Manchester witnesses the return of ‘The Sauce’ tonight as Lawrence Okolie finally makes the third defence of his WBO cruiserweight world title at the AO Arena. A long 13 months have passed since we last saw the Londoner in action, following up his career night against Krzysztof Glowacki with an early stoppage of Dilan Prasovic and then a laboured points defeat of Michal Cieslak.
Since then Okolie’s ascending career has rather been put on hold during a bitter split with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing, so he needs a statement victory this evening to regain momentum in his bid to unify the cruiserweight division before jumping up to heavyweight. Now training with Tyson Fury and SugarHill Steward, he is the overwhelming favourite to defeat mandatory challenger and Commonwealth Games medalist David Light of New Zealand, who is a huge underdog despite being unbeaten at 20-0.
There is plenty of other action to look forward to on a busy Boxxer undercard, with Olympic heroes Frazer Clarke and Karriss Artingstall both taking their next professional steps, along with a huge domestic dust-up between Michael Gomez Jr and Levi Giles. Follow Okolie vs Light live below!
Okolie defence comes against distracting backdrop after Matchroom split
It is more than a year since Lawrence Okolie last competitively stepped into the ring for the second defence of his WBO cruiserweight belt, writes Matt Majendie.
In the 11 intervening months, he has had a fight of sorts to change promoters and break the shackles of Matchroom, who had backed his 18 fights in the professional ranks to date.
The split with Eddie Hearn has been far from civil, and the acrimony is still bubbling just below the surface. Having switched allegiance to Boxxer, the Londoner says he feels wanted again.
It is a change of pathway for him that adds an interesting backdrop to his encounter against David Light at Manchester’s AO Arena.
Of his relationship with his former promoter, he said: “I don’t want to get into Eddie Hearn. He’s a former promoter, so it’s like talking about an ex over and over again. Let him say and do what he wants. I’m very happy with how my life is going and now I have to just focus on winning.”
Okolie vs Light fight prediction
It feels very much as if Okolie needs a statement performance tonight.
After an absence of more than a year off the back of what was a pretty dreadful fight against Cieslak, all momentum has seemingly been lost in his quest to follow the likes of Oleksandr Usyk by becoming undisputed at cruiserweight.
His ugly row with Hearn has made far more headlines than his fighting prowess over recent weeks and months, with attentions now needing to turn back to the ring.
Light is hardly the sort of opponent against whom an emphatic victory would strike fear into the other champions in this class, Arsen Goulamirian, Jai Opetaia and the newly-crowned Badou Jack, but nevertheless it is much needed if he wants to secure those big unification nights.
And we think he’ll get it by virtue of an emphatic early stoppage against a huge underdog.
Okolie to win by knockout in round four.
Fight card in full
Lawrence Okolie vs David Light
Frazer Clarke vs Bogdan Dinu
Michael Gomez Jr vs Levi Giles
Karriss Artingstall vs Linzi Buczynskyj
Callum Simpson vs Celso Neves
Rhys Edwards vs Brian Phillips
Shakiel Thompson vs Robert Talarek
Aaron McKenna vs Jordan Grant
Harvey Lambert vs Casey Brown
Frankie Stringer vs Jakub Laskowski
Samuel Antwi vs Omir Rodriguez
The early undercard at the AO Arena got underway around 20 minutes ago – full updates on that to come.
The main undercard is due to begin at 7pm GMT, with main event ring walks expected at approximately 10pm.
As ever, those timings are subject to change, depending on the length of the undercard fights.
How to watch Okolie vs Light
TV channel: In the UK, Okolie vs Light is being broadcast live on Sky Sports Action from 7pm and Sky Sports Main Event from 8pm.
The early undercard is on Sky Boxing’s YouTube channel.
Live stream: Subscribers can also catch the action live online via the Sky Go app.
Welcome to Okolie vs Light LIVE coverage!
Hello and welcome to the Evening Standard’s LIVE coverage of Lawrence Okolie vs David Light!
‘The Sauce’ is back in action tonight after a long 13 months out of the ring following an acrimonious split from Matchroom Boxing and Eddie Hearn, having signed with Ben Shalom and Boxxer to make the overdue third defence of his WBO world cruiserweight title.
Much of Okolie’s momentum has been lost since that frustrating win over Michal Cieslak in London last February, so he could really use an emphatic reminder of his talent tonight against mandatory challenger Light – the undefeated, 20-0 New Zealander who is making a big step up here as a sizable underdog.
Now teamed up with SugarHill Steward and training with the likes of Tyson Fury, all eyes will be on Okolie to see if he can get back on track in terms of his goals to unify the 200lbs division and then rise up to the heavyweight ranks.
There’s also plenty to watch on tonight’s undercard at the AO Arena in Manchester, including the latest professional bouts for Olympic medalists Frazer Clarke and Karriss Artingstall and an English super-featherweight title grudge match between Michael Gomez Jr and Levi Giles, who clashed yesterday at a heated weigh-in.
Stay tuned for live updates and results from across the night!