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Mairis Briedis open to unification with Lawrence Okolie: “He’s just eating my leftovers, if he wants a real fight, let’s go!”

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Mairis Briedis still plans a move to heavyweight, but is willing to stay at cruiserweight to unify with Lawrence Okolie.

Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images and Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

IBF cruiserweight champion Mairis Briedis is currently enjoying a training camp in Egypt, but was eager to confirm his interest in a potential unification clash with newly-crowned WBO cruiserweight champion Lawrence Okolie.

‘“If our teams can reach an agreement to fight, then let’s get it on,” Briedis told Bad Left Hook, accompanied by his manager Raimonds Zeps.

“If he wants it, let’s make a fire,” he continued. “But if not, it’s not a problem. I know I am number one in the cruiserweight division and I have already said that I plan to move up to heavyweight for bigger challenges.

“The heavyweight division to me is the highest level, so I want to test myself against the best. I need new challenges to keep me interested in boxing.”

Briedis was due to make his heavyweight debut at the end of March against Poland’s Mariusz Wach until the pandemic continued to puncture holes in the boxing schedule. This jump up is still planned for the Latvian in 2021, but a unification with Lawrence Okolie could well take precedence.

“Our teams have had initial talks this week, but nothing more than that,” Briedis’ manager, Raimonds Zeps confirmed. “There is nothing specific on the table, but both parties are happy to talk. If we can get this fight made then we can put our plans to move up to heavyweight on hold for the time being.”

Briedis hasn’t fought since a majority decision victory over Yuniel Dorticos in the final of the cruiserweight World Boxing Super Series last September. He’s staying active, preparing for a confirmed fight date in the near future.

“I’m in Egypt at the moment,” he explained. “Training little bits here and there, but nothing too serious. Swimming, running, weights, a bit of shadow-boxing, just ticking over really. It’s hard in Latvia at the moment to train as it’s winter and so cold. Here, in Egypt, everything is easier.”

We laugh as he rumbles my interest. Briedis wasn’t overly impressed with Okolie’s win on Saturday night but understands why there would be such demand for a unification bout with the unbeaten Briton.

“As soon as this fight was over, everyone started screaming my name. They seem to believe in Okolie, but time will tell. Okolie is just eating my leftovers. Glowacki has been ill with COVID-19 and was knocked out badly by me in our fight, so I don’t know how impressive that win was. If he wants a real fight, let’s go.

“I don’t think much about Okolie, but sure, he has a good reach. I will only know more once I have been in the ring with him before I can say too much more.

Briedis has fought in the UK once before in 2016, besting Simon Vallily inside three rounds on the undercard of Tony Bellew vs BJ Flores. He’s comfortable as the away fighter and is open to the idea of a return to the United Kingdom.

“I would be very happy fighting in the UK,” he concluded. “There are a lot of Latvians there, I felt at home last time I was in the UK.”

Lewis Watson is a sports writer from London, UK, and a member of the BWAA. Follow or contact him on Twitter @lewroyscribbles