I may have a belt but I won’t be satisfied until I can say I’m the best in the world, writes Lawrence Okolie
I DON’T know how much longer I can keep making cruiserweight so I want to make sure that I take the important fights in this division while I can. I have the WBO title, but I don’t look at that belt in my house every day and presume I am the world champion. I have lots still to do.
I always felt I would get to this stage. But for me to get that sense of satisfaction, what I really expect from myself, I have to be regarded as the very best in my division. I can take a string of defences against easy opposition, call myself a ‘champion’ for years and years, but that isn’t what it’s about for me. I need more than that.
With that in mind, I have to take Dilan Prasovic seriously. Fighters have slipped up against lesser opponents through complacency, through looking too far ahead. I know the difference between me before I was fighting at this level, I know there is now more coming from me as a fighter. I don’t think this is a fight where I’m the world champion, I am still trying to get the point where I can secure those fights against the best in the division. In that regard, I cannot slip up here.
Admittedly, I’d never heard of Prasovic a year ago. But I knew before beat Krzysztof Glowacki that Prasovic would likely be next. Anyone at this level is going to be decent, at cruiserweight everyone can hit hard enough to cause damage. This is a mandatory and after that, my team know what I want.
I had pictures of David Haye on my wall when I first started boxing and he was wearing all the belts. I want to recreate that picture; Haye proved he was the best in his division and I want that for myself. The opportunities are out there but I know that the politics can get in the way. But people like Haye, like Evander Holyfield and like Oleksandr Usyk have done it before. I want to be up there with the best cruiserweights in history, but you can only do that by first proving you’re the best of your time.
It’s not easy. Mairis Briedis is ranked as the best in the division at the moment, and rightly so, but already I can see how hard it will be to get a fight with him. There’s always money signs in front of their eyes, how much are they going to earn is seemingly the priority over proving you’re the best. I see now that’s the way it is. When you’re on the way up, it’s about getting that first title by any means necessary. It’s easy to feel like I’ve now done the hard work and the other fights should just fall into place but it’s not that simple. We’ll wait and see.
I have my own aspirations. I have other stuff on my mind other than money. I want to fight the best. I enjoyed the feeling of winning the title but it’s not enough. I’m chasing the feeling of being the best, more so than anything else.
People have criticised the likes of Jake Paul fighting or old fighters coming back. It shows there is an appetite for boxing among the wider public but I don’t believe these contests will ever overshadow real boxing. The world class fighters have to do what they’ve got to do and let everyone else get on with their own thing.
There is a reason guys like Jake Paul are getting paid so well. It’s not because they’ve hijacked the sport, it’s because they’re working hard in their own way. They are doing things that others are not doing. I don’t get annoyed with that, I can recognise that we, as fighters, all have a job to do to boost our own profiles and get what we’re worth. In their own way, by stepping into boxing, they are taking a risk.
As world class boxers, we should be taking risks, too.