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“I meet people and I have to explain to them,” David Light said this week, “like really convince them, that I’m a professional boxer. They just don’t think that’s what I am.”
Since that Light interview with Sky Sports, British boxing fans will have become a little more accustomed to the seemingly slight New Zealander who is about to challenge Lawrence Okolie for the WBO cruiserweight title.
Ultimately for Okolie, a showdown with compatriot Richard Riakporhe feels inevitable, especially since they have now signed with Boxxer. Okolie joins British light-heavyweight Joshua Buatsi in the recent train of Matchroom talent ditching Eddie Hearn for Ben Shalom.
Okolie has hit out at Hearn personally for being “bitter”, “malicious” and “jealous”, but Shalom has secured a diamond with his new deal. The promoter admits that Light, who is the WBO’s mandatory challenger, is “not someone we have chosen and not necessarily someone we would choose for his first fight after a year out”.
Indeed with a new trainer in his corner, Okolie should be in for a relatively short night’s work, even if Light is previously unbeaten.
As for the reigning champion, he has won all but four of the bouts on his 18-0 record by KO. When the calibre of his opponents began to improve, he took a little longer to feel his way into fights, but his power has always prevailed in the end.
Okolie has probably benefited from Oleksandr Usyk’s move up to heavyweight more than most and he is now considered by many as the pre-eminent cruiserweight in the world – but you could fire the Usyk card at anyone in the division.
Still, he is weary of writing off Light too easily. “It’s a nice safe place to hide behind being the underdog,” he said. “When I see him I know what he really is. I’m prepared for what he may bring and will do what I need to do.”
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Okolie vs Light
- Date: Saturday 25 March
- Venue: AO Arena, Manchester
- Fight time: Ring walks for the main event are expected around 10pm UK time
- TV/live stream: Sky Sports Action (channel 407 on Sky), or stream with Sky Go or a NOW 24-hour pass, which costs £11.99
- Undercard highlights: Frazer Clarke was due for another run-of-the-mill fight with Rydell Booker but due to a late switch, he’s now got the far more interesting proposition of Bogdan Dinu – the Romanian heavyweight has four L’s on his record but against pretty decent opposition in Daniel Dubois, Kubrat Pulev, Kevin Lerena and Jarrell Miller
- i predicts: Okolie wins by KO, rounds 5-7
- Lawrence Okolie vs David Light (WBO world cruiserweight title)
- Michael Gomez Jr vs Levi Giles (super-featherweight)
- Frazer Clarke vs Bogdan Dinu (heavyweight)
- Callum Simpson vs Celso Neves (super-middleweight)
- Aaron McKenna vs Lukas Ndafoluma (middleweight)
- Samuel Antwi vs Omir Rodriguez (super-welterweight)
- Shakiel Thompson vs Robert Talarek (middleweight)
- Karriss Artingstall vs Linzi Buczynskyj (featherweight)
- Rhys Edwards vs Brian Phillips (featherweight)
- Frankie Stringer vs TBA (lightweight)
- Harvey Lambert vs Casey Brown (super-welterweight)
Plant vs Benavidez
If there is one man David Benavidez has wanted to fight as burningly as Canelo, it is Caleb Plant in this WBC final eliminator. Benavidez has been doing his best to antagonise Plant for so long that it feels this fight has been stewing for several years.
In response, Plant has been composed, adding Stephen Edwards into his corner, who guided him to an impressive KO of Anthony Dirrell.
Benavidez is now 26 and it is easy to forget he has so many years ahead of him when he has already had so much happen in his career, winning the WBC super-middleweight interim belt, stripped of his title, and winning it back again.
Plant, meanwhile, had become an IBF champion until he lost out to Canelo, the one opponent who could withstand his huge right hand. Dirrell felt the full force of it, succumbing to one of the knockouts of the year.
This feels like a real step up for Benavidez, who is doing his best to get Canelo’s attention, while in the meantime he fights John Ryder in Mexico. In fact it could be the perfect opportunity to do just that, as the sheer number of punches he throws have the potential to disarm Plant.
- Date: Saturday 25 March
- Venue: MCM Grand, Las Vegas, USA
- Fight time: Ring walks for the main event are expected around 5am UK time
- TV/live stream: FITE is the only place to watch the fight in the UK and it’s free-to-air
- Undercard highlights: Chris Colbert should be good value against Jose Valenzuela
- i predicts: Benavidez via split decision
- David Benavidez vs Caleb Plant (WBC interim super-middleweight title)
- Cody Crowley vs Abel Ramos (Welterweight)
- Jesus Alejandro Ramos vs Joey Spencer (Super-welterweight)
- Chris Colbert vs Jose Valenzuela (Lightweight)
- Kevin Gonzalez vs Jose Sanmartin (Super-bantamweight)
- Orestes Velazquez vs Marcelino Lopez (Super-lightweight)
- Demler Zamora vs Jesus Abel Ibarra (Super-featherweight)
- Daniel Blancas vs Nicholas Molina (Super-middleweight)
Any other business
- Tyson Fury vs Usyk has officially collapsed with parties unable to reach a conclusion over the purse split (which the Fury camp wanted to be 70-30 in the WBC champion’s favour). There is a sense from Usyk’s side, though, that Fury was never seriously preparing for this fight. In fact trainer SugarHill Steward has admitted when he arrived in the UK last week, it was not with a 29 April date in mind. Usyk is now set to face WBA challenger Dubois instead.
- Lyndon Arthur, who fought last night, sat down with i to discuss his KO defeat to Anthony Yarde, having won their first meeting. “I won’t lie, I believe I’m better than him,” Arthur said. “I believe I’d be if we ever fought again, I have full belief it was just an off night.” You can read his interview in full here.