Lawrence Okolie once again opted for the ‘win today, look good the next time’ route.
There was little favorable reaction to Okolie’s unwatchable twelve-round win over New Zealand’s David Light to defend his WBO cruiserweight title defense. The win maintained his title reign and unbeaten mark but did not at all resonate in a positive way with the industry or particularly his peers.
Leading the pack among those unimpressed by his effort was lineal and IBF champion Jai Opetaia.
“Grass growing, paint drying, Okolie boxing,” the reigning cruiserweight king tweeted immediately after the Sky Sports/ProBox TV main event from the AO Arena in Manchester, England.
Okolie (19-0, 14KOs) entered the ring on the heels of a 13-month layoff and a change in promotions after a messy and very public split from Matchroom Boxing. The 2016 Olympian and current WBO cruiserweight titlist made a point to reference the final days spent with Matchroom and its chairman Eddie Hearn, with the topic dominating headlines leading into his third title defense.
In the time between Okolie’s past two fights, Opetaia (22-0, 17KOs) has emerged as the division’s true champion following a points win over Mairis Briedis last July 2 at Gold Coast Convention Centre in Broadbeach, Australia. Their memorable slugfest was the antithesis of Okolie-Light, in fact a Fight of the Year candidate which saw Opetaia overcome a twice-broken draw to dethrone the three-time cruiserweight champ.
Opetaia since underwent surgery to repair an injured shoulder. The procedure and recovery process prompted the Sydney-based southpaw to file a 60-day medical exception for his due mandatory title defense versus Poland’s Mateusz Masternak. The IBF is expected to formally order the fight on April 1, which will trigger a 30-day negotiation period followed by another 60 days to complete the fight.
A victory is naturally guaranteed by the defending champ, as is a level of entertainment value that was sorely lacked in the most recent cruiserweight title fight.
“Just a reminder of who’s the main in this division,” noted Opetaia.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
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