “If they watch me and think, ‘This is rubbish. I can do this. I can do that.’ Come and find out. There’s no point in talking outside of the ring.
“I’ll put it on the line against anyone, and if they’re good enough to beat me and if they are, and if not, I’ll carry on with them,” said Okolie.
The way Okolie fought tonight, he would have lost to at least a half dozen fighters in the division, with Richard Riakporhe at the top of the list. Riakporhe is more accurate, powerful, and coordinated than Okolie in this writer’s view. He’d be a real threat to Okolie’s short reign as the WBO champion.
No one was cheering because there was no reason to due to the lack of action. In the second half of the fight, the crowd booed the lack of action, letting Okolie and Light know that they weren’t happy with what they saw and wanted them to pick it up.
The referee didn’t take a point off until the 11th round. By then, Light was too far behind in the fight to have any shot of winning the fight.
If the referee had gotten off to an early start, deducting points from Okolie early on for his spoiling, Light would have had a chance of winning, but he took a Laissez-faire approach to control the champion.
Light landed some nice shots in the championship rounds to get Okolie’s attention, but there weren’t enough to give him rounds. The much taller Okolie kept Light from getting near enough to land shots, and when he did get close, he would tie him up in a clinch to ensure he couldn’t do anything.
Okolie would have massive problems against Richard Riakporhe, Yuniel Dorticos, or Jai Opetaia.
It will take Okolie more time to develop before he’s ready to cut his teeth against the above fighters.
In the meantime, it would be a good idea for his new promoters at Boxxer to keep him away from any of the killers in the division because he’s clearly not ready to face the elite-level guys yet.
It’s a good thing for Okolie that he holds the WBO belt rather than IBF, WBA & WBC strap because the contenders in the World Boxing Organization’s top 15 are beatable guys that he can feast on and milk his title for a few years without needing to worry about getting beaten by a quality fighter.
What was really troubling about Okolie’s performance tonight was his poor punch accuracy. He was literally missing Light, even with him at point-blank range. It was as if Okolie was punching with his eyes often closed because he was missing so badly with his shots.
The best success Okolie had tonight was when he was going downstairs to the body of Light. He was connecting well when throwing shots to the midsection, but for some reason, he veered away from that after the third and was head-hunted from the fourth round on.
In other action on the card, undefeated heavyweight prospect Frazer Clarke (6-0, 5 KOs) stopped former world title challenger Bogdan Dinu (20-5, 16 KOs) in the third round after hurting him to the body with a big shot.
Clarke showed excellent power with both hands, but his hand speed was slow, and he was getting hit a lot.