Lawrence Okolie admits Luke Watkins will be his biggest test so far but is confident the gamble will pay off and put him onto an even bigger platform.
The Hackney cruiserweight challenges the Commonwealth champion in the headline fight at the latest NXTGEN show, at York Hall, on June 6, live on Sky Sports.
Live JD Nxtgen Boxing
June 6, 2018, 7:00pm
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Unbeaten Watkins will be making the second defence of his strap and with more fights, more rounds and more experience in the professional game under his belt, he could even be the bookmakers’ favourite.
But Okolie, who beat bitter London rival Isaac Chamberlain last time out, insists this is the sort of fight that will fire him up even more.
“When I first turned pro, I gave interviews saying I want to progress quickly. Not because I have an extensive amateur career, just I don’t like the idea of boxing loads of journeyman. It doesn’t stimulate me or motivate me.
“As an amateur I had 15 fights and got in the GB team and took on some of the best fighters in the world, who had had 10 or 20 more times the number of fights, so that allowed me to become better in a very, very short space of time.
“I wanted to take that approach with me when I turned pro. When you are training, grafting, doing your morning runs, doing your strength and conditioning, your boxing sessions, grinding out rounds, you want something at the end of it that is a real fight.
“I expect Watkins to be fit, strong, durable, with a very good game plan. I expect a very tough fight but I know I have all the answers to beat him.”
Victory would see Okolie become the second fastest member of Great Britain’s Rio Olympic boxing team to pick up a domestic title, following heavyweight silver medalist Joe Joyce.
The 25-year-old, known as ‘The Sauce’, is fully focussed on Watkins but has always wanted to clean up the domestic scene as part of his rapid rise.
Luke Watkins says that his fight against Lawrence Okolie on June 6 is an opportunity for "people to get to know him"
Matt Askin holds the British cruiserweight title and is ranked in the top 15 of the world by the WBC and WBO, and has not ruled out fighting the Commonwealth champion next.
“I am not looking past Luke Watkins, but if I can win that and win it well, Matty Askin is in the top 15 of the world, so it is a big marker, winning a fight against him,” said Okolie.
“Watkins is going to want to win this fight because he and Paddy Fitzpatrick are looking raise the profile and get to that stage of clout, which comes with beating an Olympian, who is a Sky Sports fighter.
“That’s what they’re looking for whereas I am still looking to better myself, pick up the Commonwealth title and then move on.”
Watch Luke Watkings vs Lawrence Okolie, as well as Reece Bellotti, Daniyar Yeleussinov, Ted Cheeseman and Felix Cash, on NXTGEN, from York Hall, on June 6, live on Sky Sports Action.