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Decision day looms for Okolie

PUBLISHED: 08:52 18 January 2017 | UPDATED: 08:52 18 January 2017

Olympic heavyweight Lawrence Okolie (back row, centre) at the Hackney Academy (pic England Boxing)

Olympic heavyweight Lawrence Okolie (back row, centre) at the Hackney Academy (pic England Boxing)

Archant

GB Olympian considering his options

Decision day is fast approaching for Olympic Games heavyweight Lawrence Okolie, who will soon settle his fighting future.

Dagenham Boxing Club’s big-punching GB choice has been considering his next move since his trip to Rio last summer and Okolie this week said: “I will be making a choice soon.”

As an Olympic boxer who reached the Rio 2016 Games, after winning gold at the European qualifying tournament in Turkey after less than 30 bouts, the 24-year-old is clearly a wanted man.

Okolie, who started his amateur career at Repton BC, did not win a medal in Rio, but he has attracted offers from pro managers and promoters with the prospect of a money-making career in the paid ranks.

England Boxing officials would be happy to keep him on the national squad at Sheffield, where elite amateurs collect around £30,000 a year plus allowances and enjoy the use of top training facilities as GB representatives.

The Olympian’s ring success was certainly an example to the youngsters at the Hackney Boxing Academy where he appeared at a special event last week.

A report carried out by Walker Research on behalf of England Boxing said: “Boxing is more successful than many other sports in re-engaging disaffected young people, addressing behavioural problems and putting people on a pathway to improved life chances.”

And the Hackney-based Academy is a prime example as it provides an alternative education pathway for 13-16 year olds who have been excluded or are at risk of exclusion from school.

The Academy uses the discipline and culture of boxing for around 40 pupils from the north-east London area, with every pupil having a period of boxing training every day, regardless of whether they have boxed previously.

Okolie, a student at the University of East London prior to the Rio Games, was welcomed to the Academy by headteacher Anna Cain, who said: “Boxing is uniquely suited to help young people through difficult times in their lives, and plays an important role in community cohesion.”

The sport has certainly played an important role in the life of Okolie who first took up boxing as a 17-year-old who had been ridiculed for being overweight.

Okolie developed into a hard-hitting winner on the amateur international circuit, competed at an Olympic Games and his now attracting tempting offers from the pro scene.


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