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Denis Lebedev hoping to fight Lawrence Okolie in Russia

The Russian cruiserweight veteran hopes to fight at home once more.

Valery Sharifulin/TASS

39-year-old cruiserweight Denis Lebedev hopes to face Lawrence Okolie this summer, with World of Boxing’s Vadim Kornilov telling Sky Sports that they want to make the fight win Russia, Lebedev’s home country.

“Denis is a big champion and has a lot of fans in Russia, he has fought many big fights and main events in Russia. With this possibly being Denis’ last fight, it would be great to put this fight together in Russia as a possible farewell fight for Denis.”

Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn, who promotes Okolie, has already said that Okolie wants the fight, and that they want to make it happen in July. Whether or not they’d be open to sending their prospect to Russia for the fight is possibly another matter.

Lebedev (32-2, 23 KO) was moved from WBA “super world” champion to “champion-in-recess” in early 2018, which allowed the WBA to elevate Yunier Dorticos from WBA “world” champion for a unification fight with Murat Gassiev. Gassiev beat Dorticos in Feb. 2018, and then Oleksandr Usyk beat Gassiev in July.

With Usyk now moving up to heavyweight after fully unifying the cruiserweight division, he’s vacated the belt as expected, which means the sanctioning body’s order for Usyk to face Lebedev for the “super world” title is off the table.

That gives Okolie (12-0, 9 KO), the current British and Commonwealth champion, a chance to slide in. And if you’re wondering, yes, the WBA also has a “world” champion in Beibut Shumenov, but he apparently doesn’t factor in here.

Lebedev fought twice last year, beating Hizni Altunkaya and Mike Wilson in September and November, the latter one of six fights in his pro career that has taken place outside of Russia, an experience he may have soured on after a controversial 2010 loss to Marco Huck in Germany. He didn’t fight abroad again until that November bout in Monte Carlo.

The 26-year-old Okolie has never fought outside of the United Kingdom as a professional.