WBO cruiserweight champion Lawrence Okolie (19-0, 14 KOs) unveiled his new Sugarhill Steward-influenced fighting style, defeating David Light (20-1, 12 KOs) by a 12 round unanimous decision on Saturday night at the AO Arena in Manchester, England.
Okolie used his long reach and surprisingly good movement to box his way to a wide 12 round decision over the previously unbeaten Light.
The constant movement that Okolie utilized in the fight had a negative effect on his punching power because he wasn’t sitting down on his shots like he normally does in his fights, and that took away his booming right hand.
Okolie, 30, was at his best in the early rounds, landing powerful body shots that clearly bothered the New Zealander Light. At the end of round two, Okolie measured Light, placing his left glove on his forehead and nailing him with a beautiful right hand that almost dropped him.
It was a classic Tommy Hearns move, as he did that a lot earlier in his career when the referees were lax in warning him. Tonight, Okolie got away with measuring Light and using straight arms to keep him from getting close to land his shots.
“Probably a five or a six. I definitely felt some ring rust,” said Okolie to Sky Sports after the fight. “Light was extremely tough. He had a good tactic of moving around to his right to take away my right. It was a good tactic and it made it hard for me to work. It was hard for me to shake off.
“After a year out of the ring, it was hard for me to get pumped to go in. He was very tough. I started hurting him, but he was dancing around the ring. I just couldn’t get the last shot to drop him and get him out of there because he was very tough and very good with his hand defenses,” said Okolie.
It was Okolie who did most of the moving, not Light. The reason Okolie couldn’t knockout Light was that his accuracy was so poor. Even with Light standing directly in front of Okolie, he was missing him repeatedly. Okolie’s punch accuracy was beyond poor tonight.
What made things more challenging is that Okolie was constantly circling the ring instead of standing still. There was no way that Okolie could score a knockout by throwing punches on the move or by suddenly stopping to throw a shot.
tOkolie was penalized for holding in the 11th round. He’d been grabbing Light all night each time he’d get inside his long extended left arm to try and land. The referee finally got tired of this tactic from Okolie and took a point off.
It was too little and too late to change the outcome of the fight as if the referee had been assertive earlier to keep Okolie from gaming the system, Light would have had a decent chance of winning, but the point deduction came too late, and there weren’t enough of them.
The score were 116-112, 119-108, and 117-110.
Okolie’s new coach, SugarHill, is the guy who transformed Tyson Fury into a mauler and has done the same thing with Lawrence. Tonight, Okolie spent much of the fight grappling with Light and leaning on him in the same way that Tyson is doing in his fights since teaming up with the Kronk Gym-trained SugarHill.
Okolie still looked very raw and not polished enough to be trusted to be matched against one of the tougher cruiserweights like Richard Riakporhe, Yuniel Dorticos, or Jai Opetaia. Those guys would have beaten Okolie had they been inside the ring with him tonight.
Okolie didn’t show the ability that suggests that he will be able to make the leap to the heavyweight division. He needs to stay at cruiserweight for as long as possible because he’s too gangly and uncoordinated to fight at heavyweight. Also, his power isn’t good enough for to make up for his lack of skills & coordination if he were to move up in weight.
In an exciting undercard fight, the big punching 20200 Olympic heavyweight Frazer Clarke (6-0, 5 KOs) battered Bogdan Dinu (20-5, 16 KOs) with huge shots, hurting him with a body shot that prevented him from continuing after the second round.
Super featherweight Michael Gomez Jr. (19-1, 5 KOs) defeated LeviGiles (13-1, 3 KO) by a dull 10 round split decision to win the vacant English title. The judge’s scores were 97-93 and 97-94 Gomez, 96-95 Giles.