Boxer & Pundit
Whyte vs Rivas: Lawrence Okolie has questions to answer against 'sharks', says Tony Bellew
Watch Lawrence Okolie on the Whyte vs Rivas bill, including Allen-Price, Chisora-Szpilka on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Box Office.
Last Updated: 16/07/19 3:43pm
Lawrence Okolie must answer fresh questions when he encounters "sharks" in the treacherous cruiserweight division, says Tony Bellew.
The unbeaten 26-year-old returns to action against Mariano Angel Gudino on the Dillian Whyte-Oscar Rivas bill at The O2 on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Box Office.
Sky Sports expert Bellew has studied the progress of Okolie in his old weight class and admits there are dangerous rivals lying in wait for the Londoner...
I found out for myself just how big an issue it is going from domestic class to the highest level, and that is something that Okolie must be ready for.
I'll be at the O2 Arena in London on Saturday night as heavyweight boxing takes centre stage yet again on what could be another frantic night of boxing, but it's the cruiserweight division that has my attention this weekend as I hope to see Lawrence Okolie continue his development.
I've been around this weight class a long time, even if you go back to my amateur days, and it's a division that's always fascinated me. Since my retirement last November, the division has taken on a new look and I fully believe that Okolie can have an impact there.
There's been a lot of pressure on Okolie since his first day of being a professional and that's because he comes with an Olympic pedigree and the fact that he's a huge puncher. If you scratch beneath the surface, though, then you have to say that he's been brought on very quick compared to some of the other star amateurs who've recently turned over - but he's handled the transition brilliantly, if I'm being honest.
What a lot of people forget about Okolie is that he's only had a small number of fights when you place it against the level he's been competing at. He's not one of these amateurs who's had over 150 bouts and been all around the world fighting in big tournaments.
With Okolie, he developed really quick and was able to establish himself as one of the best fighters in the world in no time - and that's why he went to the Olympics. He's still got so much to learn, but when you look at what he's achieved already, then you can't help but be impressed.
The next steps for Okolie are grabbing more experience at the higher level and listening to his coach, Shane McGuigan.
He's got some excellent natural attributes like size, power and range - and he's used them well so far - but what he has to do now is to try and be a lot smarter because it's going to be a lot harder when he steps up against the division's better fighters.
He's pretty much had everything his own way at domestic level with solid wins over the likes of Isaac Chamberlain and Matty Askin, but British level to world level is a massive jump and he'll need to be 100 per cent prepared if he's to make that leap and make it a successful one.
In McGuigan, he has a great trainer who's achieved so much in just a short space of time. You only have to look at his body of work to see what he's accomplished and it fills me with great confidence that he can add so much more to Okolie.
He took Carl Frampton to a world title beating some brilliant names along the way, and I also like the work that he's done with Josh Taylor up in Scotland. He's making good fighters great and that bodes well for Okolie if he's to leave Britain behind and see what other challenges are waiting for him at the business end of the division.
The next couple of fights are going to tell us a lot about Okolie. I found out for myself just how big an issue it is going from domestic class to the highest level, and that is something that Okolie must be ready for.
Trust me, jumping up in class is very hard, doing it at cruiserweight is an altogether different proposition. Once he hits European level and you have those sharks circling, Okolie is going to see just how good he is because the waters run very deep at cruiserweight and there's some nasty sharks who'll want to be the first to see if Okolie has what it takes.
I'm confident he has, and we'll find out soon.
Watch Lawrence Okolie on Whyte vs Rivas undercard on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Box Office, from 6pm. Book it via your Sky remote or book it online here. Even if you aren't a Sky TV subscriber you can book and watch it here.
Tony Bellew was speaking to Sky Sports at the launch of SportPesa's partnership with Rotunda ABC. A Global Ambassador for the gaming and technology giant, Bellew was in attendance to oversee SportPesa's latest community initiative, with an aim to aid the historic club with the development of Liverpool's next generation of boxing talent.