WBO cruiserweight champion Lawrence Okolie (19-0, 14 KOs) weighed in at 199 pounds on Friday, possibly the toughest title defense ever against Chris Billiam-Smith (17-1, 12 KOs) on Saturday, May 27, at Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium in England.
Billiam-Smith, 32, also weighed in at 199 pounds in his fight with Okolie, which will be shown on FIT+ in the US and Sky Sports in the UK.
It’s important that the 6’5″ Okolie not only wins but also entertains as he was booed in his last title defense against David Light last March. The fighting style Okolie is taught by his trainer SugarHill Steward is less than pleasing to the eye and requires a lot of holding and bending, not much offense.
This is the style Sugarhill taught WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury. For fans to enjoy this combat method, they must be patient.
Lawrence Okolie 199 vs. Chris Billam-Smith 199
Sam Eggington 153 vs. Joe Pigford 153
Kariss Artingstall 125 vs Jade Taylor 128
Lee Cutler 153 vs. Stanley Stannard 153
Michael McKinson 148 vs Lebin Morales 146
Isaac Chamberlain 199 vs. Daniel Bocianski 196
Mace Ruegg 136 vs. Dean Dodge 136
Lewis Edmonson 181 vs Petar Nosic 181
Tommy Welch 222 vs Amine Boucetta 224
Alireza Ghadiri 127 vs. Jonathan Rodrigo Gomes de Oliveira 130
“He wouldn’t gain any confidence in sparring. It would be from (coach) Shane (McGuigan) saying, ‘Lawrence, trust me. Lawrence, he may be bigger and stronger, but he’s not what you are,” said Lawrence Okolie iFL TV.
“I think he’ll be delighted,” Okolie continued of Billiam-Smith. “I think he’s going to have a certain tactic and I think he’s going to come out unscathed. I can’t imagine myself prone to straying from the right hand.
“I just had an argument with David (Light) and he did it and I was working on it. I can’t expect it to go inside and hit the body because I’m not holding my feet. There are lots of simple decisions I make. The simple answer is: I will win.
“Yes, but not to the detriment of winning the fight,” Okolie said when asked if he wanted to entertain boxing fans so as not to be booed like he did in his last bout with David Light. “I think this fight will be won because of my strengths.
“You have to come up with some kind of narrative to feed your fighter to tell him, ‘You can do it.’ I’m not going to talk about what Shane told me about sparring with Chris and stuff like that.
“All these things they’re pumping to build their confidence, what’s going on? We’re going to fight and find out if I’m a weak guy and not so good Chris that he’s better. All of these things. we’re going to find out.
“I can sit here as I have for the last few minutes and talk, but we will fight. Everything I have to say will have to be backed up, and whatever they say will have to try to back it up.
“Oh, I get paid, and two, why wouldn’t you box anyone anywhere,” said Okolie when asked why he was fighting in Billiam-Smith’s backyard. “I wanted to go to Latvia to fight Briedis. I wanted to fight former champion Lebedev. I haven’t had a chance to fight overseas in years.
“It was just, ‘Lawrence, you’re boxing here at the O2’ or whatever. So for me I can’t be king of any ring; what is the sense? It depends on how I win the fight. If I win it decisively and they say, “You can fight again in a few months,” then I will seriously consider it. If not, then I just don’t know. I take it one performance at a time,” Okolie said.