Gallagher Convinced Okolie’s Desire and Power Can Dethrone Rozanski

Joe Gallagher has praised the “desire” Lawrence Okolie has shown in their short time together ahead of their preparations for Poland’s Lukasz Rozanski.

Okolie travels to the Podpromie Arena in Rzeszow, Poland on April 24 to challenge for the WBC bridgerweight title and will fight for the first time with the respected Gallagher in his corner, having split from Sugarhill Steward after his defeat by Chris Billam-Smith.

The 31 year old and Gallagher trained together for the first time in Saudi Arabia during the build-up to Joseph Parker’s victory over Deontay Wilder on December 23, and gelled sufficiently that he has left his home in Dubai to work under Gallagher in Manchester.

“When I went over there at the beginning of this year he came over and trained over there in Saudi with us for a good little bit,” the trainer said. “I said to him, ‘Right, you need to get over to Manchester – to Moss Side – and get in among the other fighters in the gymnasium’. 

“We’ve got Callum Johnson; Jack Massey in the gym. Good in-house sparring. He did a bit of sparring with Callum Johnson while he was out there, and him and Jack Massey have had a couple of spars already. 

“[The trial] was to see if there was a fit there. Personalities; work ethic; desire. Lawrence has done very well in a short space of time in his boxing career. Joe Parker was getting ready for a fight with [Deontay] Wilder and they asked Lawrence do so some sparring with him, and Lawrence asked me to help him. We did that; did a couple of sessions of sparring and a couple of gym sessions. 

“I just wanted to know whether Lawrence’s heart and head was in it. He’s done very well – become world champion and earned well. I wanted to know whether the desire and the grit was still in him, and it is. We’ve been working well together; we understand what the goals are, moving forward. We’ve got a good understanding, and he gets on well with everybody in the gym. 

“He’s a very coachable fighter. He listens well; takes onboard everything I say; he remembers things. I said to him we’ve got to bring the ‘KO’ back to the name Okolie, because he can hit, but we’ve got to work on certain things and that’s what we’ve been doing. He’s a good kid.”

Rozanski, 38, in April 2023 – and therefore a month before Okolie-Billam-Smith – stopped the previously undefeated Alen Babic inside a round.

“He’s going back into a big fight, which will be some cauldron that night in Poland, and he’s going to have to produce the performance of his career to rip that belt away, and that’s what we’re intending on doing,” Gallagher continued. “We’ve got eight, nine weeks. It’s a chance for him to become a two-weight world champion. “It’s a very tough fight. ‘They’re all going to expect you to be hugging, but we’ve gotta prove a point. We’ve got to go over there and get the knockout.’ His back’s against the wall; he’s going into the fight after losing his world title. The pressure’s on him. He’s away from home. It’s a tough fight in all aspects, not just in competition with the opponent. He’s coming off a great win against Babic. 

“‘You’re not Babic – you’re an Olympian. You’ve got to remind everyone what you’re capable of.’ They’ll be coming to rip his head off. The new weight division [the fight is Okolie’s first above 200lbs] will be better for Lawrence as well.”