Eddie Hearn, Matchroom Sport Chairman:
On signing Galal Yafai –
“This young man is an exceptional talent. Galal was the standout British fighter at the Games, and we have a long-standing relationship with his brothers, so it was personally essential to me to get this done. Galal is going to do things very differently; for his professional debut at The O2, we are looking for him to challenge for his first professional title and from there move quickly to a World Title, which we expect him to win across multiple divisions.”
(Photo credit: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing)
On Okolie v. Cieslak card –
“Welcome back to everyone at Trinity House here in Trinity Square, London, ahead of a big press conference, and as you can see from this top table – we’ve rammed everybody on. We’ve got a huge night of boxing at The O2 on Sunday, February 27, live on DAZN. Lawrence Okolie will secondly defend his WBO Cruiserweight World Title against Michal Cieslak. It’s a tremendous fight, two absolute elite Cruiserweights battling for glory on a Sunday night – something completely different at The O2, which for me is the best arena in the country for boxing. It’s going to be a fantastic night. The card is stacked with talent in so many different divisions. So many different fighters at different stages in their careers.”
“I believe on paper this could be one of the most brutal fights. Until you get in the ring, you never know what someone’s got. Watching Cieslak’s fights, he’s an excellent technical boxer. He’s got some power and good speed. All in all, it poses to be a great, challenging fight.
“I believe I’m going to go on to unify the division. One of the main things we focus on and try to keep fit is the mindset. So I’m making sure that we practice the mind, practice the body, put ourselves in exciting situations and hold ourselves accountable. This is a stage that I was made for. This is a fight I was made for. I’m ready for this.
“The main thing for me is that boxing is my true love. It’s my rocket fuel. If I’m not performing in the ring, none of this other stuff happens. So for me, I find the motivation to do a rap song and collaborate with companies that I’m a fan of or supporter of.
“Where I came from, without making it a sob story, to where I am right now, it’s a blessing. And I want to hold onto that. My opponent here is to make amends, but I have to make sure that my journey continues in the direction that it’s going and we don’t have any hiccups.
“As soon as a fight is made, Cieslak is the only thing I think of. I’ve got a picture of him in my room. I watched all of his interviews. I don’t understand any of them, but I like to watch his mannerisms. I’ve watched all of his fights. I know him, and that’s what I focus on. Michael Cieslak. After that, we can talk about everyone else.”
“It’s undoubtedly a big fight for Polish boxing, and I can’t wait to attend the battle. I’m training very hard, and I can’t wait to fight.
“He’s a solid fighter, and he punches with both hands. He’s powerful physically. I have to do my work, all the training I’ve done with my coach, that’s what I’m going to bring to the ring.
“If I weren’t sure I was going to win, I wouldn’t be here, and I’ve been training since I was 13, so I’m ready to get the WBO Title.”
“I’m finally here now in the ins and outs of professional boxing. But I’m excited now. It’s been a while, 4-5 years, to wait for the Olympic Games. Last year before the Olympics, I was thinking, ‘I’ve probably done the wrong thing here. I had a lot of pressure to go to the Olympics and make sure I did well. I brought a gold medal back, and here I am now, ready to fight.
“That gold medal is life-changing. That’s what I plan to do from the start. It didn’t work out for me in Rio. I’ve seen all the boys turning pro, Lawrence, and Fowler, and I thought I would give it another crack. And again, that extra one year killed me. I thought, ‘I’m going to have to wait another year now. As I said earlier, I was asking if I had done the right thing. And now I have a gold medal, and I understand coming from the Olympics, I see myself as a better fighter.
“I’m not messing around. I want to get started, and I want to go fast. Yeah, I’ve got to be careful when I can’t be fighting killers every show. But I want to get there sooner rather than later. I want to be a World Champion. We’ve all got aspirations, and I think every boxer wants to be a World Champion, hopefully, a multi-weight World Champion. I’ll start light first, and hopefully, I can be World Champion.
