Newsbeat

Lawrence Okolie's journey from obese teen to pro boxer

Lawrence Okolie Image copyright Getty Images

A few years ago, an overweight man from East London was flipping burgers for a living.

"I thought eventually I'd become team manager - maybe one day manage my own burger joint. That was the aspiration at the time," says Lawrence Okolie.

But his life took a different path, and tomorrow the 25-year-old boxer will compete for the WBA Continental Cruiserweight title.

He's doing it against fellow unbeaten Londoner Isaac Chamberlain.

Lawrence says he started boxing aged 17 "just as a way to lose weight."

At his peak, Lawrence says he weighed 120kg (19st) and was bullied at school.

"I was called clinically obese by my GP.

"I'd go home sometimes, look in the mirror, be pulling at my stomach wondering: 'If I rip it off it would become a six pack?'"

Image copyright Lawrence Okolie
Image caption Lawrence as a teenager

"One of my friends begged me for months: 'Come to boxing, come to boxing,'" says Lawrence.

"Eventually I turned up to the gym.

"From the first day I walked in, it just seemed to click for me - the sounds, hearing people hit the bags.

"I liked the ethos that came with it."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Lawrence with fellow Team GB Olympians Nicola Adams and Anthony Fowler

Within just six years, Lawrence was competing as a heavyweight for Team GB at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

He lost in the last 16 to eventual bronze-medal winner Erislandy Savon, from Cuba.

"I always said: 'I'm going to be an Olympian,'" he says. "When it happens, I take it in my stride.

"But when I stop and think about it, it's like 'wow, really I wasn't meant to be a 2016 Olympian."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Lawrence in action against Russell Henshaw last year

Since Lawrence turned pro early last year, he's won all seven of his bouts.

At the O2 Arena on Saturday, he's hoping to make that eight out of eight against unbeaten 23-year-old Isaac Chamberlain.

It's his first at the top of the bill since he went professional.

"The journey's been so mad, I try to just live it as it comes. I think the message that I'd give my 17-year-old self is: 'Keep believing in the process. It's going to pay off.'

"I wasn't meant to be the guy who gets the messages of how I've inspired people,'"

"It's crazy for me, I'll be honest."

Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 every weekday on BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra - if you miss us you can listen back here

Related Topics

More on this story