Lawrence Okolie didn’t get the knockout and didn’t have the most exciting fight, to put it mildly, but he retained his WBO cruiserweight title with a decision win over Michal Cieslak in London.
Okolie took the cards on scores of 115-112, 116-111, and 117-110. Bad Left Hook had the fight 117-110 for Okolie.
It was undeniably an ugly, sloppy, sometimes downright dull affair, with Okolie (18-0, 14 KO) not at his best, and at times looking like the one-dimensional and boring fighter we saw some years back instead of the improved version of recent bouts. But Cieslak (21-2, 15 KO) certainly wasn’t helping the fight’s entertainment value, as he was content to hold with Okolie, and also may have landed more rabbit punches than he did clean, legal blows in the bout.
“It’s good to get that learning under my belt,” Okolie said. “He pushed the pace and was physically strong, so it was a good 12 rounds. He was tucking under the right hand really well, and I was trying to find different angles. He was coming back with left hooks and had some grit. I was trying too hard to find it when I could have worked a bit more.”
“I thought when I dropped him in the fifth, I thought I’d close the show, but when you get to this level you can’t just drop them and get rid of them straight away,” he added. Okolie also admitted he had put on too much weight between fights, apologizing to trainer Shane McGuigan for that, and saying he won’t let that happen again.
“He did 12 rounds, but he didn’t maintain the distance enough,” McGuigan said. “He started to get his distance and dropped him, then he just got messy. These guys know how to survive and push the fight late on, but he got the win. He didn’t look 100 percent his best, but he got the win.”
“He looks like a clown, and I’ll show him that.”
“Congratulations from me, and I hope your head feels OK, because you took too many rabbit punches. But also I have a small present
IBF cruiserweight titleholder Mairis Briedis was also in the building dressed as Super Mario, and joined the post-fight interview. He congratulated Okolie and said he hoped his head was OK from the rabbit punches, and also presented Okolie with a bag of McDonald’s.
“This is a real man, this is a very strong man,” Briedis said. “I hope we can fill this arena.”
Briedis does have to face mandatory challenger Jai Opetaia first, but promoter Eddie Hearn still believes he can get the Briedis-Okolie fight done with Briedis’ team.
“I believe it can be made. This guy’s on another planet,” Hearn joked. “He’s playing a good game on social media with Jake Paul, but I hope he wants to give us the best fight in the division. It’s a fight we need to see, it’s an explosive fight. Okolie is going to move up to heavyweight, it’s just a matter of time. He has to make these fights now.”
Okolie added, “I just hope we can make fights quickly. It is getting a lot harder for me to make the weight. It’s easier when you have fights lined up. Hopefully we can get a fight quickly so I can maintain my weight and conditioning.”
He mentioned WBA titleholder Arsen Goulamirian — who hasn’t fought since 2019 but does still hold that title — as a possible next opponent.
Okolie vs Cieslak highlights
Galal Yafai TKO-5 Carlos Bautista
Yafai won a gold medal in Tokyo, and this was his pro debut, a 10-round fight for a minor WBC belt, the intention being to get Yafai a WBC ranking and move him to a world title fight very quickly. That belt could even go vacant soon, if Julio Cesar Martinez beats Chocolatito Gonzalez next week at 115 lbs and vacates at 112.
The reason they’re being aggressive is a combination of two things, one a big compliment for Yafai and the other just a reality. (1) He’s very talented, and (2) He’s 29 years old, very well-schooled, a fully matured fighter and man, and about as good as he’s going to get. There will be tricks of the trade to pick up — there were even for Vasiliy Lomachenko, who was about as good an amateur as you’re ever going to see — and he’ll have to try and do that fast, but that’s the idea.
Yafai wasn’t perfect here, probably forced it a bit too much trying to get the stoppage, and he certainly got hit more than you’d ideally like to see. But he also, I think, got hit some because he wasn’t bothered by what was coming back from Bautista (10-5-1, 3 KO), who was tough as hell and came in and did the best he could do. He weathered some storm in the first and started landing decent shots in return in the second, though he didn’t win any rounds.
Bautista finally went down in the fifth, and his corner waved the white towel for the TKO.
“I knew he was tough, he’d never been stopped before. I’m just glad to have got it done,” Yafai said. “I’ve got to move at the right pace. Obviously, I’m 29, I’m an Olympic champion, I think I can get stepped up pretty quick, but I know I can’t be taking them kind of shots against world champions. But hopefully I can in good time I can get there and win a world title, maybe here or anywhere, I don’t really care.”
“I really believe he has the potential to go on and be a true global star,” promoter Eddie Hearn said. “We want to use our platform and (get him on big cards), whether it’s Taylor-Serrano or Canelo-Bivol. You saw in his debut a special young fighter.”
Jordan Gill KO-9 Karim Guerfi
Much more on this one over here, but this was, like, truly unbelievable, the way it all went down. Gill (27-1-1, 8 KO) was done, he was out on his feet, couldn’t do much more than stick himself in the corner anymore and hope to land something massive. His right eye was shot, he’d been dropped, he’d been legit DDT’d and further shaken up. And then it happened:
Gill won the European featherweight title with this victory. Guerfi is now 30-6 (9 KO).
Undercard highlights and results
- Anthony Fowler UD-10 Lukasz Maciec: Back to the level Fowler wins at after his loss to Liam Smith, and he did win. This one had a contract weight of 164, but Fowler will be fighting at 160 going forward, coming up from 154. A workmanlike win, this one, with Fowler (16-2, 12 KO) taking scores of 99-93, 99-92, and 99-91. Bad Left Hook had it 98-92. Maciec falls to 27-4-1 (5 KO). Both fought at about their traditional, expected levels. This is a boring description, but it just wasn’t that interesting a fight. It was a fight that served a purpose.
- Fabio Wardley KO-2 Daniel Martz: About the standard result for Martz (20-10-1, 17 KO) when he fights outside of places like Windham, New Hampshire, or Salem, West Virginia, the latter in his home state. But the big man has gotten paid trips to Australia, Russia, Canada, and now the UK out of his career. He’s seen some stuff. Wardley (13-0, 12 KO) started poorly with a really slow first round, which he knew very well going to the corner, then opened up and dropped Martz twice in the second for the win.
- Campbell Hatton TKO-6 Joe Ducker: Ducker (9-9-2, 2 KO) probably wasn’t so badly hurt that he needed to be stopped with about 30 seconds left in the fight, but it does improve Hatton’s (6-0, 2 KO) KO percentage a bit. This is not some great statement, the referee saw a spot to stop it and did, it’s fine. Ducker wasn’t going to win and the fight wasn’t exactly a marquee attraction. Hatton looked better here than he did a couple fights ago, but maybe not as zoned in as he did in his December bout in Spain. Ducker took a lot of shots from Hatton, was busted up a bit, never really in the fight. It would have been a clean sweep. But it’s hard to see, at this point, that sort of “special” level in Hatton, even giving credit for how inexperienced he is and all that. On the plus side, he always comes in shape, ready to fight, and he’s clearly working hard to be the best he can be.