LAWRENCE OKOLIE is backing mentor Anthony Joshua in his rematch with Oleksandr Usik – so they can pack stadiums together.
Okoli defended his first WBO cruiserweight title with a walkover knockout against Dilan Prasovic.
And his place as the main support for superstar AJ meant most of Tottenham’s more than 62,000 seats were filled for his regular but impressive win.
Okoli then could only see that as a disaster for his manager and friend Joshua, who was stripped of the unified title after a masterclass by Usick.
Already AJ confirmed plans to exercise their right to an immediate rematch, a decision which was supported by Okoli.
He told SunSport: “That’s how it should be. You get the chance to box for the heavyweight world title.
“That’s it, after all he has more things he could have done, he has a lot to work on, stuff he can work on and that gives the rematch the potential to be a very different fight. ”
Joshua, 31, found himself in a similar place in 2019, when he was shocked by 32-year-old outsider Andy Ruiz Jr. in New York.
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But only six months later he regained the belt and his reputation in the 36-minute boxing brilliance in Saudi Arabia.
This time, it won’t be that easy, but Okoli is confident that history will repeat itself as AJ is already back to the drawing board.
He said: “He is in good spirits, which is nice to hear. Obviously it was disappointing, because I’ve always wanted to see him win.
“But he managed to come back first and I am sure he will come back again.
“In the end, it’s a world class sport. World class athletes against world class athletes.
“It’s hard to keep knocking everyone off, I get it, but obviously I would have loved to see him win.”
Joshua has headlined at three different stadiums in the UK, from Wembley, the Principality of Cardiff and most recently the north London home of Spurs.
But with heavyweight rival Tyson Fury, 33, who has been traded Stateside for the past three years, Britain will be looking for the next ticket seller.
And while Okoli has the power, promotional support, and belts to emerge as an ideal candidate for the role, he cautions that his CV still needs to be strengthened.
This means that for now, he is happy to share the spotlight with Joshua, who is now on his quest to become a three-time heavyweight champion.
Okoli explained: “I’d still like to do it together, it doesn’t even have to be the same show.
“He fills a stadium, I fill a stadium. For me, I definitely want to reach that level.
“But I think a level of consistency is needed to get it done, you have to defend your title, make your dues and get paid in full.
“I’ve paid a lot of dues, but to get to that level you’ll have to pay some more.”
Okoli is looking for integration bouts, but before returning to the ring, it has teamed up with former employer McDonald’s to launch a new change plan. Campaign.
It will see youth workers and services linked to every restaurant in every community by 2024, 3,000 apprenticeship roles offered by 2025, and helping one million people acquire new skills and open jobs by 2030.
Okoli said: “Working at McDonald’s not only gave me stability and direction, but also opportunities and training.
“I would honestly say it was the best time of my life, working with my brother, making friends I’m still close to and learning things like punctuality, confidence and respect.
“There I saw Anthony Joshua win the 2012 Olympics during a break in the crew room, which inspired me to start training and dream big.
“Anything is possible if you work hard enough and I encourage all young people to believe in themselves.”
- World champion boxer Lawrence Okoli has teamed up with McDonald’s to launch a new campaign designed to improve the life prospects of thousands of young people. To know more, visit mcdonalds.co.uk/planforchange