Lawrence Okolie’s strength could determine Chris Billam-Smith’s chances in their Saturday night bout, and CBS knows exactly what tactics to use.
“The game plan for the entire fight, all 12 rounds, must be to not get hit cleanly. So concentration levels have to be high,” said Billam-Smith Boxing news during a recent job interview.
Easier said than done. Okolie has a crushing punch when his technique comes together. The 19 fights in his career ended 14 times over the distance. However, in his last two fights, Okolie went the full 24 rounds against Michael Cieślak and David Light. There was no explosiveness.
“A lot of people with Lawrence are pushing him, putting pressure on him,” said Billam-Smith, who sparred hundreds of rounds with Okolie while training with Shane McGuigan.
“I think there are many aspects to it, the way you have to approach it. Of course I have the experience of being there and the experience of his former coach in Shane knowing how to do certain things. I think the plan to play against Lawrence is not to get hit because then he’ll start to gasp you, whether it’s his hold, but the punches will also suck you out.
Okolie left Shane McGuigan to join forces with Sugar Hill, who also trains Tyson Fury and Ben Whittaker.
Hill’s first fight with Okolie was against Light in April. The British cruiserweight competitor received an avalanche of criticism from all corners of the sport after his performance. Okolie’s power was expected to be one of the many advantages the 30-year-old would use to throw Light’s chances away.
“He actually has more power when he’s not trying. Once you try it, it’s really not that hard.” Hill admitted to NB.
“So the goal is just to keep him loose and free and he’ll be hitting harder than ever. Often it’s a blow you can’t see and it catches you and hurts you.
“But he is physically strong. When he tries to land hard punches, they don’t come out as hard as he thought they would. I can feel it on mitts and that’s partly why I do pad work because I want to make sure I can feel the punches as if I were an opponent. So if I feel it really hard through the gloves and I know it’s really hard for someone else.
For Okolie, he knows better than anyone how hard he can hit. He’s seen the faces of those when he connects. He also admits that winning is the most important thing, and while he wants to be a funny fighter, only winning matters. Criticism is just noise for Okolie.
“The only reason we’re here is because I keep winning” Okolie commented when NB spoke to him on Friday.
“But every fight requires something different. I’m excited for Saturday. I’d like to see what this fight calls for. I will demonstrate.”