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Lawrence Okolie warns: I know Chris Billam-Smith and Shane McGuigan too, and I'm going to break him!

Lawrence Okolie and Chris Billam-Smith used to be training and sparring partners at Shane McGuigan's gym; but now they are opponents and will fight for Okolie's WBO world cruiserweight title at the Vitality Stadium in Billam-Smith's hometown of Bournemouth on May 27, live on Sky Sports

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Lawrence Okolie discusses the dynamic in the gym of former trainer Shane McGuigan, as he reveals opponent Chris Billam-Smith was always McGuigan's favourite

Lawrence Okolie has a warning for sparring-partner-turned-opponent Chris Billam-Smith. Familiarity goes both ways.

Billam-Smith used to be one of Okolie's key sparring partners when they trained together at Shane McGuigan's gym.

But Okolie left McGuigan to join new coach SugarHill Steward and will now fight Billam-Smith as he defends his WBO cruiserweight title on May 27 at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth.

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Cruiserweights Okolie and Richard Riakporhe sit either side of Boxxer CEO Ben Shalom in Birmingham

Due to the many rounds of sparring they have shared, and with McGuigan in his corner for the fight, Billam-Smith is convinced he has all the experience and information he needs to beat Okolie.

But Okolie points out he knows them both just as well too.

"I know that they're going to come. Their whole game plan is going to be around getting on my chest and screaming for points, all this stuff," Okolie told Sky Sports.

"So I'm very much aware of the psyche that they're into, which is: 'We can't beat Lawrence in a fight. We can't. We can try and get a lucky punch but maybe we can make it a maul and get the crowd behind and throw him off'.

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"But I've never been that way inclined. I'm very focused, razor sharp, so I'm looking forward to showing it."

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Okolie says McGuigan can tell Billam-Smith everything about him, but the reality of putting it into practice on the night is very different

The Londoner is threatening "long range, domination".

"That's the type of energy I'm bringing to this fight," he said.

"And I know that I can break him so I'm going to aim to break him on the day. That's it."

When Billam-Smith was an amateur, Okolie was the No 1 in the country and a target the Bournemouth man was training for back then.

"We'll see if it means anything. But that sort of stuff motivates me because you guys watch me do it. Amateurs, [I] came through, British, Commonwealth. When I was winning the British title, these guys were already pro, pussyfooting around the game," Okolie said.

"I'm there going in against people like Matty Askin, who was a top-10 fighter at the time. Luke Watkins, undefeated 13-0 at the time. [Isaac] Chamberlain, 9-0, so that one doesn't count as much but within a year I'm already headlining the O2 Arena, within a year of professional boxing.

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There was plenty of respect between Okolie and Billam-Smith as they went head to head at the press conference ahead of their fight on May 27

"I've been there, in the deep end, so I can get why these guys would always be watching me."

But training to beat him and converting that into a result, Okolie believes, is another matter.

"Guess what, it's not going to happen! That's what I'm trying to say. I'm these guys' pinnacle and these guys are just guys to me," he said.

"These guys trained for years to deal with X, Y, Z… Good luck. Good, good luck.

"That's how I look at it. You guys can train all you want and say I'm going to do this and do that. The bottom line is, what everyone always forgets is, that I'm also training and I'm also a human man who's going to be throwing punches.

Boxer Lawrence Okolie makes a half time appearance to promote his upcoming fight during the Premier League match at Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth. Picture date: Tuesday April 4, 2023.
Image: Okolie is relishing his fight with Billam-Smith at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth

"I'm very realistic."

He continued: "Reality is a different thing. That's my thing. I'm a realist. I can train to beat, say, Usain Bolt in a race all day, every day and say this is my day, this is my day and then the day comes and Usain Bolt wins again. That's how I see boxing.

"It's very much like if I do what I'm meant to do and I train properly and I stick within the rules of boxing, I'm going to win.

"Because I don't fight with ego… I'm interested in winning.

"This fight I'm going to try to demonstrate that in a clinical way."

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