Lawrence Okolie: Deontay Wilder clash or bridgerweight unification bout next after stunning KO win?

27 May 2024, 09:50 | Updated: 27 May 2024, 17:08

A potential blockbuster showdown with hard-punching heavyweight Deontay Wilder could be on the horizon for Lawrence Okolie after he claimed the WBC bridgerweight world title, says Sky Sports expert George Groves.

The British fighter, making his return to the ring nearly one year on from his majority-decision loss to Chris Billam-Smith for the WBO cruiserweight crown, knocked down Lukasz Rozanski three times en route to a first-round stoppage win in Poland to take the belt on Friday.

A potential unification clash with WBA bridgerweight champion Evgeny Tishchenko could be on the cards, but former super-middleweight champion Groves believes former heavyweight king Wilder may be tempted to take on Okolie for his belt if the American's options at heavyweight are limited.

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"I think, now, this is his time to capitalise on being a world champion," Groves told Sky Sports.

"There are going to be a lot of heavyweights out there with big names, who are not huge, who are going to be thinking 'Am I ever going to win the heavyweight world championship in the near future? Maybe not, but I can be world champion if I take on Lawrence Okolie'.

"I think, maybe, Wilder is the sort of character who goes 'I'm such a big name, I'm a former heavyweight world champion, I can't see me just getting a shot at a heavyweight world title any time soon, but why not become a two-weight world champion by fighting at bridgerweight?'"

The bridgerweight division was introduced by the WBC in 2020 to sit between cruiserweight and heavyweight, with the WBA following in recognising it three years later, with the weight limit between 14st 4lb and 16st.

The WBC and WBA's limits cover the traditional lower end of the heavyweight division and Okolie weighed in at close to the upper bridgerweight limit for his clash with Rozanski. The 31-year-old has no preference about what comes next, though.

"I have the mandatory or a unification if I'm going to stay at this weight, or go up to heavyweight," Okolie told Sky Sports.

"It depends what opportunities arise, there's not anyone at any weight I wouldn't box.

"If a heavyweight opportunity comes or if I have to defend my belt or get a unification I'll do that."

Okolie's trainer Joe Gallagher acknowledged he would have no issue taking on the smaller heavyweights, citing his similarity in weight to the likes of Wilder and undisputed champion Oleksandr Usyk.

However, Gallagher wants to see Okolie wrest the WBA bridgerweight belt away from Tishchenko before stepping into boxing's blue-riband division.

"There's a good unification fight there, and there are smaller heavyweights," Gallagher told Sky Sports.

"Deontay Wilder is only 15 and a half [stone]...and the weights of heavyweights, Lawrence is there at the moment.

"I'd like to see him unify this with the WBA championship and then move into the heavyweights."

Watch Chris Billam-Smith and Richard Riakpohre face off for the WBO cruiserweight title at Selhurst Park, live on Sky Sports on Saturday June 15.