LAWRENCE OKOLIE held on to his WBO cruiserweight world title after winning a hugging match with Polish limpet Michal Chieslak.
With A-lister pals Anthony Joshua and UFC icon Israel Adesanya walking him to the ring, fans hoped for a Hollywood showing from the 29-year-old Hackney ace.
Israel Adesanya, Lawrence Okolie and Anthony Joshua
But, after Cieslak was pinged by the first serious punch of the O2 bout, slashing a wound into his left cheek, he spent the next 11 rounds grabbing and wrestling to a unanimous decision loss.
The judges called it 117-110, 116-111 and 115-112, with Cieslak also floored in the fifth.
Okolie said: “I tried to push the pace and put my shots tohgether but he made it difficult.
“I was trying to find my shots but he was holding and smothering, I dropped him in the fifth but he was tough and he had a good crowd cheering him on.”
The former McDonald’s cashier got straight to work chipping away at Cieslak with jabs to his body and a huge right hand stunned him early.
That first serious shot of the fight was almost the only one and left a bleeding purple bruise on the Pole’s left cheekbone.
The limited mandatory challenger looked in deep trouble by the time the bell ended the opener while Okolie enjoyed sucking up 60 seconds of praise and information from trainer Shane McGuigan.
The raucous Polish crowd drowned out Okolie’s home support but he was making all the right noises in the ring.
Cieslak was shell shocked and eager to hold and maul at every opportunity after the shellacking he took in the opener.
Cieslak’s first success was a left hook he leaped into that clipped Okolie’s bearded chin.
But ‘The Sauce’ soaked up the dig and retaliated with a right hook to Cieslak’s ribs and a straight shot to his skull.
In the fourth Cieslak was warned by ref Michael Alexander for clipping Okolie with an uppercut when he told them to break and a wrestling match broke out after the bell before Alexander pulled them apart.
Big right hand lands for Lawrence Okolie
Michal Cieslak holds on to Lawrence Okolie on the floor
But the first clean shots of the fifth collapsed Cieslak to the ground, when Okolie used his giant leavers to drive a one-two into his face and he fell to his knees for a count of eight.
Cieslak’s spoiling became tedious by the sixth and he should have been deducted a point as a deterrent but at times Okolie was just as bad.
The O2 showdown was hard to watch by the eighth as Cieslak was only interested in throwing illegal rabbit punches at the back of Okolie’s head in the constant clinches and at the end of the ninth he aimed a late punch at Okolie’s ribs after the bell.
Ninety seconds into the tenth Okolie got his revenge with a straight right that speared onto his foe’s jaw. The same textbook shot landed again moments later as Okolie had his man on the rack.
The early whiff of a stinker turned into a full-blown stench by the eleventh as both men spent too long tied up.
The twelfth could not come quick enough, with the prospect of a Sunday service on the train home starting to appeal more than the remainder of the bout.
Okolie fell to his knees after the final scuffle but it was not ruled a knockdown and the bell closed the show not a moment too soon.
Lawrence Okolie was unanimous points winner
Lawrence Okolie retains his WBO title
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