Lawrence Okolie added another regional belt to his collection today in London, stopping Yves Ngabu to win the European cruiserweight title.
Okolie (14-0, 11 KO) put the defending titleholder away in the seventh round, cracking Ngabu with a shot that sent the Belgian stumbling back, and referee Jean Robert Laine jumped in to stop the contest at that point, without Ngabu going down.
Ngabu (20-1, 14 KO) didn’t seem to like the call, but it’s over now, and Okolie — a former British and Commonwealth champion — now has another belt as he moves up the ladder.
The fight wasn’t the most pleasing to watch, as the shorter Ngabu showed little ability to get inside on Okolie, who had huge height and reach advantages and tried to work with that. When the two did get into close quarters, Okolie usually held quickly and aggressively, to the point referee Laine might should have done something about it, but he didn’t.
Okolie has now worked his way into a legitimate top 10 spot in this division, probably, but as a potential star he may remain a hard sell. He can crack, but outside of landing those occasional big shots, he is frankly boring to watch far too often for most tastes. He’s gotten the job done thus far, and continuing to win — particularly at a world title level — will soften some opinions on his style, but it’ll be tough for him to become a bankable headliner, too.
Still, I’m sure Okolie and his team are most concerned about the winning part, and he continues to do that.
“I’m learning all the time. I’ve got the physical attributes,” Okolie said. “I’m getting experience every day in the gym. I spar world class fighters all the time, so in the ring, I’m very comfortable.”
Shane McGuigan, Okolie’s trainer, believes his fighter is ready for a world title in his next fight, and promoter Eddie Hearn seems to believe he’s not far off. The world titles at cruiserweight are currently held by Mairis Briedis (WBO), Yuniel Dorticos (IBF), and Arsen Goulamirian (WBA), with the WBC vacant and likely to be determined in a Krzysztof Glowacki-Ilunga Makabu fight next year.
Okolie is highest-ranked by the WBA, and Goulamirian is a pretty vulnerable titleholder on paper, having not had to actually beat anyone to get that belt, and Okolie’s résumé at this point is at least as good as Goulamirian’s. That fight may be tougher to make politically than it would be for Okolie to win.