Lawrence Okolie in no mood to get carried away by world champion status

Lawrence Okolie in no mood to get carried away by world champion status
The Briton defends his WBO cruiserweight crown against unbeaten Montenegrin Dilan Prasovic on Saturday night.

Lawrence Okolie is focused on establishing a lasting legacy in boxing so insisted becoming world champion earlier this year was more significant for others than himself.

Many thought Okolie would be stretched against Krzysztof Głowacki when they fought for the vacant WBO cruiserweight title in March, but the Briton delivered a career-best display, knocking out the veteran Pole in the sixth round.

While he has noticed a shift in peoples’ perceptions of him after adding world honours to British Commonwealth and European crowns, Okolie (16-0, 13KOs) believes it was merely a staging post in his career.

He has his sights set on the three other world champions at 200lbs and afterwards a move up to heavyweight, but first up is a maiden title defence against unbeaten Montenegrin Dilan Prasovic on Saturday night.

Okolie told the PA news agency: “I don’t know what it is, I was undefeated and British, Commonwealth and European champion, but when you say a world champion, everyone takes it so much differently, it’s, ‘Wow’.

“There’s nothing to get too carried away over, I always saw it as just a world title. Now that I’ve got it, it’s obviously changed my life in the sense that I’m a world champion, but the belt in itself and the status doesn’t really do anything for me.

“I was just like, ‘I’m going to box for a world title and I’m going to win’. When I won it was relief more than, ‘Oh my days’. It’s just like, ‘Here’s the date, here’s the opponent, I’m going to win so just go out there and win’.

“There have been world champions before and there’s four in my weight class right now. It doesn’t mean anything. I’m happy to be here, but there’s more that can be done.”

There’s nothing to get too carried away over, I always saw it as just a world title

Lawrence Okolie

Okolie’s bout against Prasovic is the chief support to Anthony Joshua’s world heavyweight title defence against Oleksandr Usyk who has moved up to the blue riband division after being undisputed champion at cruiserweight.

Okolie hopes he is on a similar career trajectory to Usyk, who can become just the third cruiserweight to win a world heavyweight title after Evander Holyfield and David Haye, but the Londoner has no interest in seeking out the Ukrainian for a conversation this week.

Okolie said: “I won’t be picking his brain at all. He’s an enemy in my opinion. If he was still cruiserweight I’d be looking to fight him and when I get to heavyweight you never know what’s going to happen.

“I respect and rate him as a fighter but ultimately he’s someone I could end up fighting one day and also I want to see AJ beat him.”

Okolie revealed he is in touch with Haye, a former unified cruiserweight and WBA heavyweight champion, and someone the Rio 2016 Olympian revered even before setting foot in the ring.

David Haye, pictured, is greatly admired by Lawrence Okolie (Steven Paston/PA)

Okolie said: “Before I even met David or got to a professional, David was one of the first boxers I had pictures of on my wall. He’s someone I idolised years ago and I still chat to him and respect him.

“David was one of the first people that really said, ‘I believe Lawrence can do it’. He’s seen me sparring heavyweights and he knows what it’s like. But sparring is one thing, fighting is another thing. I just look forward to seeing how things go.”

Before any thoughts of unification fights or a move up to the top weight bracket comes a fight against mandatory challenger Prasovic.

Okolie added: “If you win a vacant belt, you have to defend against a mandatory and here it is. I’m aiming to make him regret it but we’ll see.”