The decision by Saul “Canelo” Alvarez to box Dmitry Bivol was potentially good news for Lawrence Okolie, who is confident that a unification fight will be next if he beats Michal Cieslak on Sunday. 

Alvarez had talked of a jump up to cruiserweight to face WBC champion Ilunga Makabu, but with that plan shelved the way could be open for Okolie, the WBO champion, to have the unification fight he has been after. 

Okolie faces Cieslak, a Polish boxer whose only loss was to Makabu, at the O2 Arena on Sunday and Okolie believes that a good performance could set wheels in motions. 

“If Canelo is not coming up it makes the unification a lot more likely,” Okolie said. “Although Makabu beat Cieslak, I believe Makabu is an easier fight for me than the next guy I have.  

“I need to make sure I handle it well and then I will be straight on the phone to the team to secure something.” 

Makabu is not the only boxer in Okolie’s sights, as he also wants to pin down a fight with IBF champion Mairis Briedis, although the Latvian is set to face his mandatory challenger, Jai Opetaia, first. 

“I personally believe that if he wins the mandatory we can fight for it next,” Okolie said. “The reality is he has a mandatory and he has to be switched on because he is in with a really talent southpaw.” 

Okolie has always been open with his ambition to move up to heavyweight, although the 29-year=old says he is in no rush to switch. 

“As long as I am able to perform at cruiserweight, I will continue to make it,” he said. “If an opportunity comes up at heavyweight, I can do that at any time. I wouldn’t weight too heavy at first at heavyweight anyway. 

“I might bounce between the two. I will just win this one and then see what the world looks like.” 

It must be a bit of a relief that Sunday’s game goes ahead, after the roof off the O2 Arena was damaged by storms last week. It was only on Thursday that the venue reopened. 

“It made me think we are very fragile as human beings and don’t really determine what goes on in the world,” Okolie said. 

“I was always optimistic that I would be able to box in another arena if necessary. I would have hoped that with a week’s notice they would be able to find somewhere else and, if not, I would just keep ticking over and move on.” 

Training, he says, has gone well and he believes that he continues to improve as a boxer/ 

“This camp I haven’t had any stress making weight,” he said. “I went for cruiserweights as sparring partners. This guy I am fighting, I think he will try to be very agile, he’s a fluid boxer, quite strong and he punches well out of clinches and dives in with hooks. So, I needed fast guys in there because I wasn’t anticipating slow shots. 

“I like to add little bits every spar, so I like to spar against top guys each time because it forces me to add things. Some guys like to be in the driving seat in their spars, to know they are going to be on top, but I like to be challenged. I like to destroy in fights. 

“I don’t feel pressure [to perform] but I just owe it to myself to show I am actually pretty good.” 

Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.