By Barry Holbrook: Lawrence ‘The Sauce’ Okolie (17-0, 14 KOs) will be defending his WBO cruiserweight title against #4 ranked Michal Cieslak (21-1, 15 KOs) on February 27th live on DAZN from the O2 arena in London, England.
The 2016 Olympian Okolie, 29, had thought about moving up to heavyweight for his next fight but instead will be making his second defense of his WBO cruiserweight belt against Poland’s Cieslak.
Okolie’s promoter Eddie Hearn is high on the 32-year-old Cieslak, rating as a tough quality operator in the division.
Matchroom boss wanted Okolie to fight a unification
Hearn says he wants Okolie to clean out the cruiserweight division before he moves up to heavyweight, but we’ll see if that happens.
Ideally, Okolie would have fought one of the cruiserweight champions for this fight, but none were available. If that continues to be the case after the 6’5″ Okolie’s fight with Cieslak, he’ll need to decide if he wants to wait.
It’s possible that Hearn is hoping that Canelo Alvarez will stick around the cruiserweight division and make it his home if he goes ahead with his plan of moving up in weight next May to challenge for the WBC title.
If not, Okolie should move up to heavyweight immediately after his fight with Cieslak because it will likely take him more than a year to become the undisputed cruiserweight champion, making it a waste of time.
Cieslak’s only career defeat came at the hands of Ilunga Junior Makabu in a battle for the vacant WBC cruiserweight title two years ago on January 31st, 2000.
Makabu just barely edged Cieslak, winning by a 12 round unanimous decision by the scores 116-111, 114-112, and 115-111. The fight took place in Kinshasa in the Congo.
COVID has frozen unification fights
“Yeah, I think with COVID and the delays on everything and the mandatories, it’s frozen up the unification,” said promoter Eddie Hearn to Talksport on Lawrence Okolie.
“Goulamirian against Egorov, which is a fight that he was supposed to fight the winner. Briedis has got a mandatory, and Makabu is waiting around for Canelo. So we have to go out.
“We contemplated a move to heavyweight for this fight, but then when we nailed Cieslak, who is a genuine world championship contender, I was happy with that fight. It’s by far the toughest fight of Lawrence Okolie’s career.
— Eddie Hearn (@EddieHearn) January 7, 2022
“But this guy [Okolie] is brilliant, he’s a wrecking machine and I believe he can steamroll through everyone in the division. But we have to do that before he moves to heavyweight because once you go up, there’s no turning back,” said Hearn.
Okolie will need to beat these champions to become undisputed:
- Mairis Briedis – IBF
- Arsen Goulamirian – WBA
- Ilunga Junior Makabu – WBC