Lawrence Okolie declared at the weigh-in he would go for an early stoppage against Chris Billam-Smith.
That would be an emphatic statement.
It could also prompt Okolie, a towering six-foot five-inch tall cruiserweight, to move up to heavyweight.
“If I stop Chris quickly and in good fashion, I probably will start thinking about going up to heavyweight,” Okolie told Sky Sports.
“At this point I’ve had how many defences, very easy, lemon squeezy type of stuff. I’m running out of the need to keep coming down in weight. I might as well try something different and put on some serious size and enjoy it.”
Okolie’s WBO cruiserweight championship is on the line when he fights Billam-Smith at the Vitality stadium in Bournemouth on Saturday night, live on Sky Sports.
If he retains that belt, moving up would put him in position to challenge for the WBO title at heavyweight.
That would mean he could eventually force a shot at unified champion Oleksandr Usyk.
“When I say I’ve got my own aspirations I really mean it. These guys here thinking, ‘Oh I want to win a world title.’ I’ve done it. I’ve defended it. But I have other stuff I want to do,” Okolie said. “So this is just another stop.
“It’s just I’m stopping in someone else’s back garden but I’m still on my way to where I want to go to.”
Usyk is a modern great. He was a cruiserweight champion, like Okolie, but went undisputed at 200lbs and won the unified WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titles when he beat Anthony Joshua.
Okolie hasn’t matched that level of achievement but he would relish pitting himself against Usyk.
“I want to see. I want to see how he deals with my awkwardness, also my athleticism as well, I’d really like to see,” Okolie said.
“He’s a cruiserweight who’s moved up so he’s a bit different now, a bit slower and a bit stronger. So it’ll be interesting to see. Like I say we’ll take it one day at a time.”
This day the task for Okolie is repelling the challenge of Chris Billam-Smith. Billam-Smith was a long time sparring partner of Okolie’s, so he knows that difficult style inside out. At a 15,000 seat stadium in his hometown Billam-Smith will no doubt be inspired in the championship fight too.
Okolie, however, is convinced that he remains a level beyond his former friend.
“Because I don’t know where this whole notion of ‘get aggressive and get on him’ comes from. How do you think that’s going to help you in a fight against someone who’s a natural counter-puncher, naturally stronger?” Okolie said.
“I’ve got the range, I’ve got the power, I’ve got conditioning, I’ve got so much stuff going for me. Not only that, on the inside, it’s not like I’m so weak guy that all you’ve got to do is get to his chest – 19 people have tried it, 19 people have come unstuck, 17 of them have gone tumbling down to the canvas.
“Whether I’ve stopped them or not, they understand the power’s there. So we’ll see.”
The friendship is firmly set aside for the duration of the fight. Okolie warned: “I don’t expect it to be a nice experience. It’s not going to be fun for them.
“I’ll be boxing well at range and at mid-range. I’ll be so much more powerful, so much stronger than him. I don’t think he’s going to actually punch the way he thinks he is.
“When we all get in our own minds and we start visualising stuff. I visualise myself knocking everyone out in 10 seconds but you end up in a fight with another human being. So all this aggression, all this, that and the other, it comes down to Mike Tyson[‘s saying]: Everyone’s got a plan until they get hit.
“So we’ll see.”
Don’t miss Lawrence Okolie vs Chris Billam-Smith live on Sky Sports Action and Sky Showcase from 7pm on Saturday night.