Lawrence Okolie won the WBA continental cruiserweight title and continued the unbeaten start to his professional career with a unanimous decision victory over Isaac Chamberlain. For a headliner at The O2 and a highly anticipated all London grudge contest, it certainly did not live up to its billing.
The two up and coming cruiserweights showed us that they are still professional novices.
Okolie knocked down Chamberlain in the first round with a glancing shot, but from then onwards, it was not a fan-friendly fight, to say the least. The second round went against Chamberlain too as the referee docked him a point for holding onto Okolie, which seemed strange as Chamberlain was not warned.
9,000 people were in attendance in the hope to see a classic encounter where both fighters stood at range and traded all night. However, Chamberlain looked gun-shy and Okolie was only looking to land his right hand, loading up all night long. Both fighters were holding each other continuously, and whenever the referee broke up the clinch, Lawerence and Isaac would get into another clinch. This was the story of the night from rounds 2 to 9.
Prior to the fight, I thought Chamberlain was going let Okolie come to him, create an angle, pivot, check hook, slip Okolie’s shots and have success in countering with Okolie walking onto shots. Instead, Chamberlain walked in straight lines towards Okolie, which seems like the worst thing to do against someone who’s bigger, has a longer reach and has more power. Another surprising element of the fight was how Chamberlain fell short with the jab as he telegraphed it too much.
From Chamberlain’s side, it seemed like the tactics were to try and tire out Okolie in the first half and then to stop Okolie down the stretch. However, whenever Chamberlain made Okolie miss by ducking, he wouldn’t counter or would fall short with his shots. Chamberlain’s punch activity was very low throughout the 10 rounds. Instead of creating an angle after ducking, he would walk in straight lines and get involved with a clinch – it was almost like a wrestling match. Ultimately, Okolie was too big, too strong and bullied Chamberlain in the clinches.
Chamberlain can come back as it is not like a situation where he can say he was at his best or gave everything in that fight, and still came up short against Okolie. Chamberlain will be the first one to admit he was poor on the night, but there is time to make improvements. Just look at the start of Johnny Nelson’s career, and what he achieved in the end.
For Okolie, the Commonwealth champion (Luke Watkins) and the British champion (Matty Askin), will both surely be on his radar soon.