Boxing champion Lawrence Okolie honoured by UEL
26 November 2021
Lawrence Okolie has received an Honorary Doctorate of Sport from the University of East London (UEL) recognising his achievements inside and outside the boxing ring.
From working in McDonald's at 19 years old to winning his first professional title at 25, Mr Okolie's rise to the top is almost as fast as his hand speed. Some might say Mr Okolie is living proof that you can do anything if you put your mind to it.
He told students at a graduation ceremony at ExCel London on 25 November that 'everyone has the power to change the world - so push on and keep striving.'
Mr Okolie said, "Everyone here today has shown great resilience, perseverance and great character to actually get a degree. I want everyone here to know that you’re not only capable of getting to this point, as there is so much more out there in the world for you to go out and achieve.
"I believe that anyone who puts their mind to something and truly believes is going to go on and achieve amazing things."
Still only 28 years old, Mr Okolie has achieved impressive feats in sport and beyond.
The British cruiserweight is the defending WBO cruiserweight world champion, retaining the belt after knocking out Dilan Prašović in the 3rd round of their bout in September at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. In doing so he continues his perfect 17-0 record as a professional boxer, with 14 of these wins coming by knockout.
Global sporting success would be enough for most but Mr Okolie used the Covid-19 pandemic to focus on his other passions including music and writing. This year he released his debut single 'TKO'. In April, Mr Okolie published his book 'Dare To Change Your Life'.
Mr Okolie's journey has not been straightforward.
Mr Okolie was born in Hackney to Nigerian parents. He grew up in Stoke Newington, a vibrant and multicultural community in north London.
Growing up he faced challenges. The self-confessed foodie struggled with his weight and was bullied for his background.
Mr Okolie said, "They were the two first hurdles I really had overcome as a young adult. Weight is obviously a personal battle between you and your food and your choices. And it's not an easy choice to make."
With his large and powerful frame, Mr Okolie tried lots of sports including football and basketball before realising that boxing was his calling. He realised that the individual nature of boxing suited his personality as he thrived on being in control of his own destiny and relying on his own skill, confidence and talent to succeed.
In 2014, he enrolled at UEL on the high performance sports scholarship programme. This allowed him to focus on his boxing while doing a psychosocial studies course with a view to becoming a social worker.
Mr Okolie recalled how the flexibility offered to him during his time at UEL helped him get to where he wanted to be in his boxing career. He said, "My lecturers all understood what was going on and were extremely helpful when I needed to, for example, take time out to go do strength and conditioning. That really helped me get into the professional mindset and routine."
Fast-forward to today, and you might think that becoming the WBO cruiserweight world champion in the sport he loves is the pinnacle. Yet legacy is hugely important to Mr Okolie, as he seeks to become 'one of the best cruiserweights ever from Britain, if not the world'.
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