“As I said, I didn’t want to start too slow, but I didn’t want to go off the deep end or more profound than usual. I’m looking forward to it, and I’ll make sure I get the win. And most importantly, I want to look good doing it too. Then I can sit back and watch my good friend Lawrence defend his World Title.
“My brother was a World Champion at Super-Fly. He lost to Chocolatito, a legend. I’m a big fan of his. I think Chocolatito beats Martinez. I think Martinez is a great fighter, someone I can look to fight down the line if he still at my weight.”
“I’m massively looking forward to getting back out there. It’s not great for any sportsman to have a bit of an injury and have to take time out of the sport you love. You have to look after yourself. But sometimes, prevention is better than the cure.
“I’m planning to have a massive year this year. I want to go into it fresh and ensure that everything is sorted, all ticked off, and done. And I can get sucked in to have a big, impactful year this year. And hopefully, push onto some more belts.
“I’ve been cruising through the majority of all my opponents. So far, I’ve been cleaning through everyone pretty quickly. I need to find a place where I can almost take a second and take a slight stop. We need to keep pushing and keep raising that bar. Keep moving on to higher levels until we get to a point where I find an opponent who is in front of me and won’t go in the first round.
“On the back end of my injury, I’ve been testing on my body. I did a few rounds with Chisora, and we did some great sparring. In the most recent weeks, I’ve been with Johnny Fisher and a few other guys. The little bump on my lip isn’t down to Johnny, but I did get a few bruises.”
“I feel like a different fighter, showing my patience and composure where I used to be forcing things and doing too much.
“There was no pressure out and Bilbao. But obviously, we don’t want it to stay like that. It’s massively beneficial for me to do shows like this. There’s no going backward now.
“He’s got a winning record, and he’s a good opponent. It’s going to be a good test for me, but I think where I’ve forced things and tried doing too much in the past, I think having a bit more of an ambitious opponent will make me think more. It’s going to make me stay switched on and not rush things.”
“You know what, Eddie, it was crazy when I signed with you. I signed at just 18, and I’m only 19 now. I had a massive year. I think the performances are only getting better, so now I can’t wait to go back out to The O2 Arena with an enormous platform and do the business again in a better fashion.
“I’m in the gym, and Johnny Fisher trains with me, and we push each other. To be honest, Eddie, I look at Lawrence, and I think I will be a similar type of build. I can’t see myself ever being like a massive wide fighter. So, I think I’m going to be a lean Cruiserweight. I’m going to fill it out, and I’ve got a lot of my strength to work on. The main thing is not to rush it. I’m going to give my body the development time needed and fill it naturally. And when it’s time, I’ll move up.”
“It’s a great division. I think a lot of people are being entertained right now. Yeah, I’m looking to move as fast as you’re ready to move me.”
“I’m happy to show the new me. I was traveling a lot, trying to be a dad and being a professional boxer. I’m eating five meals a day now. I have to be strict.
“As I said, my life is to box, and I want to have more proper fights. I don’t want any gives me fights because I’m better now, and I’m going to show it. I want to make sure every fight is on a high level.”
“Yeah, this is pretty much as big as it gets, you know. I’m making my British debut, so I’ve got to make sure that I go out there and put on a big clinic and come away with a nice knockout as well.
“It’s been a wild four months since I left Australia and based myself over here in Essex. I was with Anthony Joshua and then in Portugal with Dillian Whyte.
“It’s good to come back and get some one-on-one time with Tony Sims, you know. Before my flight to America, I spent about two weeks with him, and I was just all over. I went through about four or five different coaches through the training camps. I think I’ve been with Tony now for about six weeks straight, and the progress is starting to show.
“This is going to be a busy year for me. 2022 is about staying active and getting that experience under my belt. 2023 is where I can see the World Title fight coming. As long as I keep winning and keep working hard, that’s all I can see.
“We were in talks a little while ago when Australia and New Zealand were in the bad lockdown. Because we were in the bubble out there, it never really eventuated. Me and Joseph Parker were in talks a little bit. The Heavyweight division is held up at the moment. I’m the fight that probably makes sense for him at the moment even though he is a little higher rank than me.”