LAWRENCE OKOLIE is backing mentor Anthony Joshua in his rematch with Oleksandr Usyk – so they can carry on packing out stadiums together.
Okolie made the first defence of his WBO cruiserweight title with a walkover knockout against Dilan Prasovic.
And his spot as chief support for superstar AJ meant most of Tottenham's 62,000-plus seats were filled out for his routine but dominant win.
Okolie could then only watch as disaster struck for his manager and friend Joshua, who was dethroned of the unified titles after a masterclass by Usyk.
Already AJ has confirmed plans to exercise his right to an immediate rematch, a decision which was backed all the way by Okolie.
He told SunSport: “It’s the way it should be. You get an opportunity to box for the heavyweight world titles.
“That’s what it is, ultimately he’s got more things he could do, he’s got a lot to work with, stuff he can work on and it gives the potential for it to be a very different fight in the rematch.”
Joshua, 31, found himself in a similar spot in 2019, after he suffered a shock stoppage loss to outsider Andy Ruiz Jr, 32, in New York.
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But only six months later he reclaimed the belts and his reputation in 36 minutes of boxing brilliance in Saudi Arabia.
This time around, it will not be so easy, but Okolie is confident history will repeat itself with AJ already going back to the drawing board.
He said: “He’s in good spirits, which was good to hear. Obviously it was disappointing, because I always want to see him win.
“But he managed to bounce back before and I believe he will bounce back again.
“At the end of the day, this is world class sport. World class athletes against world class athletes.
“It’s hard to stay beating everyone convincingly, I get it, but obviously I would’ve liked to have seen him win.”
Joshua has headlined at three different stadiums in the UK, from Wembley, Cardiff's Principality and most recently Spurs' North London home.
But with heavyweight rival Tyson Fury, 33, doing his business Stateside for the last three years, Britain will be searching for the next ticket seller.
And while Okolie has the power, promotional backing and belts to emerge as a perfect candidate for the role, he warned his CV still needs bolstering.
It means for now, he is happy to share the spotlight with Joshua, who is now looking to become a three-time heavyweight champion.
Okolie explained: “I would still like to do it alongside, it doesn’t even have to be the same show.
“He fills out a stadium, I fill out a stadium. For me, I obviously want to get to that level, of course.
“But I think that takes a level of consistency to get done, you have to defend your titles, build and pay your dues fully.
“I’ve paid a lot of dues, but to get to that level you have to pay a few more.”
Okolie is looking for unification bouts, but before his return to the ring, he has teamed up with former employers McDonald's launch a new Plan for Change. campaign.
It will see youth workers and services connected to every restaurant in every community by 2024, 3,000 apprenticeship roles being offered by 2025 plus helping one million people gain new skills and open doors to jobs by 2030.
Okolie said: “Working at McDonald’s gave me not just stability and direction but opportunities and training too.
"I would honestly say it was one of the best times of my life, working with my brother, making friends I am still close with and learning things like punctuality, confidence and respect.
"It was there I watched Anthony Joshua win at the 2012 Olympics whilst on a break in the crew room, which inspired me to start training and dream big.
"Anything is possible if you work hard enough and I encourage all young people to believe in themselves."
- World Champion Boxer Lawrence Okolie has teamed up with McDonald’s to launch a new campaign designed to improve the life chances of thousands of young people. To find out more, visit mcdonalds.co.uk/planforchange
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