Tyson Fury knew Lawrence Okoli would go on to become world champion when they shared rounds of bouts together.
So much so that Fury, who hired cruiserweights to prepare for Deontay Wilder before his original 2018 fight, convinced him of it.
This is despite mentoring and management by Anthony Joshua, a longtime rival of the Gypsy King of Okoli.
The now-WBO champion was invited to Fury’s Los Angeles training camp to imitate Wilder, 6ft 7in, and hailed as one to watch out for.
Okoli, 28, told SunSport: “That trip there really boosted my confidence and confidence even more.
“I was there with someone I knew was a legitimate heavyweight championship-level fighter.
“I’ve been there with AJ, but we’re friends, so being there with someone who isn’t my friend but is respected as a boxer and doing a good job, I went there confidently.
“They were telling me even in camp at the time, ‘Oh dude, you’re destined to be a world champion’.
“And I’m glad I proved him and everyone else right.”
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Fury, 33, who first drew 35-year-old Wilder but won his 2020 rematch, saw his prediction come true in March.
Okoli knocked out 35-year-old Polish southpaw Krzysztof Glowacki in the sixth round of his coronation night.
The Londoner, who was inspired to see AJ at the 2012 Olympics while working at McDonald’s, now has her eye on the integration.
And Latvia’s IBF champion Maris Breedis, 36, who pushed 34-year-old Oleksandr Usyk in 2018, tops his list.
He said: “It’s mainly from what I can find, you can’t focus on one person because they can lose a fight, or someone else can come out.
“But he would be my No. 1 choice, purely because he’s No. 1 and I don’t like being around someone who is above me.
“It’s like no, I won a world title for no mess, I won a world title to fight anyone, so why not go No. 1?
“I believe I’m No. 1, and there’s no cruiserweight who can beat me, but I have to go out there and make it look real.”
He was telling me in the camp at that time, ‘Hey friend, you are destined to be the world champion’.
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Before returning to the ring, Okoli has teamed up with his 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