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Bitter-sweet night for Okolie at Wembley Stadium

PUBLISHED: 10:30 01 May 2017

Lawrence Okolie during the weigh-in at Wembley Arena (pic Nick Potts/PA)

Lawrence Okolie during the weigh-in at Wembley Arena (pic Nick Potts/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

Stratford student sees bout cancelled on Britain’s big bill

It proved to be bitter-sweet at Wembley Stadium for cruiserweight Lawrence Okolie who was eagerly awaiting his third pro fight before a 90,000-crowd on one of the UK’s biggest ever boxing nights.

Deflation came when his four-round contest was cancelled because of TV schedules allowing the Anthony Joshua v Wladimir Klitschko main event to be screened live around the world.

“I am gutted, I actually feel sick,” sighed 24-year-old Okolie, who was due to meet Derby’s Russ Henshaw on the undercard.

But elation followed with the inspiring display of his friend and sparmate Joshua, who climbed off the canvas to win in the 11th round of the best heavyweight fight seen in years.

“What a performance,” added Okolie, who admitted his was in tears after watching his sparring partner’s thrilling victory on a memorable night at Wembley.

“Is greatness contagious? If so I hope I have caught it,” said the unbeaten prospect clearly motivated by Joshua’s triumph.

Okolie completed two years on a sports scholar programme at Stratford’s University of East London but deferred his third year of studies to concentrate on his ring career and competed at the Rio Olympics.

He will look to continue the campaign which has so far brought two first-round wins inside three weeks with another London date supporting a heavyweight top liner.

Okolie is set to box at the O2 Arena on June 3, when Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn stages the clash of big-punching Dillian Whyte and Polish giant Mariusz Wach.

Also on the show, Frank Buglioni defends his British light-heavyweight title against unbeaten challenger Ricky Summers and there are bouts featuring Ted Cheeseman, Craig Richards, Danny Dignum and Reece Bellotti.

Newham-based brothers Pauly and Anto Upton appear on the next MTK promotion scheduled for the Brentwood Centre on Friday, May 19.

The ‘Upton Clan’ are members of the pro stable trained by Barry Smith at the West Ham Boys Club gym in Plaistow after boxing for the club in their own amateur days.

It’s a return to Brentwood for super-welterweight Paul Upton who scored his 13th straight victory when he halted Bulgarian Nikolay Kolyandov in four rounds in March.

He is set for an eight-round contest on the MTK show, with brother Anto – who won the English super-lightweight title last year and has suffered just a single defeat in 15 pro fights – also in action.

The Brentwood bill also features the 50th pro fight of former IBO world, British and European title-holder Colin Lynes – a winner on the MTK promotion in March on his return to the ring after a three-year absence.

Lynes, 40 later this year, was based at Canning Town’s TKO gym for much hof his earlier career and is now managed and trained by Peter Sims, with his sights set on a bid for the British welterweight title.

*Local ex-boxers groups like to remember the past champions and Tommy Burling and Raymond Lee of the Essex Ex-Boxers Association bring back some great fighting memories with their Terry Downes Scrapbook.

Burling and Lee earlier produced the Sammy McCarthy scrapbook and follow with a similar volume covering the glory years of the former world middleweight title-holder.

They reproduce the newspaper and magazine coverage of the 1950s and 1960s with the reports of Downes colourful career which saw him win a world title by beating American Paul Pender at Wembley in 1961.

Downes went so close to taking the world light-heavyweight belt against Willie Pastrano in his farewell contest and faced the toughest fighters from both sides of the Atlantic, including six world champions.

All of the big fights are covered in the pages of the Terry Downes Scrapbook 1957-1964, which can be purchased from Raymond Lee at 5 Broadhurst Walk, South Hornchurch, Essex, RM13 7HD or by calling 07807 739560.

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